Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Two Wapping Gardens

There are two gardens in Wapping in London's East End which were not there when I was a boy before WW2.

The Rose Garden is alongside Vancouver House on Green Bank.  Before the war it was a derelict yard full of rubble and surrounded by a brick wall and cast iron gates.  The security of course was not sufficient to deter small boys who regarded brick walls and gates as a challenge rather than a deterrent.   Even the warnings of our parents about the enormous rats which were supposed to inhabit the rubble kept us out.  A clip round the ear from a parent rarely materialised as we were safe out

before father came home from work.Image result for wapping rose garden

Of course there was the playground just across the road but swings and the roundabout and so on supervised by a dragon playground lady were no competition in terms of adventure.

The Waterside gardens on Wapping High Street are opposite the end of what is now called Reardon's Path but which used to be Dundee Street. This area was open storage for the huge rolls of newsprint which used to be offloaded there before being carted up to Fleet Street where most of the national daily newspapers were printed.

More water in number three

Back when the average home did not have a built in bathroom,which is a lot less than a century ago, for having a bath there was a few options.  A strip wash in the kitchen, a tin bath in front of the fire in the living room or a visit to the municipal baths.

Most towns had what were called slipper baths, often in the same building as the swimming pool.  The cost of the bath included the use of a towel and as much hot water as you liked, except the water was controlled from outside the cubicle.

We lived in a relatively modern block of flats in Wapping built between the wars, which had a bathroom so naturally that was all I knew and assumed that everyone had a bath.  When the war came and we were evacuated to Brighton, we were billeted with a family who did not have a bath so we had to go to the public baths.

Every Saturday morning off we went and it was an occasion not just for getting clean but for having a laugh as well. The baths in Brighton was quite a jolly friendly place and it didn't take long to learn the rules.  You paid for the bath, were given a towel and told which cubicle to go to.  The bath already had water in it but if it wasn't to your liking then you could call out to the attendant "More hot water in "Number three please" and the attendant would turn the tap on the outside of the cubicle for a while.  Of course if your mate was in Cubicle four then for a laugh you could call out "more hot water in cubicle four please"  Cant remember why we though that was funny!!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The guardian and observer

I stopped buying the Guardian and the Observer a while ago. I don't fit their reader demographic in anyway that makes any sense to me.  Despite their green credentials, they are still wasting acres of paper on full page adverts and celebrity photographs.

The ads are not for me, supposing I could afford it or even wanted to ride a bike I wouldn't spend two thousand pounds on buying one, nor would I spend one hundreds a fifty quid on a jumper or over four hundred on an overcoat.  And then they have got the nerve to print hand-wringing articles about the disparity of wealth in the country!

By the time I had cast aside the sports , travel and foodie pages there is not much left for me to read.  OK the news pages contain more background information than the other papers, but there is a lot of stuff that doesn't appeal to me.  

The magazines are full of overpriced clothes worn for the most part by models who also don't read the foodie pages either.  And what's with all those girls standing around with their toes pointing inwards ?  Was there an outbreak of rickets 20 years ago that didn't get reported?

The only regular columns I read was Katherine Whitehorn and Clive James  who are both older than me and still makes sense.   When these stopped being regulars, then I gave up.

I can't go back to the News Chronicle, the Daily Herald or Reynolds News and these days I only understand every third and fifth word in the  New Statesman.  So it will have to be the Beano instead

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Blue knickerbockers and the seven dwarfs

Small boys often have a problem learning to control the bladder.  I was no exception and at school was frequently asking to leave the classroom.  Despite teachers and others  knowing this I was often put in a situation which made it impossible.

The earliest I recall was being one of the seven dwarfs in the school pantomime.  Make up your own mind as to which one I was.  Being no more than  toddlers, we had very little part to play but were under strict instructions not to move about or to leave the stage.  By the end of the performance where I stood on the stage of the St. George in the East Town Hall was a very large puddle.

The Catholic Church of St. Patrick had an annual May procession.  Quite a long one, three bands and  all the school children, girls in their white communion dresses and the boys in best clothes.  The May Queen had several attendants including two page boys in blue velvet suits, white stockings and buckled shoes.  No doubt based on Little Lord Fauntleroy.  For some inexplicable reason one year I was chosen to be a page boy.

 The procession took some time  to go around the parish, stopping frequently at the kerbside grottoes put up by the parishioners.  By the time we got back to the church my white stockings were as blue as the knickerbockers.

Even when a little older being an altar boy still presented problems particularly during longer services so the strain of holding myself became too much.  Even after passing out in the side benches on the altar I was still included until on one occasion there was quite an spectacular fall while the Bishop was preaching, so I was not an altar boy again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

St. Johns Church,Wapping

As a child, between the wars I lived round the corner from the Anglican church of St John of Wapping. Catholic children in those days were told not to go into Protestant churches for fear of eternal damnation.

As usual for children, this morphed into the belief that the devil lived there so that not only did we not go into the church we would cross over to the other side of the road in order not to pass by.

There was also a  churchyard there then with many gravestones but most have now been displaced and the area is a garden, the church itself being bombed during the war, with only the tower remaining.

St. John of Wapping was the parish church for a small area of Wapping which dated back to 1760 and it was in the churchyard here that Robert Hartup Jury, my wife's four times  great grandfather, was buried in 1824. He had been apprenticed as a Lighterman in Wapping in 1773 although born in Maker, Cornwall, married and raised nine children and lived in several addresses in Wapping some of which he owned. Robert also owned several barges at the time of his death as well as a share in a coastal brig.There were several other members of the Jury family buried in the churchyard but there are no signs of their resting places left now.

Needless to say, that as a young boy walking and playing nearby I had no means of knowing about the connection with the Jury family and this church which would occur later.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

We do not exist on Earth

This is a picture of where we live as shown on Google earth!!


And this is how it is.

Its not surprising then that if we give people our postcode to visit us then many, particularly taxi drivers using some satnavs cant find us! 

The Google Earth picture is what the area actually like some five years ago, a former industrial site,  before building work began on the block of apartments and houses that we live in. If we were paranoid then we would be thinking that there is some kind of conspiracy to stop us being found.  Are we on some witness protection programme that we don't know about?  Answers on a postcard please as fortunately the postman knows where we are.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Musical memories

The first time I heard the melody of O Sole Mio was a slightly bawdy song my grandmother used to sing which went something like:

Old Mother Riley
She bought a cow
But to milk it
She didn't know how
She pulled its tail,instead of its tit
Old mother Riley got covered in snow.

My cousin Vicki, who lived in the same house as my grandmother as a girl refused to accept this.  She had never heard our grandmother sing and in any case would not of have sang a song like that.  Well this is not a false memory and anyway I could not have made up words like this at the age of ten.

When one of my older brothers returned from serving in Italy during WW2 he had learned quite a bit of Italian and lots of Italian and Neapolitan songs.
One of his favourites was O Sole Mio which he would play on the piano and any other instrument he could get his hands on, which included a mandolin which I had bought out of curiosity in a second hand shop.

It was only much later that I realised that the tune was the same as Gran's little ditty.

Later on of course there was Elvis with "It's now or never" with essentially the same melody. and then later there were the wonderful renditions of the original song by the three tenors in concert.

Goes to show that there's nothing new.