Thursday, 7 January 2010

1958 Canonbury Court, Islington

My school friend Linda who lived in a basement near Chapel Street market, came on holiday with us to north Devon, the journey was always long, usually taking two days. We stayed in BandBs in Somerset towns like Taunton or Langport. Of course we got bored, there was no in car entertainment except us, we played I Spy, we sang, we moaned and we got car sick.

Roy + Sylvia Peatling, Jack Johnson, my Mum + me
On the second day, when we arrived on the beach, Linda who had never been out of London, took off like a greyhound, straight into the sea, fully clothed and still wearing her brand new, navy and white slip on shoes. My Dad was yelling at my Mum to stop her, it was a waste of time and later someone had to explain to her Mother why her shoes, which she couldn't afford to buy in the first place, were completely ruined. My Dad tried to fix them with that white liquid shoe stuff, Meltonian? But the sea had left its mark and nothing would shift it.

(Photo is of us at Woolacombe with the windbreaker)

Back home in London, if we weren't at school we'd be roaming the streets, playing on the bomb site, or roller skating in the courtyard. Our love of skating could not be over estimated, we'd have worn them 24/7 if we could. Skating to the Choc Box on Upper Street was a regular activity to buy their one penny home made lollies that lasted about four licks, before the fruit flavouring ran out and you were left with ice on a stick. Occasionally we bought Jubblies, orange flavoured ice in a pyramid shaped container, although expensive the taste of orange mixed with packaging was strangely moreish.

There was a surprising amount of good music on the go - Elvis 'Jailhouse Rock', 'King Creole', The Everly Brothers 'All I Have to Do is Dream', 'Wake Up Little Susie', Buddy Holly 'Peggy Sue', Jackie Wilson 'Reet Petite', Duane Eddy 'Rebel Rouser', Peggy Lee's 'Fever'. And as always the charts reflected the nation's pic and mix music tastes and included the above with Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Connie Francis, Pat Boone, Charlie Drake and Bernard Breslaw. I know we had a 78 of 'Wake Up Little Susie' and I think a 45 of Perry Como's 'Magic Moments' with 'Catch A Falling Star' as its b side, which I have to admit I liked. Maybe it spoke to my naive nine year old idea of romance, who knows?

Games were always on the go in the flats, He, Hop Scotch, Skipping, What's the Time Mr Wolf, Simon Says, sometimes a huge game of marbles. We'd dug a hole in one end of the once grassed middle section. I loved the marbles themselves but didn't like losing them. Often mass games of Tin Tan Tommy - a hide and seek variant involving a tin can and a lot of shouting 'Tin Tan Tommy I see Billy behind the pram sheds', and Billy would have to join the tin holder, until everyone had been found and identified. Some games lasted ages and it would be getting dark, kids were being called in by their parents and others couldn't be found because you couldn't see, so we'd have to bring it to an end.

The building that marked the centre of the estate was the club house. At the rear of the ground floor was a laundry, occupied by vary scary women who would stand no cheek from any of us and would throw a bucket of water at any kid who had the temerity to answer back. It was a warm place that held a huge attraction if you were playing out in the cold, but was certainly not a child friendly zone.

Events including a Christmas show were held on the first floor in the hall with its stage and seating, here the estate talent could show off. This could vary from the sublime (slight exaggeration) to the ridiculous (no exaggeration). The Luck family had a selection of blonde daughters who provided much of the singing and tap dancing for the show, wearing skimpy shiny outfits, they were very popular with certain members of the audience. One young girl, a friend of my brother's was up to sing the Andy Stewart song 'Scottish Soldier'. She came out on stage deathly white and terrified, we applauded as she began to sing and repeat the first two lines over and over until someone from backstage hauled her off.

During the Christmas show the presents we had chosen from the Christmas Club were given out. A list had come round in September for the kids to choose from and a weekly sub was collected to pay for them. The list was not wide ranging, one year my reluctant choice was an umbrella.

The club arranged visits to the pantomime, my Dad came with me to see 'Goody Two Shoes' at the Golders Green Hippodrome and to Finsbury Park Empire for 'Aladdin'. We went by coach and were given an apple and orange in a brown paper bag. It was an exciting do going out to the theatre at night. Although I have to admit I did find the crossdressing and the over acting a bit puzzling.

The club house had quite an imposing entrance with a set of very wide concrete steps. My friend Pamela was attempting a wild roller skating stunt using the sides of the steps as a launch pad. This went really well until she crash landed and finished up in the Royal Northern Hospital having her broken finger put in a splint. And thereby achieving an unofficial badge of honour.

We spent a fair amount of time at the local playground near Essex Road on the swings, the umbrella, the horse... We were in the middle of a polio epidemic and were bombarded with scary stories of kids who had caught it from the sand pit or the local swimming pool. We were injected and sugar cubed against anything that was going.

But the top entertainment has to be Saturday morning pictures. We sometimes went to the ABC on Essex Road but usually it was the Gaumont on Upper Street, the place was heaving. Regular cliff hangers worked like a charm, Lone Ranger, Zorro, small boys charging down the aisles with their coats on like capes, signing Zs in the air. Out bright and early queuing to make sure we got in and bagged good seats, 3d in the stalls, 6d upstairs, we might not be able to afford to sit in the balcony, but we weren't stupid enough to sit in the target zone either. Those more affluent, up in the circle, would rain down missiles, Kia-ora cartons, Butterkist, Lovehearts, Spangles, anything that came to hand and of course the well titled stink bombs on to the plebs below. Mayhem it may have been, but it was our mayhem and we loved it.

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