A few weeks ago I wrote a little piece on the etymology of Norwich’s River Wensum (old English wandsum). I got quite excited at the prospect of a poetic connection between my current digs and Wandsworth, in South London, where I spent my late childhood and most of my teens. I saw a link between ‘wandsum’ and ‘Wandle’, the Thames tributary that runs through the heart of the London borough. It was not to be. Ye Olde Wandsworth was known as Wandesorde or Wendelesorde at the time of the Domesday Book which means ‘enclosure of (a man called) Waendel’. Shame, but it did take me on a gentle mince down memory lane.
After my father was discharged from the army, he took the tenancy of an off licence cum general grocers. It was called a ‘Bottle and Basket’ for those who may remember the chain, part of the Watney Mann brewery company. We lived above the shop and it surely must have been the start of my love affair with the Devil’s sauce. I used to pilfer bottles of Bulmer’s cider from the shelves to share with my spotty pubescent pals. The liquor trade provided a decent living and kept me in booty hugging florescent loon pants and five inch platform shoes. My canny Dad made a killing during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. We had a booze, bench and bunting beano in the street and Geordie Jack wisely kept the tills ringing for the duration. For my sins, I earned an honest crust as a Clark’s shoe shop Saturday boy in the Arndale Shopping Centre. It was the scene of my undoing and a slippery slope from which I was never to recover (thank the Peter Lord). I had a torrid fling with one of the maintenance men. His name was Dave. Dave was married, of course; it was always the way back in the day. My midday breaks were misspent sampling his greasy cut lunch in a lift shaft machine room on the roof, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Going down?’