Directions

On another wet morning I set off to visit Amerland Road in Wandsworth.  I chose the route up to Wimbledon Common, along Parkside, and down West Hill.  Apparently it is the jet stream which normally strikes north of Scotland that is responsible for our stormy summer.  Having learned this I reflected that it is hardly surprising that there is a deal of depression in those countries even nearer the pole.

In Mostyn Road a mother was guiding her small daughter on a scooter across the road.  Hearing an approaching taxi, she led the child back to the safety of the pavement.  The cab came to a halt to allow them to cross.  A painting job in Fairlawn Road in Wimbledon, begun yesterday, was nearing completion.  Whether the weather eventually put a stop to this I am not sure.

Rounding Tibbet’s Corner, Parkside had been part of a three lap twenty mile road race I had run in the late eighties.  This involved three plods up Copse Hill.  I had fallen in with another runner and we continued in tandem for most of the race.  On the third climb up the hill my companion started to flag and doubted that he would be able to finish.  I went on ahead, completed the run, backtracked, and encouraged him to reach the end.  One of the many traffic signs warning of congestion during the forthcoming Olympics is on Parkside.  And I thought we had succeeded in our bid because of improved transport facilites.  Arriving at Tibbet’s corner I was uncertain which of the major roads off the roundabout was West Hill, and asked the way at a portable burger bar.  The two men serving and their two customers had conflicting ideas as to which one it was, and even whether I needed to use the underpass.  I gambled on one and soon found myself trotting down Putney Hill, which I knew to be wrong.  Realising I should probably be taking a right turn which should take me through to West Hill, I asked a woman with a dog who confirmed this.  Walking down the correct hill I thought of Phyllis Holman Richards who had set up her Adoption Society in that street after discovering a young woman giving birth in a phone box.  I never knew Phyllis, for my time as a consultant to her Society came after her death.  However, others fondly remembered her.  Since the establishment, with its short term mother and baby home, was almost opposite Amerland Road, I wondered whether the delivery had taken place in the predecessor of the kiosk in the header picture.

Yesterday’s post describes my grief at the loss of Vivien.  Eventually this subsided somewhat, and my brother Chris and his great friend Mike Ozga took me in hand and out with them to various venues.  We rode around in a little mini.  I don’t remember whose it was.  As we were all six feet two or three we caused great amusement when we unfolded ourselves from this tiny, yet surprisingly roomy, vehicle.  One evening they drove me ‘creeping like snail unwillingly to’ Helen’s twenty first birthday party.  Never, at the best of times, a party animal, I stood in the Amerland Road flat not knowing where to put myself.  There were a couple of girls in a corner and I thought I might put myself there.  One of them said to her companion: ‘You’re in luck, he’s coming over.’  Unfortunately I only had eyes for the disinterested party.  Jackie.

Although she was, in spirit, rather like Shakespeare’s schoolboy, she was definitely female.  Claiming to be eighteen, Jackie, I learned later, was awaiting that birthday before taking up her post as a housemother in Shirley Oaks.  This was one of the old style self-contained residential villages that existed in those days for children in local authority care.  Visiting her there, I got to know the young people and their stories.  How did they get there?  Who was responsible?  What could be done to prevent it?  These were the questions which exercised me and gave me my direction.  I soon left my insurance desk and began working as an Assistant Child Care Officer in Tolworth Tower in the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames.  That was December, 1966.

Since today’s perambulation had been quite a trek, I returned to Links Avenue by 93 bus from Putney Hill. Having been a bit uncertain of the way to Putney Hill from Amerland Road, I asked a young woman how to get there.  She knew neither the hill nor the bus route.  However, standing in the pouring rain, she insisted on connecting to the internet on her mobile device and consulting it.  Asking me for my postcode she finally came up with a route.  I was to take the 270 bus from stop D in Armoury Way.  This would decant me at Tooting Broadway tube station whence I could travel by underground to Morden.  If you are bored with this detail, imagine how I felt.  Well, she had been so kind I could hardly set off in the opposite direction.  I therefore followed her advice until out of sight, then took a diversion which led me to a postwoman.  She soon put me right, but said it was quite a long way.  When I told her where I had come from, she laughed.

