I first met Irma in 1977 when I moved into a rented house in Perryn Road Acton W3. The house was owned by the Harrow Club W10 where I operated as a Youth Worker. I also had my art studio there. I was washing up one day shortly after moving in when I noticed movement in the large overgrown Privet hedge in the garden of the house opposite.
A person came out backwards wearing ragggy clothes and carrying lots of buckets and bags; it was Irma.
It took a few days before I had the opportunity to introduce myself but from the moment we met we became firm friends.
Irma was funny, peculiar, intelligent, solitary, but loved contact with people, mad, bad and sad, brilliant, caring, resourceful and independently minded. She was very close to the earth, she loved animals and animals loved her. She had two cats of her own at that time, Pussyboy and Tidddles and she would often have a possee of wild animals and birds follow her about on her travels. But most of all Irma liked Black Bags full of Stuff that she could collect and sort out into STUFF
It turned out that she was actually living in the Privet Hedge where I first saw her because she had completely filled the volume space of her flat with STUFF. I soon came to realise that her garden and my back garden were also full of well disguised STUFF as well. I lived in Perryn road for the next decade until I moved out of London for pastures new. In all of those 10 years Irma was part of my daily life and we had many laughs, tears and adventures together. I continued to visit Irma from time to time as she became increasingly vulnerable as she got older and living on the street. Irma was eventually taken into care by Ealing Social services.
She passed away in 2005. Her Ashes were spread at the Sanctuary of the Stone Circles at Avebury in Wiltshire.
So far as we known Irma Melwine Pels was born in 1908 in Hamburg Germany into a well off family of wine merchants. At some point as a teenager she left home and walked to Northern Italy where she lived off the land. She came to England, possible as a Kinder Transport on her own before the War. She was “taken in” by a well to do family in north London but was mistreated and eventually “took to the streets” ending up when we had the chance to meet in 1977.
About 3 weeks after Irma's funeral I had a wonderful long weekend holiday in Venice and blow me down, there she was, sitting on the side of the Grand Canal reading her Guidebook to Italy as happy as Larry. The Irma's of the World live on!