More Sacred Heart


The five years I spent at the Sacred Heart, despite my unhappiness, were ones where I learnt a lot. Not all of it was good but there were some inspirational teachers, in particular Miss Elizabeth Hamilton who taught Latin and Greek.  Originally I had been put in the “Domestic Science” stream but I wanted to learn science and my parents’ appeal on my behalf resulted in a somewhat ungracious response from Mother Davidson but I was nonetheless transferred and able to do Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Compared to today’s school syllabus we had a very heavy academic load. English language and Literature were taught as two different subjects as were the three sciences.  We also had History, Geography, Mathematics, Art, Domestic Science, Religious Studies, Music and French as core subjects.  The higher stream, into which I had been put, also studied Latin from second year and German was an after school option as were the RADA and LAMDA examinations and studying a musical instrument.

This last was not an option for me as my appearances in the ordinary music lessons rapidly convinced Mr Buckley, the music teacher, that I had neither ear nor aptitude for anything musical and my only contribution was to put everyone else off because of my inability to carry a tune.  Consequently I was offloaded onto Miss Hamilton for the forty minutes when music classes took place.  The only time I was allowed to be in the music room was when the form was learning Schubert’s  Erl-King.  I was entranced by the eeriness of the music and pleaded to be allowed to stay and listen.

Other times with Miss Hamilton were very pleasant. She was a quietly spoken woman from Northern Ireland who had had a previous academic career as a university lecturer in Classics.  She was very happy to supervise me as long as what I was doing was quiet and loosely connected with Latin.  I remember one time spending the whole session drawing a horse (something I did frequently much to the wrath of other teachers) and labelling its “points” with their Latin names.  Miss Hamilton admitted that I had even taught her something she didn’t know.

As a result of our enforced proximity we came to know each other as well as a teacher and her pupil could and discovered we were both ailurophiles, a word she delighted in teaching me! As I have written previously, my family have all been cat lovers and Miss Hamilton also came from a similar background.

The cat who was my companion all through my school years, Bobby, was a beautifully marked tabby and white cat who I entered in the “domestic” section at the Kensington Kitten and Neuter Cat show at the Royal Horticultural Hall although I believe it is now held at Olympia.  For me it was a great adventure as my parents would pay for a taxi each way from Golborne Road to Vincent Square S.W.1 as it would have been too difficult to carry Bobby in his cage all the way. One year he was champion senior domestic shorthair and by chance Miss Hamilton was at the show as the presentations were given out.  In Bobby’s case an engraved silver cup.  To celebrate our success she took me for afternoon tea at what seemed, and probably was, a very posh tea rooms with waitress service and tiered plates of crustless sandwiches, scones and dainties.


It was Miss Hamilton also who, the year the school went to Oberammergau but I was not allowed because Mother Davidson deemed I was unsuitable, brought me back from Austria a little carved wooden horse which I kept for many years until one of my dogs knocked it off the shelf and used it as a teething ring.

Miss Hamilton lived off Kensington Church Street, in a bijou little flat around the back of St. Mary Abbot’s church and on a couple of occasions invited me to partake of tea with her.  What we talked of I cannot now recall but I suspect cats and other animals featured prominently.

I knew she had written her autobiography “A River full of Stars” and managed to obtain it though the library after I left school. It was a gentle narrative of life as a child in Northern Ireland at the turn of the C20th and detailed her conversion to Catholicism. It was only when I read her obituary, sent to me by my friend Elizabeth when I was living in New Zealand,  that I realised what a truly remarkable woman she was.  As well as having had a career as Classics lecturer and writing her autobiography she had also written several books on the mysticism of St Teresa of Avila, Charles de Foucauld and Cardinal Suenens.


She inspired in me a life long love of learning and an appreciation of dead languages and their influence on English. I will always be grateful to a lovely woman who recognised my unhappiness and was kind and gentle to me.

Eleven Plus and beyond. 1957

  1. The year of the Eleven Plus. The year that would decide my future education.

The standard of teaching at St. Mary’s was very high and expectations were also.  Miss Roche had the senior class and put in a lot of extra time ensuring we were as prepared as possible for the exams.

The exam was sat in January and comprised three papers, English, Maths and Intelligence.  Depending on results one  went to a grammar, central or secondary modern school, in descending order of ability.  Some of the unsuccessful girls would stay on at St. Mary’s until their fifteenth birthday released them into the world.

At assembly results were announced.  They were sent to the schools midyear to enable parents to apply to secondary schools, children attend interviews and school uniforms to be purchased.

My surname being mid alphabet I had a wait which passed in a blur, other than to vaguely register that my best friend Maureen McKenna had a grammar pass.  My name was called out and I also had a grammar pass and some special award for the highest mark in one of the papers but I cannot now remember what for.  Our other friend Hanna waited anxiously as her surname started with Z but all was well, she too had a grammar pass.

It was a triumphant moment for us but also tinged with sadness as it meant the parting of the ways at the end of the school year.  Hanna and Maureen both lived in Cricklewood and would be going to a different school from me.  We were all given letters to take home to our parents with the results but I couldn’t wait for that and ran home, through the Little Rec, to Golborne Road shouting , “I’ve got a grammar”.

For my parents the choice was either St. Aloysius at Euston or the Sacred Heart at Hammersmith.  Mum and Dad had planned to apply to St. Aloysius as they’d heard Sacred Heart was very elite and picky about who they accepted but Sister Austin, the head mistress at St. Mary’s begged them to apply to Sacred Heart as it had been a long time since a St. Mary’s girl had gone there and she thought I had a good chance based on my results.

The application was sent off and an interview appointment given.  Mum dressed me up in my grey woollen  suit with a pleated shirt, long white socks, white nylon gloves and a little velvet trimmed hat, while she wore her beaver lamb coat, anxious to make a good impression  despite the fact that it was the middle of summer.

All the way from Westbourne Park to Hammersmith on the train my tummy was tying itself in knots.  What questions would I be asked? What should I answer? What if I failed the interview?  The train arrived at the terminus and we walked the short distance to the school.  It was a large, imposing, red brick building facing onto Hammersmith Broadway.  We had been instructed to go to the main door, also large and imposing, and ring the bell.  This was, in fact, the only time I was to enter the school through the main door as staff and pupils used the side entrance in Bute Gardens.

Mum pushed the bell and, after what seemed like a lifetime, the door slowly opened and there stood a wizened little old religeuse who ushered us in to a long cloister with dark red tiled floors and paintings of biblical scenes along its walls.  We were pointed in the direction of the library and instructed to wait until my name was called.  Several other girls and their parents were also milling around with anxious expressions on their faces.

