Whose Book?

Some weeks ago I wrote of a contact who had come to me through this blog, and left my readers with the prospect of a story. This post is that story, the result of a collaboration between me and Dr Neil Gibbs.

Dr Neil Gibbs recently purchased a copy of the Bird Lovers’ Manual ‘How to Know British Birds’ from a well-known internet auction site.

How to know British Birds

He was delighted to have found this treasure,

S. Denny inscription

and intrigued by the child’s pencilled inscription inside the front cover.

Who was this young lady?

I've always kept a unicorn

The name suggested a very popular singer/songwriter from the 1960s and ‘70s; Sandy Denny. Neil sought confirmation of this by researching biographies of the Fairport Convention singer/songwriter, who made successful solo albums during the second of these decades. Interestingly, in these books the only home mentioned was Worple Road. Stanton Road is an L-shaped side road off that main thoroughfare between Wimbledon and Raynes Park.

Our researcher’s next step was to type Stanton Road into Google, which took him to my blog where he learned that I had grown up just 24 dwellings away from S. Denny.

He left a comment on my blog asking if I had known the Denny Family. I responded with an e-mail saying I had, and inviting a telephone conversation.

Without giving away his thoughts Neil asked whether I knew of a Denny family living in Stanton Road. I did, and it was, of course, Sandy who had, at least in the 1950s, lived at 53 Stanton Road. I could be sure of that.

Sandy and David Denny

I was unable to be certain whether this photograph features a Stanton Road or a Worple Road home. It could indeed be either.

I can happily vouch for the veracity of the Stanton Road address. I lived there from 1944 until 1960 when I was 18 and Sandy would have been 12.

Sandy Denny died tragically young (aged 31yrs) in 1978, but her contribution to folk music is being recognized this month (April 27th 2016) when she will be inducted into the BBC Radio 2 Folk Hall of Fame at an Awards ceremony in the Royal Albert Hall.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 12.09.29

Link for Sandy Denny website:

http://www.sandydennyofficial.com

Link for BBC Hall of fame:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3bsXpkXhDfSfYBsK91C7Ts6/hall-of-fame

Black And White Discoveries

Today I had more fun scanning the old black and white negatives. Let us begin with two large format ones from 1957, both taken in the garden of 29a Stanton Road, London, SW20, where I grew up.

Mum & Jacqueline 1957

My mother and sister, Jacqueline, stand in the garden of the upstairs three bedroomed rented maisonette in which my parents raised their family of five. This little plot is the first one I tended, during my teens. Above the stone steps stands our back door, immediately behind which is a steep set of stairs leading directly into the kitchen. The window to the right is to one of those in the flat occupied by the Downes family who lived underneath. Beneath that window can be seen a pile of tea chests, which is what furniture removers used to pack belongings in those days. Dad drove a removal van. Fred Downes peers through his window to the left. Facing this scene is the railway path leading up to the embankment alongside which we used to play.

Derrick 1957

Jacqueline took this photograph of me.

By 1982 when the next group were taken, we were using 35 millimetre film.

Swimmer 1982

This young man, like a fish in his element, was over the moon when publication of a magazine article illustrated by this image prompted a visit from Olympic swimmer, Duncan Goodhew.

Louisa 1982 2

Here, Louisa sleeps in her cot in Gracedale Road.

Louisa 1982 1

I have already featured a number of pictures from the holiday at the Vachettes’ home in Normandy, when I couldn’t find this negative of her.

Becky and Susie 1982

Becky, with cousin Susie, enjoys apples from the Drapers’ tree at Meldreth in Cambridgeshire.

Curtains

Shelley paid a visit this afternoon and gave us a splendid pair of curtains that perfectly fit our French doors to the patio.

Lamb patties meal

This evening we dined on the last of our Hello Fresh selection. The Lamb patties with yoghurt lentils and sweet potato discs were delicious and spicy. Contents can be seen when enlarging the image alongside my helping. Jackie will definitely keep all three recipe cards for further use. I drank more of the bordeaux and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

Prescience?

