I suppose we qualified as a poor working-class family, my father was a lorry driver and my mother had been a shop assistant working in a bakery. Being working class is nothing to be ashamed of, but then again it's nothing to be proud of either. I mean, it's not as if I had anything to do with it.
My mother's parents lived in a small ground floor flat (complete with outside toilet and no bathroom.
My grandparents used a tin bath) in Treport Street, just a couple of streets away
and we went there to watch TV as we didn't have one ourselves (see, told you we were poor).
Not surprisingly I have very few clear memories of that particular stage of my life.
One memory I do have (reinforced by family stories) is that I had an imaginary friend, Jennif. Apparently we were inseparable.
We went out to work together (we did, honest! And I don't mean going up chimneys. We had a workshop somewhere near the Thames. OK so
some people claim that I pretended to go to work but what do they know) and if I had a wash, he had a wash;
and of course, if I had some sweets ...
In 1957 we moved to Clapham (also south London) where I stayed until 1968. For some reason Jennif didn't come. Some say it was because my baby brother was born soon after (the main reason for the move); I reckon he just didn't want to leave Wandsworth. Just hope he was OK after they demolished the house!
Anyway, we moved to the 2nd floor of Clarke House, a smallish block of 21 flats in North Street (see photo or a Google Earth view ). The layout was fairly straight forward. As you came through the front door, actually that should just be the door as there was only one door, on the right was my parents' bedroom and a bit further along the passage was the living room. The view from the living room window was (so probably still is) fantastic. Clapham is at the top of a hill so we had a brilliant panoramic view of central London. Back to the guided tour. On the left was a separate toilet and bathroom, next was the coal cellar/cupboard and finally the (very small) kitchen. The room at the end of the passage was my bedroom. Well mine and my brother's. Looking back it seems strange to have a coal bunker in the middle of the flat, but then again I suppose there was nowhere else it could go.
The picture of Clarke House was taken about 5 years ago but very little seems to have changed since 1968. The area you can see at the front was for parking and behind was an area with (at least in my day) lots of washing lines. Concrete everywhere! So when we played football or cricket it was on concrete. If you wanted grass you had to go to the common.
As far as the we goes there was:
Having been a rocker (my parents suggested that I have 2 plastic
jackets rather than 1 leather jacket. Not for the first, or last, time I regretted choosing quantity over quality) I then became a mod and Colin was such
a good friend that he would let me borrow his reefer jacket. God I thought I looked fantastic! And it was because of Colin that I became politically active
at the tender age of 14.
He and I were walking along Clapham High Street when 2 very attractive young ladies approached us and tried to sell us a left-wing paper. Colin decided that
we ought to join this party. Turned out to be the Young Socialists and that was me, hooked into left-wing politics.
Colin's interest very quickly faded but I went on a couple of demos and used to sell the paper on Clapham High Street. Not that I stayed that long.
There was something nasty about the group leader so after a while I left the party but not its basic beliefs.
Then one day when Colin was 16 he disappeared. I spent hours looking for him. Went to all the places that we'd go to but there was no sign. Turned out he had gone back to live with his father. And the most upsetting thing was (tissues at the ready) I never heard from him again.
Next to Clarke House, and across the road from Macaulay School, was a little parade of shops (click here for pic). In my day the green fronted shop was called Dukes. It was a grocery store with Mr Duke's old scotty dog wandering around the shop. Wouldn't be allowed today.
The Spiritualist Church was there even then. We used to have fun throwing stones. etc onto the roof from Clarke House hoping to give them something to think about. Might sound childish but we were children.
Then came Boakes the greengrocers. I did one Saturday as a delivery boy (Norman, the son, normally did it but couldn't that week). Only the once as it was bloody hard work carrying a box of veg up to flat only to find no-one in so you had to carry it back down again. Not fun.
Then we had a sweet shop. I really like this shop and used to have a paper round there. Plus the owner tended didn't treat me as just a kid; which was nice. Did have one small problem with him, he used to put a particular comic aside for me which I would pay for at some point during the week. For some reason I decided I didn't want the comic but obviously didn't tell him to stop reserving it for me. So one day he showed me a pile of comics and asked me when I was going to pay him. Unfortunately, just as you are getting interested, my memory fails me so I have no idea what happened.
I attended Macaulay Primary School from 1957 - 1963 and managed to pass the 11-plus. In fact I seemed to have done rather well in the 11-plus so could have gone to Emmanuel school on Wandsworth Common (where Sir Tim Berners-Lee went 3 years later) but having seen what it did to Norman ('e star'ed talkin' proper!!! - Bloody ironic if you heard my middle-class accent now). I decided that there was no way I was going there so I lowered my sights and ended up at Archbishop Tenisons Grammar School; where I managed to underachieve spectacularly. In 1968, just before I sat my O-levels, we moved from London to Hornbill Close, Cowley, Middlesex. It was a maisonette but it still only had 2 bedrooms but it did have an upstairs. About 18 months or so later we moved again, this time to Nine Elms Avenue and into a 3 bedroomed house with garden. Check out this Google image to see that we didn't move that far. Suffering from withdrawal symptoms and surrounded by yokels I arranged for Middx to be incorporated into the London Boro' of Hillingdon. I felt at home again :-)
Having had enough of school I didn't embarrass myself by starting a new school to attempt my A-levels. So with the sound of my father's voice telling me that if I wasn't going back to school to "Get out and don't come back until you've got a proper job" (I had been loading lorries during the summer) that is exactly what I did. If you are sad enough to want to know more about my working life, you'll find it further down the page.
In my late teens and early twenties I had two different groups of friends, the first were based around the Greenway school in Uxbridge, the second around the Railway Arms public house. In later years I worked with someone who had taught at the Greenway (albeit he was a PE teacher)
Then in my mid-twenties I met Sarah and the rest is history; which means that the above is prehistoric!
Talking of pre-history I found a few slides of me from the early 1970s and have scanned them in. Obviously, having gone to all that trouble I have uploaded some. If you have a morbid desire to see them, see the link below.
Now that you've got this far you might as well see what else I have to say. Some of it could be very interesting, and I actually mean that.