The library was a large room with panelled walls and a huge fireplace but not many books.  At the far end of the room was a long table with a row of nuns seated behind it and a couple of seats in front of it. Of the actual interview  I remember very little except that Mother Davidson, the headmistress,  had bad breath and, as she leaned forward to ask a question, a miasma would issue from her mouth.  Questions included what I wanted to be when I left school and whether I attended mass regularly.  Her lips pursed when she learned that Mum was Protestant but relaxed again when told that she and Dad both attended mass with me.

After the interview Mum took me to a caff for an ice cream and, for her, a much needed cuppa and a fag.  She assured me I’d done my best and now all we had to do was wait for the results.

War and Rumours of War (Matt 24:6)

With this weekend being Remembrance Sunday my thoughts turned to members of my family who lived through the two world wars. I think I must be unique in that neither of my grandfathers fought in the First World War.  Mum’s dad, Frederick Ireland, was a master builder and was exempted because he was in a reserved occupation.  He was also forty years old when war was declared so would, probably, have been one of the last to be called up on account of his age.  His exemption certificate stated he was due temporary exemption to 4th October 1918.

My other granddad, Victor Ernest Martin, some seven years younger was also exempt on the same grounds.  His occupation was as a valet at the Army and Navy club.  The officers must have their comforts when on furlough eh what!

Dad, on the other hand was called up in 1940. He and Mum married when he was on leave in November of that year.  He was sent to Woolwich Arsenal to join the 64th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery and trained as a gunner.  He was shipped out to the Middle East and fought in campaigns in Egypt and North Africa before being sent to G where he was badly wounded just outside Cyrenaica when the truck he was in ran over a landmine.  Several of the others were killed but Dad was fortunate that he had curled up to go to sleep and thus protected vital organs.  Nonetheless his injuries were bad enough, a fractured femur and both radius and ulna in his right arm.  He said the German soldier who accepted his surrender uttered the cliché, “For you, Tommy, the war is over”

After being patched up and having his broken limbs reset at a field hospital he was transferred to Caserta military hospital in the South of Italy.  He always said he owed his life to the nursing sisters at the hospital as his leg wound became badly infected.  There was a shortage of antibiotics so the nuns resorted to a traditional remedy of allowing the wound to become flyblown.  The maggots ate away all the necrotic flesh leaving the wound clean and permitting normal healing.

Unfortunately, when the plaster cast was taken off Dad’s arm it was discovered that the surgeon who had set it had misunited the bones so that the upper part of the radius was joined to the ulna and vice versa. This, along with nerve damage meant he was unable to perform actions that required fine movement or arm rotation so he taught himself to write left handed and played cricket with the bat in his left hand.

Once his injuries had healed sufficiently he was taken to Stalag VIIIA, Lamsdorf in Silesia which was, then, part of Germany. Nowadays it is Lambinowice and in Poland.  Dad always spoke very positively of his years as a POW and had the highest regard for the Camp Kommondant and the guards.  He said, more than once, that if he met any of them again he’d shake their hands and say, “Fritz you were only doing your duty, the same as I was.”  He commented that they were “Damn fine soldiers”

While he was in Lamsdorf Dad met two New Zealand soldiers, Jim Bland and Ritchie Kelly, who were to become lifelong friends. Dad was repatriated in 1944 and after the war had finished Jim and Ritchie came to stay at Priory Grove with our family.  While there, Ritchie met and fell in love with Mum’s youngest sister Gwen, married her and took her to New Zealand as a war bride.

After the war came the reality of fitting back into Civvy Street again.  Before being called up Dad had worked for Sainsbury’s as a butcher but, with the damage to his hand, was no longer able to cut up sides of meat so took whatever job he was offered.  Thus followed a period of Dad working for a week or two in a job for which he was totally unsuited, chucking it in and coming home on a Friday with his pay packet which Mum would then spend, say to Dad, “Right we’re broke again, you’d better find another job”  Among the jobs he’d had were as a spray painter, making ladies’ powder compacts at a factory in the  East End and for a while had a window cleaning round but found it was too hard cycling and washing windows with a gammy leg and a fairly useless right hand.

His treatment for his injuries continued for several years after he returned home. I can remember, as a small child, accompanying him on trips to St Thomas’ hospital.  Although the injury to his arm had healed he continued to get abcesses .  The treatment seemed to be for him to sit with his forearm in a sink full of hot paraffin wax.  This was a treatment that had been used for injuries since Roman times and was popular during WW1.  It never seems to have occurred to the hospital to break and reset Dad’s arm with the bones attached correctly.

After discharge Dad, like so many others, was issued with his “demob” suit. In his case it was a gingery Harris tweed which we always called his “park keeper’s” suit as the LCC park keepers used to wear ones of the same material.  When he and Mum used to take me up the Little Rec it wasn’t unusual for someone to ask him something about the park.

Because of his injuries Dad was entitled to a war pension. It wasn’t a lot but Dad said, even if it was only a farthing, he’d fight to get it because if he didn’t fight for his entitlement he’d be letting down some poor bastard (his words) who needed it more and was unable to fight for his rights.

Surprisingly Dad refused to claim his war medals on the grounds that, because everyone was eligible for them, they were of no value either monetarily or emotionally. I can relate to this attitude as I feel that nowadays, with the emphasis on all school leavers gaining tertiary qualifications in is downgrading the value of a degree.  Such things are only valuable if only a few possess them.  But I digress……

Right up until 1967 when my parents decided to emigrate they would attend the annual regimental reunion which was held at the   Cock Tavern in Great Portland Street.

The only exception to this was 1960, the 21st anniversary of the regiment,  which was held at the Café Royal.  The menu for dinner included delights such as Coupe Otranto, Supreme de Volaille Alamein and Souffle Ardennes.    Each dish being named after a field of conflict where the regiment had fought.   The Guest of Honour  at this reunion was Lt-Gen. The Rt. Hon. Lord Freyburg who,  at that time, was governor general of New Zealand.  This was the first time I was allowed to go to a regimental dinner along with Mum and Dad, Nana and Aunty Mick and Uncle Frank.  We were presented to Lord Freyburg because of  Aunty Gwen being a war bride and living in NZ.

I remember him as being a very upright, spare man but who appeared genuinely interested in talking to us and who was happy to have his photo taken shaking hands with Dad. Alas, like so many things relating to our family history,  this photo was thrown out was thrown out when my parents emigrated and now remains only a memory.

