Brass-rubbing was a feature of St James’s Church, Piccadilly in the 1970s. I once took Matthew and Becky there for the afternoon. At £5, which was still quite a lot of money in those days, I thought this quite a reasonable outlay for an afternoon’s activity. The two excited children rampaged around the crypt, gathering reams of large paper with a rub rub here, a rub rub there, everywhere a rub rub. Eventually I got the bill. It was £5 for each rubbing. After a lengthy debate with the staff we came to a compromise.
Trafalgar Square was another local attraction. In September 1976, Matthew attempted to scale one of the lions around the base of Nelson’s Column.
In December 1979 it was still permitted to feed the feral pigeons in the square. This is no longer possible. Matthew and Becky brought their own bread, although seed was sold in the square in those days.
We would often walk to the Jubilee Sports Hall in Covent Garden for them to have fun on the trampoline. Seeking an activity for myself, I chose once more to pick up weights, with which I had trained in The Wimbledon YMCA gym during my twenties. The hall’s availabilty as a sporting venue was under threat, and, as part of the campaign to preserve it, a Chinese photographer produced a superb set of large illustrations which lined the entrance staircase. I featured in one, pushing up a bench press. Michael’s friend Eddie, was playing football in another. It was in this hall that I played my first game of Badminton. An ungainly pit-a-pat performance. I happened, rashly, to mention this to Carol Elstub, my deputy at the time. She informed Ken Coleman, one of the Assistant Directors of Social Services. Ken, she said, played Badminton. She told Ken I played Badminton. She flattered me. A game was arranged. Ken turned out to be a Middlesex County Coach. Never mind, he taught me the game. We played regularly for some years. I would never beat him, but I did often manage to make him angry with himself. Our games took place in Queen’s Park Jubilee Hall, a short walk from my office. This particular venue is bound to be mentioned again.
When we lived in Soho, the old Covent Garden was ripe for speculators who moved in steadily to change what had become a daily craft market, where people sold their own work, into an outlet for more manufactured goods; and to convert some of the old buildings into classy shops and restaurants. It remains a thriving area, if lacking the old world charm of the ’70s and ’80s. Bustling cafes have open-air seating, and buskers,
like my guitarist, still perform to
enthralled crowds, such as those I pictured in September 1982.
Three years earlier Matthew and Becky would scour the stalls for presents to take home with them.
Pandering to my penchant for visual puns my image of these home crafted slips was framed and hung on the wall of the dining room in Newark.