London Born - A Memoir of a Forgotten City by Sidney Day (compiled and edited by Helen Day) Harper Perennial, $112 Looking at the people in old pictures of Hong Kong, try to imagine their lives. No air-con or mobile phones - how did they survive? Sidney Day, who never learned to read or write, recounts to his granddaughter, Helen Day, his life in London. Born in 1912, his was a typical working-class existence, without social security and living by wits alone in a city unrecognisable today. This isn't Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes. Sidney's father was never sober, but taught him to make horseradish sauce and catch rabbits on Hampstead Heath, and only beat him when he deserved it. The story is of vanished grimy streets inhabited by self-reliant individuals who either got through it or didn't. The Guardian praises Helen Day for capturing her grandfather's 'anarchic good humour as he remembers a world of pawnshops and air-raid shelters and carbolic soap and bread and dripping'. The Telegraph calls it 'an extraordinary portrait of London during the turbulent first half of the 20th century', serving as 'a small bulwark against our modern habit of forgetfulness'.