Medicine, cosmetics, menstruation

A recent photo of Bowen and William’s chemist shop on Golborne Road had an advertisement poster for Zam Buk ointment. My mind flew back sixty or more years to all the products we used to use which either no longer exist or have been transmorphed  into something unrecognisable.

Zam Buk was a universal panacea for sore joints, blisters, corns, chilblains (of which there were many in the damp cold winters) and insect bites. It had a peculiarly pungent odour that was difficult to ignore but was a very popular medication.  I recently found a fascinating blog regarding its usage and the fact that it’s still available in Asian countries.

Also used for the removal of corns was Carnation corn caps which were sold in a pretty little tine with a picture of a carnation and the legend “unequalled as an efficient and painless remover of corns” I don’t know what the active ingredient was but, unless you were careful, not only was the corn removed but also a very large area of surrounding skin where the cap had shifted.

Another popular treatment for cuts and grazes was Germolene ointment. Bright pink and smelling strongly of oil of wintergreen it came in a pale yellow tin with bright blue writing.  It was originally developed by Sir Henry Veno of Veno’s Cough Mixture back in the early years of the C20th.

To brush our teeth we’d use Gibb’s Dentifrice, a solid pink block that had to be scrubbed vigorously with a toothbrush to produce foam. Unhygienic as it may sound now, we all used the same block which seemed to last forever.  They were one of the earliest companies to produce “Christmas Specials” and one year ion my stocking was a box containing Gibbs Dentifrice and a pack of ”Happy Families” playing cards.  Tubes of toothpaste were available in the 1950s but were felt by Mum to be wasteful as it was too easy to squeeze out more than you needed.

“Keeping yourself regular” was considered very important and at primary school we were asked daily if we’d “been. If you said, “No” more than two days in succession you would be given a large teaspoonful of Syrup of Figs.  I hated its flavour and quickly learned to say I’d been whether I had or not.  As well as syrup of figs there was a proprietary medicine called Ex-Lax which came as tablets for adults and chocolate bars for children.  I also disliked its flavour which was senna and tasted nothing like chocolate!  Also used for constipation but also for indigestion and heartburn was Phillip’s Milk of Magnesia.  This was a thick white, peppermint scented liquid that came in a beautiful blue glass bottle.  Essentially it was magnesium hydroxide and was very difficult to swallow as it left a thick, adhesive film around one tongue and teeth.  Needless to say I disliked taking it too.

Before the widespread prescription of antibiotics skin infections were common, especially acne, boils and carbuncles. Given the difficulty in keeping oneself clean in houses that had a common lavatory and no bathroom it’s a wonder there wasn’t an outbreak of bubonic plague.  Acne was widespread and many a young lad had his chances of dating a girl hampered by a face full of angry pustules.  There was a paste that could be used but needed to be plastered on thickly and seemed to eat away the top layer of skin.  Sunray therapy was also very popular and the acne sufferer would have to sit, wearing goggles, in front of an ultraviolet lamp once a week over a period of months.  The harmful effects of over exposure to ultraviolet was not realised then.  It wasn’t until the 1950s that it was realised that acne was caused by bacteria and tetracycline prescribed that there was an effective cure for this disfiguring ailment.

Boils and carbuncles (a complex sort of boil with many heads) were treated with kaolin poultice to “draw” the poison.  The poultice came in a large tin weighing about a pound (about 400gm in modern terms) and was a thick viscous compound with a layer of oil on top.  It would be spread on a piece of lint which was then heated up on the top of a kettle.  The lint was gingerly lifted off and whacked onto the offending boil.  There was a real knack to getting the temperature of the poultice just right as too cold and it was ineffective, too hot and you risked blisters as well as boils.  It was strapped or taped into place and left until the boil came to a head when it would be lanced with a sharp instrument (often a vegetable knife) and squeezed to rid it of pus.  This was incredible painful and often ineffective due to cross infection.

Boric (boracic) acid was also used as a topical antiseptic and again came in a tin with a lid that needed to be levered off. No secure lids or Health a Safety  gremlins then!  It was applied either directly onto the skin or onto the ubiquitous lint and then bandaged in place.  People, generally, were unaware of cross infection and the lint would be washed out to be used again .  The waste not want not mentality was still alive and well even at the expense of wellbeing.

As well as keeping you healthy there were a variety of nostrums to make you look attractive.  Unlike my cousin Christine, who had naturally curly hair, mine was stubbornly straight and fine.  To overcome this flaw in her otherwise perfect offspring Mum would set my hair after it had been washed using strips of rag and a solution of sugar in water.  My hair would be combed with the mixture and then  wound around the strip of cloth leaving a long tail of rag.  This would then be wound back up around the queue and tied to its top.  This was repeated until all my hair was curled and I looked like a piccaninny (Yeah OK non PC these days but it wasn’t then!) and left to dry overnight.  The sugar would stiffen the hair which then stayed in immaculate ringlets until next hairwash day.  This worked well until one day Mum made the mixture too strong and instead of graceful flowing locks I had weird cardboard extrusions that took several washes with Vaseline shampoo before they once again resembled hair. I was pleased when Amami produced their setting lotion which washed out easily.

Vaseline shampoo was a powder that had to be dissolved in warm water and it needed a couple of washes before your hair felt really clean. Not having a bathroom, the weekly rite of hair washing was performed over the deep sink in the kitchen with a towel round your neck to prevent your clothes getting wet.  Not that this was very effective but at least you had the towel to hand to wrap around your hair.  No such thing as domestic hair dryers so the excuse, “I can’t go out tonight because I want to wash my hair” was a valid one as well as an excuse to get out of an unwanted date.    I don’t recall there being a proprietary brand of conditioner but Mum used to use dilute vinegar after washing my hair to make it shiny.  It certainly worked but left me smelling a bit odd too.

For men there was Brylcreem to smooth and shine the hair and leave dirty rings on the inside of hats and shirt collars. At most men sported a moustache but were otherwise clean shaven.  A beard was considered “arty” or “eccentric” and stubble downright slovenly.  A razor had disposable blades which came in packs of five or ten in dark blue wrappers.  The razor head was unscrewed to insert the blade.  Shaving soap came in either a large stick or in a wooden box and a clean shave was the order of the day.  For a treat a man might go to the barber for a close shave with a cut throat razor but usually did it himself.  It was easy for the razor to slip or inadvertently go over the top of a pimple and cause bleeding.  There were two options open to stopping the blood flow, either a bit of toilet paper stuck on top of it or a styptic pencil which contained alum to contract the capillaries and stop the blood flow.  Both had their disadvantages.  It was easy to forget the toilet paper and go out wearing it.  The styptic pencil stung and left a white tidemark around the cut.

