The letters were painted in ghostly white, 30cm high on the wall, faded but legible beneath the veil of grime. I was seven years old when I noticed them, waiting with my father for the arrival of uncles and aunts at Southend railway station. What did the gnomic inscription mean? “Nothing; never mind,” he answered, but I remember the uneasiness written on his usually frank face. Later that day, when I asked again, he told me. The initials stood, he said, for “Perish Judah”. “Bad people, stupid people put them there; that’s why they’re rubbed out.”

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