Earlier I mentioned playing in the street in 1947. This continued well into the ’50s.
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 parents’ 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 stumped up for the window repair which they could ill afford. 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.
Amity Grove, SW20, where we bought a house in 1968, harboured only one car, which was mine. Now most of the front gardens have been sacrificed to the vehicles. Home owners are unable to park on yellow lines outside their dwelling. Meters have been resisted because their spots would be commandeered by commuters from Raynes Park to Waterloo.
It must have been 1967 when I ran out of petrol on Piccadilly Circus right opposite Eros. I left my Hillman Imp on a double yellow line and walked off with a can in search of petrol. The car was still in situ and bore no clamp which would certainly have been in place in this, the 21st century – although the car would more likely have been towed away to the pound..