There was a wide variety of makeup from which to choose, Coty, Max Factor, Bourjois, Cyclax, Yardley were probably the best known. Cyclax was always considered a good brand because it had the Royal Warrant of Appointment.  It and Yardley were old, well established brands in Britain, unlike Max Factor which for a long time was considered “stage makeup” like Leichner.  Coty and Bourjois were considered somewhat exotic and Bourjois’ perfume “Evening in Paris” was the height of sophistication.

One of the great problems with makeup then was that had a tendency to transfer or wear off. Powder helped to some extent keeping foundation cream in place but lipstick needed frequent renewal.  The first lipstick I ever had was made by Yardley, either Dusty Rose or Natural Rose, a very pretty colour with a slight rose fragrance.  Mum was a fan of Tangee indelible lipstick which was a very dark red and stained anything with which it came into contact.  It was only a small lipstick and came in a black metal tube.  In the late 50s/early 60s a new lipstick hit the shops.  It was marketed as being the only lipstick you’d ever need as it would suit every skin tone.  It was bright green but reacted to skin chemicals and changed colour to a fluorescent pink in my case and didn’t suit me at all.  It also stained my lips for several days and left me in the unenviable position of explaining to my headmistress why I’d come to school wearing makeup.  I was sent home and told not to return until all traces had gone.

Mascara came in a block with a small, flat brush. To apply it to ones lashes it was necessary to spit on the block and rub the brush up and down.  Mascara was happily shared by sisters and girlfriends with little thought of contracting conjunctivitis.  It only came in one shade, a blackish grey and was made from carbon pigment and a mild type of soap.  Popular brands were Maybelline and Rimmel.

Perfume was favoured. I don’t remember deodorants being available until I was in my teens so probably they were a necessity to hide the less desirable body odours and that of infrequently washed clothing.  My Nan’s favourite was Phul Nana, a floral blend.  One could also buy Phul Nana pastilles, little sweets made from powdered sugar, gum Arabic and the perfume.  Mum favoured Coty L’aimant  while I like Mouche de Rochas with its musky undertones.  It was later rebranded as Femme. Mouche means a beauty spot in French but its primary meaning is “fly” so considered unsuitable.  Other available perfumes were California Poppy in its black and red container, Chanel number 5 and also 19 and 22 less commonly seen nowadays.  Yardley did a range of  pretty floral colognes including April Violets which I regularly bought Nan for her birthday and Christmas.  Tweed and Blue Grass were also popular.

Women were in particular need of perfumes at “that time of the month” as it was commonly called. Although tampons, as we know them today, had been invented during the 30s they weren’t in common use and sanitary towels (STs) were the product of choice.  I suspect part of the rationale was that using a tampon was akin to being deflowered and “nice girls” kept themselves “tidy” before they were married.  Anything introduced to that orifice was frowned upon. Although nominally disposable STs had many disadvantages.  They were bulky, they only held so much blood and frequently leaked.  It was necessary to use a sanitary belt to keep them in place.  This was an elastic band around the waist with a hook back and front on which the loops of the ST were fastened.  One could wear rubber lined panties with them but these were sweaty and added to the bulk.  Once an ST was changed there was the problem of what to do with the used product.  At home one could wrap it in a bit of newspaper and put it in the dustbin but the problem with this was that dogs could scent the blood and would raid the bins.  In public toilets there were incinerators but these were inefficient and clogged with unburnt cloth.  If they did burn the STs there was an unpleasant miasma that lingered.   There were also reusable cloth pads which could be washed and  reused but, given the lack of laundry facilities, their use was dying out.  One time someone’s “fanny pad”, as they were also known, found its way into our wash from the Bagwash.  Although clean,  it was stained and discoloured and hurriedly disposed of by Mum before Dad could see it.

Although men must have been aware of menstruation it was treated as a secret by women and girls were given little in the way of education on the subject.  When I was about twelve I had a series of stomach cramps over a period of weeks.  Eventually Mum took me to see the doctor but he could find nothing wrong.  He told me to go out of the room and had a chat with Mum.  When I asked later what had been said all I was told was that I was getting to an age when “bad blood” would come out of my bottom and to tell Mum when it happened.

“It” happened on Sunday when I was thirteen. Kensal Cricket Club, of which Dad was a member, was playing at home on the Northolt playing fields.  I’d gone to the toilet and when I wiped myself discovered the paper was red.  I tried to ignore it but next time I went there was more red and my knickers were stained too. The light dawned.  This was “Bad Blood”.  I hurried back to where Mum was sitting and whispered in her ear, “I think I’ve started”.  She had no STs and neither did any of the other Kensal wives or girlfriends so she had to approach the women who were with the opposing team.  Luckily one had a supply so the sisterhood’s secret remained safe.  When we got home Mum took me aside for a little chat and told me this was going to happen every month but completely omitted the biological details.  A few days later a “Facts of Life” booklet appeared on my bed but no other explanation was forthcoming.  In some ways I was luckier than my friend Maureen whose instruction in the matter was that she wasn’t to get into a bath after a sailor had used it as, if she did, she’d have a baby.

Golborne Road, miscellaneous memories

Living in an area where poverty was rife and theft and burglary not uncommon it was always a concern for Mum and Dad to protect the shops’ takings. This was especially true when we lived at 21 Golborne Road where the top floor was inhabited by one of the local “toms” whose clients were in and out (in all senses of the phrase) any time of day or night.  They had to pass along the passage which had a door into the shop backroom and access to the shop and its till.  Even though the door had both a Yale and a mortice lock it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to jemmy it open as the door frame was rotten with age and damp.

Dad would try and bank the takings as often as he could but his opening hours were far longer than the banks. In those days banks were only open between 10 and 3 and Dad stayed open from 8 to 6 except on Thursday which was his half day and he closed at 12.  Banks were also closed on Saturdays so no chance of depositing the money then.  Usually Dad would bank on Thursday but would also take advantage of a quiet spell to leave Mum in charge and nip down the Harrow Road to Barclays.

“Kool retfa the posh” he’d call to Mum, “I’m going to ekat the yenom to the kaynab” Somewhere Dad had learnt Backslang and this was the preferred medium of communication between him and Mum when there were customers in the shop.  What he had just said was, “Look after the shop, I’m taking the money to the bank”

Backslang is thought to have originated in Victorian England as a means of communication between market stallholders to enable them to hold private conversations without customers being privy to what was being said and to enable them to palm off inferior cuts of meat on unsuspecting clientele.  As Dad had worked, pre WW2, as a counterhand in a variety of butcher’s shops this may well have been where he picked it up.

