I have been considering how much and how quickly our lives have changed recently; as no doubt most of you have, too. I am hoping that some of the positive changes we have witnessed in our communities will continue and flourish ‘post-corona’. I am not going to discuss the pandemic here as I have nothing new to add and frankly, it just gets me worked-up and anxious just thinking about it. I will be mentioning it, no doubt, in passing in other posts, as it affects my day-to-day life.
After thinking about current changes, I then began recalling some of the big changes and events in my life. Moving house is a major upheaval whenever one does it and at whatever age. Big events for a child are going to school or changing schools. I was fortunate in that I lived in Bromley in Kent all the time I was growing up and attended just two schools in that time. My Primary School was called Burnt Ash and had an Infants School and a Junior School in the same building.
Click on the photo to enlarge it.
Above is a school photograph of mine taken during the summer term of my first year in junior school. (I am of an age where class photos were all done in black and white!) This must have been in May or June 1967 and I was eight years old. I am in the front row, third from the right. I had my hair in plaits with red bows and the two girls either side of me were both called Julie. The school I went to was built on the edge of an enormous housing estate. Some of the pupils were extremely poor and Rosemary (second from the left, front row), Shanie Edwards (forth from the left, front row) and Michael Collins (furthest right, back row) in my class didn’t own proper shoes and didn’t have coats, either. I liked Rosemary (Porter, I think her surname was)because she was quiet and Michael too. His hands were very hard and rough, I remember. Many fairly affluent families lived in houses close to the estate and the school, being the nearest one to where they lived, was the one their children attended as well, so we had some girls and boys in the class who were quite comfortably-off. Bullying went on, as it did in all schools and still does despite all the ‘we don’t tolerate bullying’ hype, but I don’t think anyone was picked on especially for being poor or wearing ragged clothes. We all played together and learnt together and we all liked our lovely teacher, Miss Gloria Hitchcock, very much. Isn’t she gorgeous!
Below is another school photo taken about eight or nine years previously.
The boy who has been highlighted is, of course, David Bowie or David Jones as he was known then. As you can see from the photo, all school pictures were taken in the exact same place; just in front of the veranda. Click on the link below and you will see what my old school looks like now. They have enclosed the verandas and have made the classrooms bigger. At present the school is closed temporarily because of ‘you-know-what’.
Going back to my school photo; look at the blonde girl, third from the left on the front row. Her name was Vanessa Jaye and her father was Bobby Jaye, a radio producer who became Head of Radio Light Entertainment at the BBC. Vanessa was a friend of mine and I went to tea at her house. I remember she had a crazy cat that sat on the stairs and leapt on people as they passed by. Absolutely terrifying for me! I had no idea at first that her father was well-known but eventually she spoke of her family knowing Peter Glaze who presented Crackerjack! with Leslie Crowther. I was never keen on Peter Glaze – he annoyed me.
The girl standing second from the right in the middle row was Samantha Parry. She was another friend and I and my brother and sister went to parties at her house. Her brother Andrew was in the same class as my brother Andrew and her brother Benjamin was in the same class as my sister Francesca. We all trooped off to their house and played party games, had tea and then listened to their dad, Gron (short for Goronwy) play guitar and sing songs. He always sang ‘Little Boxes’ as far as I can remember. Sam’s mum was Alison Prince who, until she died last October wrote lots and lots of books for children. She also wrote the animated series’ Trumpton and ‘Joe’.
I was aware of all this at the time but I didn’t think about it much; most children take life as it comes and accept it (though don’t always like it) good or bad, interesting or boring, calm or frightening. The fact that some of my friends were very poor and some well off didn’t occur to me at the time. That some of my friends’ parents were well known or had written books was no more interesting to me than the knowledge that my mother had been a Woman Police Officer in the Metropolitan Police Force in the early 1950’s and that my father had joined the Friary near Cerne Abbas in Dorset after he came out of the Air Force where he had done his National Service. I just though of all these children as class-mates, some of whom I liked and the reason I didn’t like some others was mainly because they enjoyed calling me names and making me cry.
