Shortly before I was born my parents moved into a new block of flats. Their house had been taken for road widening (I think) and so they were offered this new flat. It had two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom.
I learned that the complex was opened in January 1938 and was originally called Morley House but in 1984 was renamed Nelson Mandela house in recognition of the statesman. At about that time there was a raft of name changes of buildings and streets to recognise Mandela not only in London but all around the United Kingdom.
I couldn’t find any photos of the complex from when we lived there – we moved when I was 11 and my family were not into taking photos of other than their three daughters. It is very strange how different things are in real life compared to our memory of them. In my memory there were only three or four stories in each of the blocks, but I see from this photo that in fact there were five. Did someone add to the block in the 60 plus years since we lived there?
Our grandparents lived in the same complex and so they were very much part of our lives. In the same complex but in a different block, lived our grandmother’s younger sister with her two daughters. This aunt was more my mother’s age and her two daughters were our age. So on the very odd occasion when mother wasn’t home for us after school she could arrange for us to be at one or other of these family apartments.
Each apartment had a small verandah that overlooked a common square and each day coming home from school we would look up and see our grandfather sitting enjoying the passing parade. I think he must have been quite sick for a long time because I don’t remember that he left the flat very often.
When I went back a few years ago I was horrified to see how the whole complex had deteriorated. The gardens had been concreted over to allow cars to be parked – of course, when we lived there few people owned cars and so the very few garages available to tenants were sufficient.
How different life is now when families are scattered around the country and in some cases (like ours) around the world. Are our children missing out on the close companionship of cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents?
So what’s the point of this post? Just another journey down memory lane.
Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do.
With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.
- How will Mandela-land cope when the world arrives? (guardian.co.uk)