Certain sounds such as “sh” and “th” weren’t reversed and extra vowels would be inserted to make the words pronounceable. One word has entered everyday language, albeit with its meaning slightly changed. This is Yob which now carries pejorative overtones.  Polari, the language used by the homosexual community during the 50s and 60s has much in common with Backslang although there are also other influences such as strong borrowing from the Romany tongue also.

It enabled my parents to make all sorts of comments about customers. One in particular, who was always intoxicated was known as a “sippy desra dratsab” “a pissy arsed bastard!”  Dad would refer to Mum as his “Delo nammow”  “old woman” and complain, when we had to use a public convenience, at paying a “yennep rof a eep or a parc”.

On Thursday, his half day, Dad would shut promptly, have lunch,wash and shave then dress in striped trousers, black jacket and bowler hat for his weekly expedition to Stanley Gibbons’ auction rooms in The Strand. Since childhood Dad had been a keen philatelist with a particular interest in New Zealand and British Dependencies stamps.  He had been introduced to the delights of philately by one of the many “gentlemen” who lived in the block of service flats where his parents were housekeeper and caretaker.  He always tried to emulate the dress standards set by the “gentlemen” when visiting Stanley Gibbons where he was rubbing shoulders with Sir so and so and The Honorable Mr so and so.  I suspect, also it was a form of escapism from the drab reality of life in North Kensington.  For a few hours a week he could pretend

After he was demobbed, to supplement his earnings he had sent up a postal stamp business.  He would buy job lots of stamps at auction, pick what he wanted for his collection and the remainder would be put into small books according to country and a price would be entered underneath each stamp.  He had a list of clients, all around the country.  The books would be parcelled up and sent with a list of addresses to the first customer who would remove which stamps he wanted, initial the spaces and forward the books to the next on the list.  Cheques would be sent to Dad by each customer.  It was a system that, potentially, was open to abuse but, in fact, this rarely happened.  If a client didn’t pay up he would be removed from the mailing list.  It was,  as Arthur Daley would say, a nice little earner.

One of the problems for Dad, of being a stamp collector, was that he was colour blind. This was a real handicap when the value of stamps varied dramatically according to their actual shade .  Each year he’d buy a copy of Stanley Gibbons’ catalogue, a large, heavy tome bound in red cloth.  Stamps were shown in black and white (no colour printing then) and a description of them underneath with suggested prices according to which particular colour a stamp was.  So, for example, an Australian, one penny, King George V, stamp could be variously described as maroon, carmine, pink or reddish pink.  The different colours were the result of different printing batches and lack of standardisation of inks and acidity of paper.  Some colours were commonplace while others had a rarity value.

Also affecting the price were any printing imperfections or omissions. Each batch of stamps was from  different printing plates  which were  line engraved by hand so mistakes were possible.  Several different plated were used, one for each colour used in the stamp.  One of the most common errors was in version, where the sheet on which the picture was printed was put into the press upside down when the value was overprinted.

Although they were checked before release there was always the occasional mistake that was missed or smuggled out. If there was a flaw it would increase the value of the stamp.  Dad was always on the lookout for miscoloured or inverted stamps where the king or queen’s head was upside down.  Although he came across a few there was never the “big one” which would have set him up for life financially. When Dad came home with his purchases he and I would sort through them and he’d ask me which colour I thought the stamps were.  Consequently I developed a large vocabulary for colours and one of my first jobs after leaving school was as a colour matcher in a printing ink manufacturers.

When we first moved to Golborne Road I quickly made friends with a girl who lived next door to me. Yiannoula Christi was Greek  Cypriot and her parents were cousins to the barbers in Kensal Road.  We were always in and out of each others homes when we weren’t  playing  Hopscotch,  swinging round the lamp posts on ropes or playing up the “Little Rec” .  Her mother Mary introduced me to the delights of baklava and kataifi and Mum would help her and her husband John with their English and filling in official forms.

One time when Yan and I were playing tag she dashed into number 23 slamming the door shut behind her. Unfortunately I had just at that moment put out my hand to catch her and my little finger was caught in the shut door.  I screamed in pain and panic.  Mum rushed out from the shop to see what was happening and banged on the door while trying to comfort me.  Someone came down,  opened the door and released my poor finger which was spouting blood and had the nail dangling.  Dad called for a taxi (a rare sight in Golborne Road) and Mum took me down to A & E at St Charles hospital where I was injected (more howls), cleansed, the nail removed and bandaged up to return home with a bottle of penicillin tablets. After we arrived home and I’d settled Mum disappeared for a while.  When she returned she had a big box under her arm.  “For you”, she said, “Because you’ve been so brave”  I removed the lid and inside was a large, blonde walkie talkie doll. I’d wanted one for ages.  She was fully dressed and said, “Mama”.  I called her Brenda and couldn’t wait to show her to Yan next time we played.  I’d wanted a walkie talkie doll for ages and it was almost worth the pain in my pinky.

Yan had two cousins, Helen and Doula, the daughters of the barber in Kensal Road. They were both older than us.  Dad was on good terms with the family and one day we received an invitation to Helen’s wedding.  Dad was surprised as he hadn’t realised the girl was old enough to be married.  It turned out he wasn’t the only one who was surprised.  The bride to be was unaware of her status until told by her father that he had found her a suitable husband and the wedding date had been set.  All she was told was that it was “a nice Greek boy” and he had a motor scooter.  Consequently , in the weeks leading up to the wedding, every olive skinned young man on a scooter was examined by Helen and Doula in case he was “the one”.  She only met him the week before the wedding in a chaperoned setting but, apparently was satisfied with what she saw because the wedding went ahead.

I can’t remember for certain whereabouts the church was but my feeling is that it was the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Campden. It was certainly a large, imposing building which stood in its own grounds.  As we entered there was an icon of the Virgin Mary which everyone was kissing before moving into the body of the church.  I shuddered as I went to kiss it as it was smeared with lipstick but a dig in the ribs from Mum stopped me saying anything.  Inside it was richly decorated with many icons and murals depicting religious scenes.  The bride and groom and, it seemed, all of their respective families stood in front of the altar.  The bearded priest in his long dark robe and veiled hat entered with acolytes and deacons following behind waving incense burners which puffed out clouds of sweetly scented smoke.