Click on the link below and you will see the house I was born in. It has rose bushes in the front garden. Mum and Dad bought a newly-built house in Barton le Clay in Bedfordshire shortly after they got married in 1956 and lived there for just under three years. Despite me being Mum’s first baby she gave birth at home because the house had a bathroom and a water supply. I remember absolutely nothing of this house. Mum and Dad decided to move back to Bromley as Dad had another job there. They would also then be nearer to their parents. Mum was eight months pregnant with my brother Andrew when we moved and I was approaching my first birthday.
Click on the link below and you can see where I lived from 1959 for eight years until just after that school photo was taken in 1967. Our house was the one with the pale silver-blue-grey car in the front garden. When we lived there we had a front fence with a gate, a front path with a flowerbed alongside and a little bit of grass where that car is now parked. The house had black paint on the door and window -frames and there were steps up to the front door. It was a very small house with a small back garden which was made smaller when Dad built a garage and an extension to the house. There was a back lane behind the houses that we children loved to play in when we could and an area of waste ground called ‘the dump’ – I don’t know why it was called that – and at the top of the road a fenced off hill, or what I thought was a hill but was in fact a reservoir with grass over the top. The house next door to us on the right, as you look at it – number 137 – used to be the last house in the road on that side and had a large garden. This has now been built on, I see, and another house added to the road.
We moved in September 1967 on the day before my ninth birthday to a much bigger, detached house with a much larger garden. My sister decided to take her beloved collection of garden snails with her in a bucket. Dad found this in the boot of the car when we arrived at the new house. We over-looked the churchyard at the back of the house which had an enormous copper beech tree in it and crows nested in it every year. We used to get lots of different birds in the garden and Mum was able to enjoy gardening, though she never liked the house and Dad built a workshop. The house was haunted, though I never saw or heard anything. Dad saw the woman a couple of times; dressed in a crossover apron, she stood by the kitchen window and stared at him. She seemed sad, or so my father thought. My sister heard someone clearing the grate in her bedroom; she heard it a couple of times, I think. Click on the link below and you will see our second house in Bromley. It was nearer to the town centre which as a teenager, I really appreciated.
Click on the link below to see the building that once housed the school I attended from 1970 until 1977. It had been called Bromley Grammar School for Girls until just before I joined it when it changed its name to Ravensbourne School for Girls. I think the only well-known woman to have belonged to the school when it was known as Bromley County School,was Dora Saint, or as she is better known, ‘Miss Read’ who wrote the Fairacre and Thrush Green series of books. The two Ravensbourne Schools (the girl’s school and the boy’s school) amalgamated many years ago and now occupy the building that was once the boy’s school. My old school building has been used for many different purposes since then and by different groups of people.
Here is my form at Ravensbourne in 1975. Two girls were off sick that day. I am in the middle row, fourth from the right. My dear friend Wendy, is in the same row on the far left and our form mistress, Mrs Shoubridge is on the far right. She was a lovely lady and taught mathematics and rode to and from school on a motor scooter. We were all just about to take our O’ Level exams and eight of the girls, including one of the absentees were to leave school in a couple of months time. I and the rest of the form were to carry on into the sixth form and the pleasures of A’ Levels.
Mum and Dad moved from Bromley in 1987 to the house Mum still lives in, in Suffolk. By that time all three of us children had married and moved out; click the link below to see my first home with my first husband. The large Victorian house in Forest Hill in south-east London with the black iron gate and the holly trees in the front garden had been converted into four flats; a basement flat, the ground floor flat, the first floor flat (where we lived from 1982 until Christmas 1984) and a top floor flat.
My marriage fell apart in 1985, just after Alice was born. I lived in New Eltham, where her father and I moved to from Forest Hill until the summer of 1988 when Alice and I moved to Suffolk a year after my parents had moved there. Click on the link below and you will see my house in New Eltham; number 54.
A very long post, I’m afraid but I thought I would put all the house moves, pre-Suffolk, together. Sometime, I may go on to talk about what I had wanted to do with my life and what I ended up doing instead. I may show you the houses I’ve lived in in Suffolk and the short 18 month move to Somerset between 2004 and 2006. We will see.