Tag Archives: London

How Lucky Am I?

“When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Victor Frankl, 1905-1997
Austrian Neurologist and Psychiatrist

I am  constantly amazed at the fortitude of my fellow bloggers.  When I read of the hardships and abuse many have suffered and overcome, I wonder at my luck of having been born into a loving and caring family and then having the good fortune to meet and marry my ‘Dashing-Young-Scotsman’ at an early age.

I tell people that I have lived a blessed life.  If you have read any of my earlier posts, you will see that I had a long and mostly happy life with my DYS; I have two children whom I love and whose support I can rely on and appreciate.

My family is rounded out by four strapping young grandsons all of whom seem pleased to see their Granma and offers of help are often forthcoming.

Of course, no life is perfect.  I left my family in the UK to follow my husband in his move up the corporate ladder which entailed us moving around the world.  My children therefore, missed out on the companionship of cousins that I had when growing up.  And they saw their grandparents on rare (bi annual) visits home.  So they were very much part of a nuclear family – the four of us in a world far removed from home.

I am also very lucky to have two sisters, one in London and one in Los Angeles.  Could we have landed any further apart even had we planned it?  While they are not within easy visiting distance we still are in regular contact by phone and now of course, the internet.  Aren’t we lucky to live in this technological age.

Mother and girls

Mother with her three daughters

There have of course been bad times in this long life of mine.  We lived in Montreal for a couple of years and I absolutely loathed it.  The French Separatists were very active and almost daily we heard of their actions against the English speaking population.  My children’s school was bombed and that coupled with the police going on strike, made the decision for us to leave and return to our adopted home, New Zealand.

This time we knew that it would be a permanent move and that family and friends in the Northern Hemisphere would see us only a rare trips home; but we made the decision in the knowledge that this was where we wanted to raise our children – on the beach in Takapuna, Auckland.  After a year my husband was transferred to Wellington, the capital city, but that’s another story.

I wrote about a time when I was in danger of losing my leg and a black day when I wanted to Stop the World, but my blackest day was 14 years ago when my Not So DYS died and the colour went out of my world for some time.  But living and moving on doesn’t come with a choice and so I am in the next phase of my life and most of the colour has returned.

So daily I give thanks for my life and know that I wouldn’t swap it for anyone else’s.  Oh yes of course, there are parts I would gladly change.  Those that are shared in this post and others but mostly I say thanks to god, the Universe or whatever power is above us for giving me this life.

And above all I thank my fellow bloggers for being so open about their lives, in all the ups and downs and for sharing with us how they have overcome.  In reading about their problems I have come to realise just how lucky I am.  This is their gift to me.  Thank you thank you!

As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily.
The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.
Terri Guillemets
, U.S. quotation anthologist, 1973 –

Associated Posts:

Time for Trivia

2012 Olympics logo

If you live in the free world (or anywhere that has radio, television or the print media) you will know that in approximately 28 days the 2012 Olympic Games will commence in London.

But did you know some of these bits of trivia?

  • More than 200 structures had to be demolished before building could begin on Olympic Park in London’s East End.
  • 90% of material reclaimed from demolition within Olympic Park can be reused or recycled.
  • 1.3 million tonnes of soil at Olympic Park was washed to get rid of contamination.-
  • Around 900,000 items of sports equipment will be used during the Olympic Games.
  • 700 bird and bat boxes are being installed across Olympic Park to encourage rare species into the area.
  • Around 20,000 media and broadcasters will cover the Olympic Games.
  • McDonald’s will have four restaurants at Olympic Park the largest is 2,800 square metres  (approximately 30,140 sq feet) and will seat 1500 people.  It will be the largest in the world.
  • The oldest person in this year’s Olympic Games is 71-year-old Hiroshi Hoketsu who has qualified for Japan’s equestrian team.

So with this useless information you will surely beat all your friends
at Trivial Pursuit.

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Walking Around London

I have another old book that I haven’t even opened for many years.  It is called The Face of London by Harold P Clunn.

Book frontispiece

The caption on the picture of St Paul’s on the left says “London 1946: St Paul’s Cathedral through the willow herb”.  The willow herb was a weed that sprung up on bombed sites following the bombing of the city by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War.

‘I have seen the greatest wonder which the world can show to the astonished spirit.  I have seen it and am still astonished – and ever will there remain fixed indelibly on my memory the stone forest of houses, amid which flows the rushing stream of faces of living men with all their varied passions, and all their terrible impulses of love, of hunger and of hatred – I mean London”

These words are shown in the preface of the book and were written by Heinrich Heine, who lived in Craven Street, Strand in 1827.  At that time apparently, London was the largest city in the world and had a population of 1,500,000.

