Monday, 30 March 2015

2: 30 Selborne Road

The house I grew up in was an Edwardian terrace in a leafy London suburb. At the end of the road was a parade of shops, which were commonplace at the time, but looking back, I can see now they were already part of a vanishing world. When I was small there was a butchers (which I loved for the black and white stone tiles), a fishmongers which I hated, because I was frightened of the fishes' beady eyes, and a greengrocers. There was also a grocers' store called Cullens, where my mother would order the weekly shop which would be delivered to the house, which always seemed terribly exciting, and my favourite two shops: Sally's the newsagents where you could buy fruit salad and black jack chews for a halfpenny, and the bakery on the corner. The staff in there were really friendly and often gave us the buns which hadn't sold at the end of the day, which was a special treat. There was also an off licence, where my dad used to regularly send my older siblings to buy beer, until (much to his chagrin) they changed the law so that small children weren't actually allowed to buy alcohol.

Our house started off as a four bedroom semi, with a dining room, sitting room, breakfast room and small kitchen. When I was tiny, I slept in the front with bedroom with my twin, my three older sisters in the bigger front bedroom, and my brothers in the small back bedroom.  But when I was seven, deciding they needed more space, my parents converted the loft to a bedroom, which housed the boys from then on, while my twin and I shared a room with our middle sister and the two older girls got the tiny bedrooms. The extension was immensely drafty, and in windy weather it felt like you were on board a very creaky ship. The bedroom window looked out onto a flat roof, which my brothers took great delight in climbing out on. I was always far too wussy for that - but they were incredibly daring, and gave my mother palpitations by going as close to the edge as they dared.

Our garden was small, with a rough patch of lawn, which never grew, thanks to my brothers playing endless games of football and cricket. It also possessed to two beautiful silver birch trees, which at one time was home to a treehouse made by big brother, the construction of which caused my mother more palpitations as he fell out of it, though luckily to no lasting harm. I loved those trees, and was utterly heartbroken, when, just before my parents sold the house, one of them was so damaged in the storm of 1987, that it had to be cut down.

We backed on to a little recreation ground, called Conway Park, which was pretty much the perfect playground growing up. As was the norm in those halcyon days in the 70s when parents worried less about stranger danger, we were allowed to roam free there from morning to dusk, only being called in for meals. All the kids from our road played there, along with those on Conway Road which bordered the further side of the park. We played endless games of Block, Hide and Seek, Bulldog and Charlie, particularly in the summer months,when the evenings seemed to stretch out forever. There was also a pond where we fished for sticklebacks, newts and tadpoles, and where my little brother once nearly drowned (which is another story entirely).There were rivalries and gangs amongst us: another family from Conway Road were our main rivals - their eldest brother throwing my eldest brother's bike into the pond at one point, but on the whole we had a lot of fun there, and I think about those nights with great fondness.

Not every house in Selborne Road backed on to the park, which also gave access to a little cul de sac where the local school was. So every day, hordes of children would troop down through our side gate to get to school. Their mothers never took them (which I find extraordinary now), and I can remember in my preschool days watching them with envy, longing to be part of the elite school crowd. Then of course, inconsistently wishing I was back home with my mother as soon as I got to school.

I loved that house, and though it has long been sold, I dream of it often. It was a place of haven, security and love, the house I grew up in. And it will always be in my heart and memories for as long as I live.

Me and my sibs, the garden of 30 Selborne Road, c 1969

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