I remember little of the wedding except, at the conclusion, twin crowns of flowers were passed across the couple’s heads and back again signifying they were now man and wife. The reception was a riot of music and food, far less formal than English weddings with people sitting anywhere and helping themselves from a buffet of strange looking dishes that was being constantly replenished.  The only formal part of the evening was when the bride and groom stood up to dance.  People came forward and pinned money on Helen’s dress during the duration of the dance.  We later heard this amounted to several hundred pounds, enough for them to start up in business.  Other than their dance all the other dances were men with men or women with women.  It was unseemly for other couples to dance together.  The floral crowns the bride and groom wore had rolls of paper attached to them.  During the course of the evening the crowns were removed and the strips unrolled so all the guests could sign their names and blessings for their life together.  It must have worked because I believe they had a happy marriage and their business prospered.

Yiannoula , likewise, was married early at sixteen and we lost touch. I later heard she had five children by the time she was twenty one.  Doula, a more spirited girl, refused to marry a boy of her parent’s choosing and married for love.





Christmas 1954 Golborne Road

Christmas 1954 had been the first time the shop had shown a reasonable profit. Prior to that,  Dad had been hard at work building up the business, ploughing back any takings into a wider range of stock  and enticing back customers who had left because of Vic Harrison’s poor business practices.

This year Mum and Dad felt they could let themselves go a bit and celebrate in style. We had a huge Christmas tree with real glass decorations and Mum and I had spent many evenings making paper chains to hang around the walls. They were made from strips of coloured paper, glued at one end, which you licked and forms into a loop.  The next one was threaded through, licked and joined into another loop until you literally had a chain.  These were then fastened to the ceiling with tin tacks.  Once they were in place it was time for a nice cuppa to rehydrate a sticky, foul tasting tongue.

Around the tree were heaped enticing parcels with my name on them. As an only child (and an only niece and only grandchild for several years)  I always had lots and lots of presents and lots and lots of dire warnings that Santa’s elves would take them away and give them to poor children if I loosened the wrapping and started to feel inside before Christmas Day.  Needless to say  this didn’t stop me having a surreptitious poke but I lost a lot of sleep in case they had disappeared in the morning.

The shop was kept open until late on Christmas Eve although Mum had stopped work around teatime in order to look after me and prepare as much as possible for Christmas lunch. In the 1950s it was always a goose or a chicken or occasionally a roast of beef.  Turkey as a Christmas dish came in much later.  Mum peeled the spuds and parsnips and left them to soak overnight, removed the outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts and cut crosses in their bottoms.  Not, as one might think, in memory of Jesus but because it was believed that the cross would open out during cooking and allow the heat to penetrate the stem.

I was packed off to bed after having first put a pillowcase on the foot of the bed for Santa to put my presents in. I was far too excited to sleep and wanted to see Santa arrive but no matter how hard I tried my eyes eventually shut and I drifted into a wonderful world where I had only to snap my fingers and I would be granted any toy I wanted.

I woke early, while it was still dark, and could see a large white shape at the end of my bed. I crawled forward and felt it.  Lots of fascinating shapes some soft and squishy, others hard and angular.  I called out to Mum and Dad, “Santa’s been” and leapt out of bed to drag the pillowcase into their room.  Mum hauled it onto the bed and I wriggled down between her and Dad into that lovely warm space.  A treasure trove was revealed, Dandy and Beano annuals, a new jumper edged with angora wool, a games compendium with Snakes and Ladders, Chinese Checkers, Tiddleywinks, Ludo.

Dad had to get up as he opened the shop for a couple of hours on Christmas morning before going to Mass but Mum and I were free then and snuggled down together in the double bed while I read my annuals. As the shop had no safe and we were sharing the accommodation with another family Dad stuffed his Christmas takings of well over £500 into his pocket and we  all went to ten o’ clock mass at Holy Souls in Bosworth Road.  Dad and I both received communion which Mum, as C of E, was unable to do but sang along with us all the carols “Hark the Herald Angels” which , for years, I thought was “hark the harelipped angels”, “Oh Little town of Bethlehem”, “Adeste Fidelis”,”Angels from the realms of Glory”

At the conclusion of mass “Ite Missa est” was announced and we all filed out. Father  Ward and Father Long had left through the side exit and were waiting to greet parishioners at the main exit.   As they always did, it was “Merry Christmas Gwen, Merry Christmas Vic” and then an overt turning aside to ignore my mother because she was not Catholic.  One time Mum commented on this to Dad and he expressed surprise, thinking she must have been mistaken.  However after several Sundays he admitted she was correct.  These Men if God were deliberately snubbing Mum because she belonged to a different church.

But today was Christmas Day and no time for examining grudges. Mum had to start cooking Christmas Dinner and I had a bevy of presents calling out to be played with.  The Catholic Club upstairs from the church was open after mass and Dad stopped behind to partake of a little seasonal conviviality, promising to be home in time for our meal at 2pm.

Two o’clock came, the goose was beautifully browned and oozing succulent juices, the potatoes were golden and crispy but no sign of Dad. Mum delayed putting on the brussels sprouts and making the gravy.  Half past two, still no Dad.  Three o’clock, Mum was getting cross I was hungry and grizzly.  The brussels were cooked gravy made and Mum served up our dinner.  We’d just finished our Christmas pud and custard when we heard the front door open and unsteady footsteps up the staircase accompanied by slurred and tuneless singing.

The lounge door swung open, in lurched Dad in a state of advanced inebriation. He saw the remains of the dinner and said sadly, “You didn’t wait for me.  Where’s mine?”  Mum muttered something inaudible and disappeared into the kitchen where banging of plates could be heard.  Meantime Dad had sunk onto the sofa and was sound asleep a few minutes before she returned with a plate of cold meat and vegetables which she slammed on the table.

Dad opened his eyes. “Take my shoes off for me Darling”, he slurred.  I’m not taking off any drunken man’s shoes”, Mum retaliated.  “Come on Darling, you’ll do it for Dad”, he asked me.  “Oh no you don’t”, from Mum, “he got himself into this state”  Dad sunk back into his own little world again, shoes still on.

Among my presents was a toy train set. Mum helped me set this up and we busied ourselves winding keys and changing junctions and flagging signals with accompanying appropriate train noises.  At one stage a very blurry eyed Dad woke up and groaned.  “Can’t you bitches be quiet?”  Unusual for Dad to swear in front of me although he could be as foul mouthed as any of his customers and had a wonderfully descriptive line of rhetoric.