I wonder how Herr Heine would react to London now.  Our friend Wikipedia tells us ” In July 2010 Greater London had an official population of 7,825,200, making it the most populous municipality in the European Union, and accounting for 12.5% of the UK population. The Greater London Urban Area is the second-largest in the EU with a population of 8,278,251, while London’s metropolitan area is the largest in the EU with an estimated total population of between 12 million and 14 million.  London had the largest population of any city in the world from around 1831 to 1925.

London

 Wikipedia

The book takes us on 25 walks around London and reinforces my feeling that I am a Londoner even though I haven’t lived there for some 50 years.  It appears that the book was published in 1957.  I still lived in London then and that was the year that I married my dashing young Scotsman. Nostalgia is alive and well in Wellington, New Zealand today.  So I shall go away and revel in it.

As you know, I am particularly interested in the East End of London and walk number 17 takes us from The Bank to Shoreditch, Hoxton, Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Mile End, Victoria Park and Stepney.

We walk along the roads that are familiar to me from my growing up years.  Cambridge Heath Road runs through Bethnal Green to Hackney which is where we lived.  We walk past the Bethnal Green Museum which was opened in 1872 by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) as an eastern branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  This is now commonly known as the Toy Museum and is a source of wonder and delight to the young.  My children were taken there on visits home when they were young and it was always on the list of ‘must visits’.

We pass the Bethnal Green underground station where I used to board the tube for my journey into the centre of London every day.  What memories that brings back.  Rushing to catch the interconnecting trains that would take me from the East End to the West End,  But more on that some other time.

Many tales of nefarious deeds abound in this area.  The siege of Houndsditch in 1911 when a group of criminals occupied several houses.  A police cordon was set up and two policemen were shot dead and the ringleader of the group was mortally injured and died the next day.

There was a large brewery, Charrington & Sons where the famous Toby Ale was brewed and then past the People’s Palace which stood on the grounds of the Drapers’ Company’s Almshouses.

And on to Limehouse and the West India Docks with the East London Tabernacle which provided accommodation for some 3,000 people at the height of its popularity and into the Mile End Road leading to Victoria Park.

I have waxed lyrical about this park in the heart of London’s East End.  Because of the history surrounding this park, often described as the largest and finest in London, it will have to be covered by a separate post.

When my sisters and I were growing up one of our favourite pastimes on Sunday afternoon was to take a bus into the centre of London and then walk home from there.  We would take a different route each week and this was one of them.

I have enjoyed my nostalgic walk around London and will return for others.

More Memories

Today I came across an old book that was given to me by my father some 25 plus years ago.  It wasn’t new when he gave it to me; he had obviously had it for some time.  But he was a great reader and loved to share his knowledge with his daughters.Book cover - Rural LondonThe book is written by  Emil Otto Hoppé (14 April 1878 – 9 December 1972)  German-born British portrait, travel, and topographic photographer.

I have no idea when this book was published but the London to which it refers is a far cry from the London in which I grew up or indeed the London of today.

It talks of leafy lanes and villages and tells us: “To the visitor from the Provinces or from abroad London must seem at first sight to be a stupefying maze of brick, tile and slate whose main purpose is to support millions of crazily pitched and variously patterned domestic chimney pots….”  Well of course nowadays no open fires are allowed in London but many of the chimney pots remain.

Vachel Lindsay the so called, “Prairie Troubadour” was in London in 1920 and apparently when asked (by Mr Hoppe) what had struck him most about the town he had described as “The lovely lady London” he responded “Maybe it was seeing the squirrels playing among the leaves in Russell Square and the wild ducks scudding across the sunset high over Hyde Park”.  Well the squirrels and the ducks may still be seen but London has changed dramatically since Lindsay visited.

Of course, I most enjoy reading about the East End of London which is where I was brought up.  The book must have been written after the Second World War but there is no notation as to date of publication.  However, Hoppe says of the East End “Here amid the wilderness of bricks and mortar, where the Luftwaffe let loose its fiercest furies there is a profusion of flowers and shrubberies”.

A favourite playground for us was Victoria Park that Hoppe describes as the Hyde Park of the East End.  He describes the shady walks of the park, lily pools and swings and roundabouts and “one of the loveliest lakes in England”.  All this was still there for three little girls to enjoy.  But sadly things change, and the park is no longer an idyllic place for children to play alone.

The Hackney Marsh is another memory from long ago.  And here (of course before my time) Dick Turpin and Claude Duval used to hide from the Kings men and clatter past Queen Elizabeth’s Lodge at Chingford.

And now I am off in the direction of another favourite poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes.  Do you know this poem?  And what part was brought to mind by the above paragraph?

And still on a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a gypsy’s ribbon looping the purple moor,
The highwayman comes riding, riding, riding
The highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred,
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter
Bess, the landlord’s daughter
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

If you don’t know this poem or want to refresh your memory – click here for the rest of it.