This morning’s dominant bird calls at The Firs were of wood pigeons; those without a mate crying ‘uni-ted’, and those happily paired off ‘take two cows taffy, take two cows’. I worked on tidying the bed inside the concrete ring and digging over a bed outlined earlier in the year.

The combination of gardening, my mother, and my sisters got us reminiscing about the garden we grew up with in Stanton Road.  This was a very small, bare, patch which went with our rented maisonette.  I don’t remember much growing there at all except for the Browns’ plum tree suckers and incessant convulvulus.  These permanently invaded our garden and it was my job periodically to have a blitz on them.  Elizabeth does remember some plants I successfully grew.

Mr. and Mrs. Brown lived next door.  In sixteen years I don’t remember ever having seen either of them.  I think there was a disability involved.  Mr. Brown made Elizabeth a doll called Minnehaha.  It was the Browns’ television, I believe, which was responsible for my teenage fantasies.  No, not those fantasies.  In those twilight moments between being awake and asleep, I would hear the three discordant notes which Mum said were coming from their television.  I believe it was a closing down signal.  This led me into thinking how wonderful it would be if you could have a picture frame on your wall and a gadget that could tune in to and display in this any of the films currently being shown on any of the four cinemas Wimbledon then boasted.  We didn’t have a television and the only one I had ever seen was a small wooden cabinet bearing a postage stamp sized screen.  This was for the occasion of the coronation in 1953 when those of us at school who didn’t have a television were billeted with those who did.  Being a tall lad I was seated at the back from whence I peered at a tiny black and white haze.  Little did I imagine, in that teenage dream world, what my grandchildren can now hold in the palms of their hands.

Elizabeth and I took time out to visit the current exhibition of her artist friend Hilda Margery Clarke, where we also met another local artist, Susan Anderson, and had a good chat.  As I have mentioned before, Margery was a tutee and close friend of L. S. Lowry, as is evident in some of her work.  This collection was a fascinating forty year retrospective.

Jacqueline brought Mum up to join us for the evening meal.  My niece Danni and her boyfriend Andy had also arrived earlier.  This naturally led to the usual reminiscing, some of which may find its way into future posts.

The journey back was through gorgeous early summer evening light, bringing everything into sharp focus and casting long shadows across the fields.

The Railway Path

Yesterday I wrote of Kevin Lydon’s observation about the pretentiousness of my choice of cinema.  This needs a little clarification.  He thought I should be satisfied with the films on offer at the three circuit cinemas and one fleapit in Wimbledon, or the independent one in Raynes Park.  He had a point.

Today was a very pleasant day for a walk, being warm yet cloudy with a cool breeze.  Perhaps reflective of the change in the weather there was a great deal of scaffolding going up en route.  My walk was to Wimbledon then on to Raynes Park along the railway path which links the two towns.

The railway path is much better surfaced than in my youth; snickets have been opened up to the various turnings off the parallel Worple Road, offering access to their residents and a path through to Worple Road itself; and a high stout metal fence is now in position preventing access to the railway embankment.  The area fenced off from the public has been widened and the wasteland consequently reduced.  Throughout the two mile stretch every available wall or fence is covered in graffiti, the materials for which were not available in the 40s and 50s.

A crowd of lads from a local school shambled along listening to music downloaded on various items of equipment at which my teenage mind would have boggled.

I paused for a while outside the back of my childhood home in Stanton Road, reflecting on the fact that the upstairs maisonette for which my parents cannot have paid any more than perhaps £2 per week, now fetches £1,400 per month in rent.  The railway land at the back having been narrowed and more securely fenced, it is no longer possible there to build dens; light bonfires; weed and flatten areas to make sports fields; or scale the traditional iron railings to mess about on the embankment.  Because Stanton Road is on the ‘right’ side of the railway it is, according to Estate agents, now in West Wimbledon.

On my way back through Wimbledon Chase I was hooted and waved at by a car driver who turned out to be my old friend Dominic Birtwistle.  I had just bought some of the ingredients for the sausage casserole I will make this evening.