I am going to do a series of more personal blogs about people and places I knew and I will start by looking at my first house. Well not actually the first. I was born in the county of Berkshire and moved to Ilford at the age of one – I have no idea where this information comes from. Memories of this house are a bit hazy and I have checked with my siblings for help. Fortunately, Google Maps and Street View can show something of the location now.
The House at Boar Close
Up to the age of eight I lived in this house in Boar Close to the North of Ilford. It’s still there. Before the creation of Redbridge it was in Ilford but the postal address was Chigwell. We liked that. Chigwell sounded much posher than Ilford. You didn’t have to see Birds of a Feather to know that. [Postal addresses depended on the location where mail was sorted, so you could even have a postal address in another county. It may not be so obvious but the same is true of postcodes – The Isle of Wight is part of Portsmouth according to postcodes.]
The house has had a major upgrade since the fifties. It did not look like the photograph above when we lived there! The windows are new and so are the bricks. It used to be just dirty white concrete. And it had a proper outside porch. (The picture isn’t very useful but you can see the general size of the house.)
It was a Council house. (I suppose we were a relatively poor family with six children on one income.) The front door opened into a hall and behind that was the kitchen. The room to the right extends from front to back of the house. We just called it ‘the other room.’ We probably ate in the kitchen, which functioned as a kitchen and dining room. But, as young children, we had our tea before Dad returned from work and had his meal.
There were four brothers when we moved there and two younger sisters were born in this house. I remember assembling in the bedroom the day after the youngest was born, talking of possible names. (But I have no memories of the births, or of my mother being pregnant. We had no concept of pregnancy. Babies were ‘found under a gooseberry bush’, or ‘the stork brought them’. We knew that wasn’t true but we had no other ideas.)
So there must have been three of four bedrooms upstairs, with a bathroom and probably a separate toilet. The girls had a bedroom, as did we three younger boys. Presumably, our older brother had his room.
The back garden was mostly lawn. To me that meant grass liberally spread with daisies, buttercups and dandelions – they were part of the natural flowers. We used to play with daisies and buttercups.
To the left of the back garden we had a coal bunker (of course) and an outside toilet, which we used. (To be honest, I don’t remember one inside but the house probably had two toilets.)
I have shown a map of the area now, marking the location of our house. The map does not cope well with our street because it was not accessible to cars. As I remember it, the whole street was Boar Close, although the map shows one end as Hart Crescent. It was all grass, with sections each end where cars could be parked. It looks much the same now. There are cars parked at the ends. They used to be empty – no one in our street had a car! (There was a short period when Dad had a car – as something to do with his work.)
We knew all the other children in the street. We played outside together with no apparent supervision from parents. We kept generally to our street but sometimes went round the block – Ferne Close, Arrowsmith Road and the Lowe.
The plots in which houses are built are generally back-to back but the South side of Boar Close was unusual. (It still is. You can look on Google!) Our back garden had a tall wooden fence which backed directly on to a road. The map show Hursley Road behind us but when we lived there this road had no name – and no houses. Sometimes we sat on this fence. The narrow road had no houses on the other side, just an empty plot of land.
It’s strange how selective the memory is. I remember sitting on the top of top of that fence looking down on our back garden and seeing just sun-baked earth where there should have been grass, with wide cracks – the sort of thing you see in a drought. It must have been a hot summer. I also remember at other times, thick snow in the same garden, which we rolled up to make a snowman.
Walking to School
I have shown another map to get an idea of our ‘school run.’ We walked along Hart Crescent and turned left somewhere to get to roughly the star on the map. Grange Hill School did not last long and it has left virtually no traces on the Internet, but we must have crossed Manford Way. Now it’s a busy road!
I don’t remember much of my life there. I can’t place where our local shops were and I have no idea if we ever went to Church. But I do remember the piano. We had a piano.
I must have shown some desire to play the piano because at about the age of six I was chosen from four brothers to have piano lessons. I learned some basic tunes but, much more important to me, I learned to read music.
I was not a good student. I did not practice. I did not do scales at home. So after less than a year the lessons stopped.
[I tried to teach myself about 25 years later when our son started to learn. Now I can play a few things, badly and very slowly. But I can read music, which has helped me to sing in various situations. I wish I had practiced more now!]
What really surprise me is that my selective memory has retained the address of my piano teacher. I am not completely sure of the number but it was Clinton Crescent. I wasn’t sure but it’s on Google Maps, a bit further West than the two maps shown above. I probably walked there and back.
There is so little I remember of this house. It will surprise you that some of my clearest memories of the very early days in this house were of craneflies, earwigs, wasps and spiders!
Craneflies – Tipula paludosa – we call them Daddy Longlegs in the UK, but colloquial names vary internationally. Wikipedia suggests that names in the US are regional – including mosquito hawk, mosquito wasp, mosquito eater, gallinipper, gollywhopper and gollynoogle. I have seen one emerge from a pupal case in our back lawn so I suppose that suburban gardens provide suitable habitats. I remember them in summer and early autumn evenings coming into the old house. The children did not like them. They are not the cleverest of insects and cannot be persuaded to go out of windows. Many of them met untimely deaths brought about with a rolled up newspaper. It seemed to me that when we moved to our next house, the craneflies almost disappeared. We just saw them occasionally. They were no longer a significant pest.
I don’t remember earwigs – Forficula auricularia – with the same distaste as the others in this list, just as curiosities. They were fairly common in the garden. They just didn’t seem common at all after the move. Perhaps we didn’t play outside so much.
[I turn again to Wikipedia. The common earwig was introduced into North America in the early Twentieth Century and has spread widely, from the southern and southwestern parts. There are also several other species native to different parts of the United States.]
No pictures of wasps or spiders – you know what they are. I remember far too many wasps coming into the house every summer, much more often than I saw them after moving on to our next house. We used to put a little water into the bottom of an empty jam-jar (with some jam to attract them to their watery graves.) We caught a few but there were many more that came into the house. Wasps are a bit cleverer than craneflies. Sometime they could be persuaded to fly out of an open window or door.
My sisters went to bed before us. They would come straight down again if there was a spider on the wall. I have never liked spiders indoors but I am gradually getting a bit happier with them.
These are my main memories of life up to the age of eight, when we moved.
Unlike many eight-year-olds, I knew something of what the animal called a ‘boar’ was, and I also had an idea of what the word ‘hart’ meant. I have no idea why the road at the end of Boar Close was called The Lowe!