Mum retaliated that it was Christmas Day and she wasn’t going to stop me having fun even if he was too drunk to come home in time for dinner.  She upped the train noises and crashed and banged as much as she could.  Just then a movement from the sofa and something came hurtling towards us before Dad lapsed back into his drunken stupor.  Mum picked up the object and realised it was the shop’s Christmas takings which Dad had had in his pocket all this time.  She placed the package in one of the sideboard drawers and   we spent the rest of the afternoon pleasantly occupied while Dad snorted, grunted and farted.

It was early evening before Dad woke, having slept off most of the alcohol. He clearly had no recollection of how he had spent his day between mass and now.  “I need a piss”, and off he staggered downstairs only to return minutes later, fly undone, a panic stricken look in his eye.  “The money”, he gasped.  “What money?” Mum asked innocently, flashing me a look to keep my mouth shut.  “The takings!  I can’t find them.  I had them in my pocket when we went to mass this morning.”  Mum again expressed ignorance as to their whereabouts and suggested Dad return to Holy Souls and see if he’d dropped them there.  He pulled on his demob overcoat, wrapped a scarf round his neck and headed out.

While he was out Mum opened the drawer, extracted the package and placed it on a plate on the table and sat and waited. Eventually a cold, tired, haggard Dad returned looking woebegone.  He saw the package on the table and opened his mouth to say something but the look on Mum’s face cautioned him to hold his tongue.  He sloped out to the kitchen, made himself a cold meat sandwich and a pot of tea.  The rest of Christmas Day was passed in silence but fortunately the matter had passed over by Boxing Day when we went up to Golders Green to spend the day with Dad’s father and stepmother.

Golborne Road Leisure Time

We children had our games in the street, Hopscotch, allies, skipping ropes and in the later 1950s the Hula Hoop and, indoors, books, board games, dolls and toy shops.  But what of our parents and other adults?   How was their leisure time spent?

At the back of Golborne Road, running between Edenham  and Southam Streets was the Seventh Feathers.  This was a youth club offering wholesome activities for both mental and physical stimulation.  Alcohol was strictly forbidden but despite this it was very popular with the teenagers (a newly coined term in the 1950s)   From our upstairs back windows we could watch the activities and listen to the music coming from the club.  I often wondered why the “Seventh” but later learned it was one of a number of “Feathers” clubs founded in the 1930s by a friend of the Prince of Wales who was to, briefly, become Edward VIII.   They took their name from his emblem of three feathers. There was also a Feathers  on Ladbroke Grove, others in Marylebone, Earl’s Court, Fulham and Wembley but nowadays only the Fourth Feathers in Marylebone seems to be still active.

For adults there were several choices of where to go of an evening or on the weekend. In a comparatively small radius there were several cinemas from which to choose. Closest were the Prince of Wales on Harrow Road and the Imperial  (latterly renamed the Electric Cinema) on Portobello Road, popularly known as the Bug(h)ole.  The “h” was purely voluntary and frequently omitted. 

The Prince of Wales  was an impressive Art Deco building with cream tiles and three very tall windows facing the street.   It had a large entrance foyer and people would queue for tickets.  No pre-booking in those days.  You just turned up, paid yer money and took yer chances!  When all the seats had been taken a “Full” notice would be put up but some people were still admitted and stood at the back behind the seats waiting for a seat as one came empty.  This happened quite frequently as films were shown on a continuous loop and often you’d arrive midway through the supporting picture or the Pathe News.  People would get up and leave as the picture reached the part where they’d come in so there was a constant flux.  The programme was usually good value and comprised a feature film, a supporting one and the news.

 Films were categorised according to suitability by the British Board of Film Censors with ratings U for Universal which was suitable for all ages, A for Adult that ruled that children must be accompanied by an adult and X rated which were considered suitable for age 16 and over.  However if you dressed up a bit, could inhale a cigarette without coughing and appeared to be over 16 it was unlikely you would be questioned. Smoking was permitted in the cinema and the screen viewed through a swirling haze.

There was always an intermission when advertisements by Pearl and Dean were shown on the screen.  This was when the usherettes would sashay down the aisles with their trays of ice creams and ice lollies and stand with their backs to the screen as they served the patrons who queued  for the semi thawed, waxed cardboard tubs with their little wooden spoons.

The Imperial, by contrast was a pretty shabby, do-it-yourself affair.  Its façade was coated with, what were once, white tiles but were now cracked and stained and covered with faded posters advertising films shown weeks, if not months earlier.  Inside was dilapidated with rows of hard wooden seats, frequently missing a vital part such as a seat or back.  It was dark, damp and called the Bughole for the very practical reason that it was common to exit a performance covered in bites and scratching furiously.  Management was minimal and one of the joys, particularly for the boys who went there was to throw rotten fruit and other items if the picture failed to hold their attention.  Its position in Portobello Road facilitated the acquisition of rotten fruit left by the traders after they’d closed their stalls.

Further afield were the Coronet at Notting Hill and the Odeon at Westbourne Grove but I can only just remember being taken to them a couple of times.

There were pubs aplenty .  Opposite us was the Prince Arthur and on the corner of Southam Street the Earl of Portobello while, over The Iron Bridge, was The Mitre.  There were also several in Kensal Road, The Robin Hood and Little John and the Portobello Arms coming to mind. Although Dad rarely frequented “The Arfer” he was on good terms with the licensee as indeed he was with all the other shopkeepers on the block and they had an amicable arrangement about purchasing goods from each other.  At Christmas Dad would be given a box of a dozen assorted bottles of spirits as a goodwill gesture.  Unfortunately neither he nor my Mum drank a great deal as both had a very poor head for alcohol so most of it was given away as presents to relatives.

Living opposite the pub meant that weekends were very lively.  As I mentioned earlier, it was a common sight to see the “toms” stripped of to the waist bare knuckle boxing over a client and men, fuelled to bravado by a few drinks, were equally as pugnacious.  Most Fridays and Saturdays the Black Maria or Paddy Wagon would arrive and the miscreants bundled in and taken down to Harrow Road police station to cool off overnight.  In the 1960s the Black Marias were replaced by Panda cars, so named because of their black and white paintwork.

 From our upstairs lounge window we had a ringside view.  One memorable evening in the late 1950s “Sanders of the River” was on the telly and there was a full on racial conflict raging outside the pub.  During the race riots men would pull up the iron railings and charge each other.  The same thing was happening on tv with assegais.  As Dad said, ”On tv it was blacks chasing whites with spears and downstairs it was whites chasing blacks with spears!”