Tonight we had salad, courtesy of the man at Hillier’s Garden Centre mentioned two days ago; boiled eggs; tinned corned beef and tuna from the larder.  I finished the Roc des Chevaliers, and Jackie, being out of Hoegaarden, had a Peroni.

18 thoughts on “Directions

  1. No 7, Amerland Road, eh? My youth was partially wasted there with my flatmate, Jane, and I remember that party well. A secretary at the hospital was a ‘lunchtime in the canteen friend’ of ours. It was both Jane’s and my birthday on 20th/21st Feb so we thought a joint party was called for and asked this secretary to come and bring some local likely lads she knew to make up the imbalance between male and females. She knew Chris and Mike and asked them to bring anyone they knew. And look where THAT led!!
    Jackie may remember that our friend Anne turned up with an ex Infant school classmate of mine called Roderick Flitter who was introduced as a smart city type called Rod – I remembered him as a boy with a very runny nose and he had become a bit of a legend in our family – poor chap!
    I’m sorry to say, though, I have lost track of Jane in the ensuing years.

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  9. I cannot imagine how losing your wife and the mother of your child, you make steps to meet someone else. Even someone as special as Jackie.
    It stands testiment to the resilience of youth in some ways, because as I get older, now 43, I find I am less resilient and that’s not a weakness or bad thing, it’s just a thing. When you are in your early twenties you do feel you have more time and you can make mistakes, take risks. Maybe it’s true that one should carry that theme/sentiment into later years, I do think in theory we should try, and in some ways, I have, but in others I have not. It is I have decided, the idea as we age, we choose what matters and what does not. If it matters to be able to keep a door open for love, we shall, if it does not matter as much as other things, we will not. So much of what we do is decided by ourselves even when we do not realize it is.
    You kept the door open, maybe it was a little chipped and broken but it was open, and you allowed yourself to feel again. That takes tremendous courage.
    I have learned through our conversation that we should not put aside HOPE at any age. Typically people think I’m in my late twenties, they always assume I have lots of time for children, marriage, etc, they do not realize I’m nearing my middle forties which yes, is still relatively youthful especially the way I act, but is also a place in life that differs from the place you find yourself in during your early twenties. Much of what we do is dictated by our willingness and I have learned through your story that I should NOT close myself off to dreams or hopes as I may have.
    If a young man with a child having lost his wife, can make the leap, it shows anyone can, and the only thing stopping us is ourselves.
    Oh how I hope during this time you had some joy in your life to balance the great pain you must have felt.
    On a side note, I used to be the life and soul of the party at that age, nowadays I wouldn’t know, I cannot recall the last party I went to but I would think I’d be the cerebal talker in the corner, not a bad thing, at all, though I miss dancing wildly to seventies music, we all change, and the point is to find someone who likes us as we change. I am so very, very glad you found Jackie, even if you had to find her, lose her, find her again, the fact you did, makes me believe in predestined things that are good. I still do not understand why such bad things must happen but does anyone?

    • Many thanks again, for such in-depth observations, my friend. I certainly have the feeling that some power has stitched it all together for me. Incidentally, I’ve never been the life and soul of the party, but put me in a role and I always end up leading.- a very different thing, I find

  10. What a wonderful post. I love all the layers of support; from the mother helping her child to the taxi driver helping them to safe passage, and your brothers and eventually Jackie helping you move through your grief to finding love and a wonderful career path. I love the questions “Who was responsible?  What could be done to prevent it?”  (I find social workers are curious, passionate people and we find direction in the most unlikely places.) I will be looking into Phyllis Holman Richards, as her passion sounds similar to Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr who in 1889 started Hull House- a settlement house in the United States. These ladies initiated programs to address poor working conditions, malnutrition, low wages, poor sanitation, and a host of other pressing problems.

    • Very many thanks, msw. I thought that, given that you were going to follow this up, I’d have a look myself. I was surprised to find so many of my photos on the site – not all related to the society, although that first one of me was taken in the garden of the house. Your two women sound equally dedicated.

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