After tripping the light fantastic along Tooting High Street, I took Liam even further down my memory lane with a short hop to Wandsworth Town. I showed him where I was a shoe shop Saturday boy, the primary school where I was a knotty-haired happy chappy, and finally, my digs from the age of ten until I ventured out into the wicked world – my ‘days on the tills, nights on the tiles’ moment before marriage and a mortgage.
After my Dad retired from the British Army, my parents ran a backstreet shop, one of a parade of four. Ours was a ‘bottle and basket’ selling booze and bread and all things in between, and we lived above and behind. It was a good little earner. Even during the dark days of the 1974 three-day week, Dad kept the lights on with candles from the cash and carry. It was a cold and miserable time and people hit the hard stuff to get through it – a bit like the recent lockdowns. On a happier note, as part of Her Maj’s 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations, Mum helped organise a street party. The till rang non-stop as the red, white and blue bunting fluttered in the summer breeze.
Of the other shops, next door was a butcher’s with a newsagent’s at the end. I can’t remember what the third shop in the parade was. It hardly matters now as they’re all gone – long-since converted into gentrified houses that fetch a king’s ransom.
Here’s a very rare picture of me from that bygone era. Our first-floor parlour was a riot of clashing colours and patterns – very de rigueur at the time. I’m sure it’s much more tasteful today. But why was my chopper bike propped up against the sofa?
In 2016, I wrote a little piece about my semi-colonial life as a forces child in Malaysia back in the swinging sixties. The post – Reflections of an Army Brat – featured a blurry old black and white image I found online of Mountbatten Primary School, the school I attended. It started quite a conversation between ex-pupils, a conversation which continues to this day.
The post from way back also took me to a Facebook group called ‘We are Terendakians’ – Terendak being the name of the army camp originally built for the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade which consisted of soldiers from the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The Facebook group is a place to reminisce and interact. And reminisce and interact they do with some wonderfully evocative pictures of a bygone era. Sometimes it even gets up close and personal.
This might be me aged around 7:
And this is almost certainly my mother on the ladies badminton team:
Overwhelmingly, most pansyfans hail from Britain, Turkey or the States so you can imagine my delight when I noticed that someone from Malaysia was pushing the numbers up by having a good old root around the blog – 334 posts and rising. In the late sixties, I spent nearly three years in Malaysia as a young army brat on a base just outside Malacca. My memories of life in the tropical sun are vivid and glorious. In fact, both my sisters were born in the country (at different times – my sergeant major father was posted there twice). I hope to pop back one day, as my eldest brother has done. So, whoever you are my Malaysian friend, I thank you. You’ve provided the perfect excuse to fish out some ancient time-worn snaps and take a skip down memory lane.
Chrissy turned up to check on our home making progress. Actually, it felt more like a military inspection, and we dutifully stood by our beds. She nodded general approval as she moved from room to room though was strangely dismayed by the lack of bedside tables. “But, bedside tables are so last year!” I insisted. She glared at me in sheer panic before composing herself to suggest we might secure the services of a cleaner, “so good for local employment.” How quaintly colonial, I thought. I haven’t had one of those since my days as a sixties army brat in the Far East. However, that was before Britain had withdrawn ‘East of Suez’ and assumed a diminished role in the World.