Most pubs had darts teams and competition was fierce .For a while in my late teens I was a member of the Robin Hood and Little John’s ladies team and can still throw a mean dart.  This skill I must have inherited from my maternal grandfather whose medal as part of the 1938 SW London area league winners’  team I still have.  It is sterling silver with a dart board in gold and blue enamel on the front.  Bar billiards, shove ‘a’penny,   cribbage were also played.

 In Kensal Road was the Cobden Club or, to give it its full name, The Cobden Club and Working Men’s Institute which had opened in 1880.  The Working Men’s Clubs Movement had been started in 1862 by a Unitarian minister Henry Solly as a means of enabling working class men to improve their minds and enjoy wholesome activities.  Although not regulars, Mum and Dad would occasionally go along on a Saturday night if there was a good act on.  Most Saturday nights there would be a featured artist at the Cobden.  Usually one of the up and coming young singers or a semi-retired music hall act.



Dad closed the shop at six , would have a quick wash and change while Mum was cooking dinner and off they’d go leaving me with a big bag of sweets and the “telly”  No such thing as a baby sitter.  I assured them I’d be ok on my own and they said they’d be back by 10 and everyone was happy.  I had to lock the lounge door so the “gentlemen visitors” for the tart upstairs couldn’t get in and they’d left a bucket in case I had to answer the call of nature so I didn’t have to risk going downstairs to the communal lavatory.  There was only one occasion I was frightened and I dressed in my school uniform of grey pleated skirt, golden blouse and red cardigan and made my way, on a very cold, wet night, to the Cobden Club where I wailed my story to the door keeper.  Mum and Dad were duly fetched and, in a less than happy frame of mind because their evening out had been brought to an abrupt close, they took me home and put me to bed.

Sundays were often taken up with sport.  Dad was a member of the Kensal Cricket Club despite the infirmities he had as a result of war injuries.  What he lacked in ability he made up for in enthusiasm and it was a standing joke in the club that he’d probably be out for a duck.  The club’s home grounds were at Northolt which was some distance to travel but easy enough to access by Central Line.  There were large playing fields there and a clubhouse.  Much redevelopment took place in Northolt and many new housing areas were built during the 1960s and 70s but it’s nice to see there is an area there named Kensington Fields which commemorates the link between the two areas.

Many of the local lads were team members, Dave Fisher from Golborne Road, his friend Albert, Mike who lived locally, Dave Parsons from off Harrow Road, Bunny Miller   who had been in the RAF and was now chauffeur for a Hatton Garden diamond merchant.  In the late 1950s two West Indians, Roy and his friend whose name I forget, joined the team.

Most matches were played against other local teams, either home or away and wives, sisters  and sweethearts would pack individual lunches.  Everyone would make their own way to Northolt.  Before the match deckchairs would be set up for the womenfolk who would either watch with interest or, more often, sit and knit and talk girl talk or organise the children’s activities to keep them from running onto the pitch or otherwise wandering off.

Usually the matches would only be half day ones and end up with both teams going off to the nearest pub after the match but there were also the matches against teams from Outer London.  If a team was coming any distance the host team would provide food and drink for them.  This was always good for Dad as supplies were bought from him.  Mum and some of the other women would get together in our kitchen on Saturday evening and prepare sandwiches.  This was accomplished via a production line.  One person would open the waxed paper and shake out the sliced loaf, next in line would separate off paired slices which were handed to a third person to be smeared with margarine, a fourth would insert the filling and close up the sandwich, building a stack which would then be reinserted into the wrapper.

 When all loaves had been filled they would be covered with damp tea towels to keep them fresh until the morning.  Most refrigerators were only small, if indeed people actually had one, with most of the interior space taken up by the motor so no room in them for so much food hence the rather primitive method of keeping it fresh overnight.  For a long time we had a device called a Kepcold which worked on the principal of evaporation to maintain a low temperature.  It was a metal cube of about two foot high with a hole in the top into which cold water was poured and absorbed by a type of porous stone, possibly pumice, which slowly released it keeping the inside cool.

As well as sandwiches there were cakes, usually courtesy of Lyons Bakery, cream scones and veal, ham and egg pies.  These were similar to pork pies, about the size of a loaf of bread with hard-boiled eggs running the length of the inside.  They were packed whole and a large carving knife taken to cut them into individual portions when the time came.  Very good with piccalilli or Branston pickles.  Vacuum flasks were filled with dilute, fluorescent orange Kia Ora, crates of beer bought from the Prince Arthur and packets of tea brought.  The Northolt club house had a decent kitchen and crockery so it only needed laying out when the time came.

One trip we all enjoyed was when Kensal was playing the team from Meopham on their home pitch.  Meopham is a small village in Kent, on the North Downs, and cricket was played on the village green in front of two pubs, the King’s Arms and the Long Hop.  Meopham was so very different from living conditions in North Kensington with its picture postcard houses and open spaces.

A char-a-banc was hired and everyone met outside the Cobden and piled in for the journey. On arrival there were cups of tea and scones provided and during half time trestle tables would be brought out from one of the pubs, laden with sandwiches, cakes and pitchers of drink.  After the match there were drinks in the pub and much friendly banter until the char-a-banc  returned and it was time for us to head home.

After a fun day out and several drinks everyone was in a good mood for a singalong.  Dave Parsons had a fine voice and extensive repertoire of songs with rousing choruses.  We’d  have  “Green grow the rushes O” which is said to be a way children were taught religion in past centuries, “One is one” standing for God, “Two,two the lilywhite boys” being Jesus and John  the Baptist, “Three, three the Ri hi hi hi vals” being the three persons of the Trinity or possibly the Three Wise Men and so on right through to “Twelve for the twelve apostles”.  “Ten Green Bottles”,and“Lily the Pink”  were favourites and as more beer was consumed and inhibitions loosened “Knees up Mother Brown, yer drawers are falling down”, “The Ball of Kirriemuir”, “Eskimo Nell”, “Mademoiselle from Armentieres”, “Oh Sir Jasper do not touch me” in which the last word was dropped each verse and “She’ll be coming round the mountains”  which had a revised chorus of “She’ll be all wet and sticky when she comes” which inevitably drew frowns and mutters of “Not in front of the children” from the women although I suspect most of us were too young to understand what it meant.  One time Mum caught be singing those very words and gave me a good slap round the legs for “talking dirty” even though I had no idea what I was being punished for.

The char-a-banc would arrive back at the Cobden Club about 10pm and happy, tired, sunburnt (and quite frequently travel sick) people would tumble out, collect their belongings and head home to bed in preparation for another working week.

Lambeth, Golborne,Ghastly Antipodes and home again