This morning I walked to our landlords’ offices in Raynes Park to discuss our moving date. There was no-one in, so the conversation took place on mobile phones, which had not even been dreamt of when I was growing up in 29a Stanton Road, which has featured in a number of posts. Not wanting a wasted journey I continued along Kingston Road, walked under the railway arch and along Wyke Road to my childhood street.
The meerkats featuring in Compare the market.com’s television advertisements must be one of the most successful marketing ideas ever. They have spawned numerous offspring which can be found in outlets all over the country. Garden centres love them. Even the Metropolitan Police have used them to signal Neighbourhood Watch, several posters of which line my route. Neighbours in the Watch areas undertake to keep an eye on other properties in the street and raise the alarm if necessary. Net curtains must be quite useful there. These signs contain representations of the real thing, not the many different clothed characters which advertise the comparison site.
On such a blustery day as this, empty recycle bins are apt to be blown all over the place. One lay in the middle of Kingston Road, requiring drivers to avoid it. I picked it up and placed it against a wall. I had just passed the Emma Hamilton public house which is now home to a car wash enterprise. Pubs are closing at an alarming weekly rate throughout the UK. Many become Asian restaurants, some of which survive. These characterful old buildings often frequently change hands, presumably depending on whether or not their new owners have made a success of the alternative uses.
One of the few businesses which has thrived since my childhood in the ’40s and ’50s is the undertakers, the need for which will probably never die out. I will forever know this establishment, wherever I see its branches, as Frederick Window Pane. We children thought that in naming it we had been very witty.
And so to 29a Stanton Road. In those early years all the children played in the street. The presence of a car in this right-angled road was a very rare occurence. It was therefore perfectly safe, even to play ball games, which are now banned in London’s Council estates. Naturally we played cricket. The fence surrounding the large house across the road was a perfect surface on which to chalk the stumps. Jacqueline tells Jackie she always had to do the fielding, never being allowed to bat. My recollection is that she was always out first ball and we were too cruel to allow her the few lives we should have given her. If you hit the ball into a neighbour’s garden that was ‘six and out’, which means six runs were added to your score but you were out. We used an old tennis racquet and tennis balls, so it was rather difficult to keep the ball down, as I once learned to my cost. I broke an upstairs window of a house at the Worple Road end. The residents were on holiday, so we left a note. Despite this quite amazing display of honesty, the woman was extremely angry, telling me that at my age I should have known better. I was only nine, but she thought such a tall boy must be a teenager. My parents paid for the window repair. The fence which bore our stumps has long since been replaced, and the number of parked cars demonstrates that our games would not be possible now.
Michael has a wonderful old sepia- coloured photograph of boys playing cricket down the centre of a street of back-to-back houses somewhere in the North of England. These ragamuffins were making their own fun, just as we did.
I wandered down the alley by the side of our old home which now gives directly onto the railway path that was fenced off in our day, requiring us to scale the obstacle in order to play there. I was able to clamber over rubble and bramble to peer over the garden fence and photograph the spot where I did battle with convulvulus and plum suckers (see 27th August), and Chris broke his leg. When my toddling younger brother had this mishap I went dashing upstairs to give Mum the news. ‘Don’t be so silly, he can’t have broken it’, she said, attempting to yank him to his feet. Indeed he had.
I continued along the railway path (see 11th May), intending to walk to Wimbledon. A beautiful long-haired dog of a breed I didn’t recognise sped towards me barking excitedly. As a train passed I realised it was not I who had stimulated him. He stopped when the train had gone. I spoke to his elderly owner who said that his one pleasure in life was to chase the trains.
With half a mile to go the footpath was closed due to maintenance. I crossed the railway bridge into Merton Hall Road, thence left into Kingston Road and right into Mostyn where a mother was doing battle with a little girl who had just picked up a branched stick. Phrases like ‘it’s not ours’; ‘it’s got points on it’, and ‘it’s not a good toy’, were met with stubborn resistance in the form of shrieks and pulling away. I was momentarily relieved that that is all over for me. I returned to Links Avenue by my customary route.
This evening, after a big Lidl shop, we dined in Morden’s Superfish, an excellent traditional establishment where, with our crispy cod, chips and mushy peas, we quaffed Malandrino Pino Grigio 2010. A nice touch here is that a few prawns and crusty bread are served complimentarily.