‘I want to sell my stock of textiles’
If you were eighty-nine years old and your business partner of thirty years died of Coronavirus, could you find the moral courage to go on? This is the brave step that cloth merchant Martin White has taken, re-opening Crescent Trading after the death of Philip Pittack. He and Philip were a charismatic double act, renowned for their ceaseless repartee and matchless knowledge of textiles. Last week, I went along to show my moral support, as the last cloth warehouse in Spitalfields reopened for business, and Martin confided his thoughts to me.
“On St Patrick Day, 17th March, I told Philip, ‘It’s too dangerous to be here and I am going home.’ I warned him, saying, ‘And you should as well.’ But ‘I’m not going,’ he said, ‘I’m not going…’
I called him every day from home and, the following week, he said ‘I’ve got take my wife to the hospital on Tuesday but we’ve have a good customer coming in, will you cover for me?’ I said, ‘No, I will not!’ I didn’t and I wouldn’t.
His wife’s visit to the hospital was nothing to do with the virus but she caught it and, all of a sudden, he began to feel unwell too. His daughter made him go to hospital, he was there for three weeks and they put him on a ventilator.
Philip had underlying health problems. For years, he had congestion of the lungs and diabetes. He also had several stents put in to deal with his heart problems and that fall didn’t do him any good. So he just couldn’t take the treatment for coronavirus. We all thought he was going to pull through but he didn’t, he died on 11th May.
Before we knew anything about the lockdown, Philip and I made an agreement about what to do with the business, whichever one of us went first. He was twelve years younger than me. I am eighty-nine and I was unwell for four months, so it left me in a strange and awkward position, which I have overcome. I have fulfilled all the conditions of our agreement.
Now I am working here on my own. I started coming in on Sundays and re-opened last week. I must admit I am delighted to be back. I love it, I love this work. I have been with Crescent Trading for thirty years but I have been in the trade since I was fourteen, that’s seventy-five years. I want to sell my stock of textiles.
Customers can only come in two at a time, they have to wear masks and use hand sanitiser. If they want to buy fabric, they can buy it. We are open for business.”
Martin White with his trademark monocle
Martin White & Philip Pittack in the old days
Crescent Trading, Quaker Court, Quaker St, E1 6SN. Open Sunday-Friday.
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So Long, Philip Pittack
Philip Pittack & Martin White, Cloth Merchants
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This post first appeared on Spitalfields Life | In The Midst Of Life I Woke To, please read the originial post: here