Tony, who is spending a couple of nights with us, has been a friend for forty-five years. Naturally, a certain amount of reminiscing was required to be done. We got talking about where we had each been living when. Since I had lived with Tony and Madeleine for a while and we have visited each other over the years, my friend was able to put me right on a few details.
Having spent almost all my childhood in Stanton Road in Raynes Park, and, later, nineteen years in Lindum House in Newark, I am not really a person who naturally moves around. My life circumstances, however, have necessitated a number of changes of address. No doubt many of you have played the game of ‘how many places have I lived in?’.
There follows a gazetteer of what I remember:
My first seven weeks were spent in Leicester General Hospital where I was born seven weeks prematurely. After this I must have returned with my mother to a house in the vicinity of Leicester prison, which is where her father worked. We would live there for the next two years when we moved for a short time to my paternal grandparents’ home at 18 South Park Road, SW19 whilst Mum sought a rented home for us.
Unfortunately I have no memory of Grandma Knight who died when I was four. This is sad because I am told I used to follow her everywhere with her stick. The house itself, like so many of Wimbledon’s grand Victorian houses, has long since been demolished to make way for an ugly block of flats.
As a family we lived in the maisonette at 29a Stanton Road until I was eighteen, when we all moved to 18 Bernard Gardens, SW19, when Auntie Mabel bequeathed it to Dad. After Vivien and I married, in 1963, we stayed in Bernard Gardens for a few months until we bought 79 Ashcombe Road, SW19. It was in Stanton Road that Jacqueline took my photograph with the Box Brownie in 1957. Okay, it’s not in focus, but it’s the only one I’ve got.
In the short time Vivien, Michael and I lived at Ashcombe Road our son busied himself helping in various home-making tasks, such as rolling the turfs of a lawn we had just laid. This was recorded for posterity by Vivien. After her death Michael and I returned to Bernard Gardens, where we stayed until Jackie and I married and bought 76 Amity Grove, SW20 in 1968.
Jackie and I, sadly, parted in 1972, and, for the first time, I left SW19/20 for East London, where I spent a month with Tony and Madeleine, at whose wedding in 1970 ‘The Bridesmaid’ photograph was taken. I will never forget seeing, as bereft, and carrying a suitcase, I turned into Lolesworth Buildings, Thrawl Street, Whitechapel, Madeleine standing on their top floor balcony beating a carpet hanging over the railings in the bright sunshine that caught the flying dust. Tony tells me this building, c.1880, was demolished in 1979.
From Lolesworth Buildings I moved for a few more months to stay with Jill in Blackheath. I remember the flat, at the top of Shooters Hill, but forget the address. The sequence and chronology of the next few months is a bit hazy, as was I, but I had a fortnight in a flat in West London belonging to a work colleague in Southwark Social Services Department and a month or so once again with Tony in Gillespie Road, near Arsenal’s former football ground in North London. A period of stability sharing Giles’ basement flat in Pimlico lasted a bit more than a year.
In 1974 I began to work in Westminster Social Services, and, together with Jessica and Michael, took up residence, for three months, in an unoccupied children’s home in Droop Street, NW10 which was opposite the Area Office. Matthew and Becky still enjoy telling how, when they came for the weekends, they experienced the thrill of choosing any one of the numerous available bedrooms. The children also had access to the kitchen, with varying results. These two pictures demonstrate first the intense industry and excitement generated by cake-making; then the awful moment of truth when Michael’s disappointment, Becky’s visible disgust, and that ‘Matthew’s world has ended (Flo)’ is displayed. Four ounces of salt had been used instead of that quantity of sugar. It is to my granddaughter that I owe today’s title, being an example of an Internet meme. I do hope my readers are suitably impressed.
From Droop Street, Michael, Jessica and I moved to a beautiful house owned by the Fry building firm in Lloyd Baker Street. This was the premises of the Peel Institute which housed a boys’ club. I received accommodation in the main house in return for caretaking the separate club building. Jessica is seen here reflected in the boys’ club window.
This afternoon Becky and Ian arrived to take repossession of Flo and Scooby, and stayed for dinner. When Jackie served up a delicious beef stew, crisp roast potatoes, brussels and carrots, I realised I had to pause this residential history. I will continue at a future date, probably not tomorrow because we are all going to Michael’s for a family day. I finished the Trottwood; Jackie and Ian shared a large Hoegaarden; and the others drank sparkling water.