And on the other side of the River Thames, an area not really known to us when we were growing up but still in the East End, Hoppe shows us `pictures of Calvert Court in Southwark which was standing when Chaucer’s “nine and twenty pilgrims” set out for Canterbury  and the George Inn, Southwark, the solitary surviving medieval inn now owned and operated by the National Trust.

Here  you can walk where Shakespeare walked  – Bankside where we are told that Shakespeare walked every day composing Lear and Hamlet and Ariel in his head.  Here too is the Rose Theatre,  London’s most historic theatre.   The first Elizabethan Theatre on Bankside and home to many of Shakespeare’s and Marlowe’s first productions.  Of course, The Globe Theatre is close by just  through Cardinal Cap Alley famous for the fact that this was the way to the brothels in medieval times.

Jekyll and Hide

Image via Wikipedia – Title page of the first London edition (1886)

And let’s not forget that it was here that Dr Jekyll used to go when he turned into Mr Hyde.

And this area is so steeped in history. Pickwick walked here, Browning and Joseph Chamberlain were born here, Byron went to school and the Victorian art critic, John Ruskin,lived here.

As I have often said before Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner that I find this all so interesting, familiar and comforting.

You find no man at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London.  No Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
Samuel Johnson, English Poet, Critic and Writer 1709 – 1784

And may I please interject with a bit of nonsense I remember from so many years ago.  It must be read with an East End accent.  So  –

With a pair of steps and glasses
You could see the ‘ackney marshes
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between”

Note the use of ‘ denotes the dropping of the aitches as common in the East End.

The Easter Parade

When I was growing up in London all those years ago, Easter was an important time in our calendar.  We, three girls, went to church to celebrate but of course, Mother, who was Jewish, didn’t accompany us.  Friday service was always very solemn and left us in a solemn mood for the day.

But we all looked forward to the Easter Parade on Easter Sunday.  Even as far back as the middle ages, many cultures would strut their new finery on their way to church or visiting friends on this Sunday.  A more spiritual slant is this ritual represents the procession that followed Christ carrying the cross.

Hyde Park, London

Whatever your beliefs, as we were growing up we would go to Hyde Park in London and watch ‘the gentry’ perambulating and  showing off their finery and as three young girls we were very excited at the spectacle.  Of course, we always had new clothes for Easter and thought we were also quite grand.

And each year there was the excitement of The Easter Parade at Collins Music Hall very close to where we lived.  The Music Hall would have a line up of top acts for Easter.  Unfortunately, we were considered too young by our parents to go to this show advertised in 1950.

Easter Parade Poster

Bill advertising ‘Easter Parade’ at Collins’ Music Hall in April 1950. arthurloyd.co.uk

Now Lotte and I are going to be away for Easter and so I ask that you forgive me if I don’t read and respond to your blog posts for the next few days. So enjoy your weekend as you choose.

 

 

Related Posts:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

..

Hot Cross Buns

 

 

The Market – A Lesson Learned

Well once again WordPress is playing with my mind.  I published the post but now I have only half of it.  Where did the rest go?

So here it is again –

Six word Saturday button

It’s Saturday again so here we go. If you would like to participate please either click on the picture above or click this link.

Today I went to the Market.

It was still raining this morning what a surprise!  I had arranged to meet a friend for coffee and afterwards I decided to check out the Saturday market in the area. I have seen the notices for the market many times, as it is held in the grounds of the school in the same street as Mary Potter Hospice.

The market was full of stalls selling fresh produce, mostly vegetables and fruit but one had freshly baked bread and bakery items, another was selling gourmet salamis – but the choice of vegetables was outstanding.

Vegetables

I was told that all vegetables were grown organically and had been picked either in the early hours of this morning or else late yesterday.  They certainly looked fresher and were somewhat cheaper than those sold in the local supermarket.

I bought far too many vegetables but as winter is almost upon us, what I don’t use this week can be made into soup and frozen.  I like making soup so this isn’t a drag for me.

And then of course, I started thinking about markets when I was growing up in London.  I have written about street markets before.  If you are interested in the ramblings of this ancient mind, click here.

As young girls we accompanied our Mother to the market every Saturday afternoon.  It didn’t come with a choice, and until such time as she determined that we were old enough to act responsibly on our own, we had to go with her.

Road sign

The market was about a 30-minutes walk from where we lived and this time was used to talk about all those things that a mother and her three daughters talked about.  We each carried a shopping bag mostly containing fruit and vegetables as this was all we ever seemed to buy at the market.

It was our special time together.  I clearly remember when I was about 15 and beginning to go out with boys, my Mother ribbing me about my beau.  She was ably assisted in this by my elder sister.

I wonder if the memories of those time are sweetened as we grow older.  Could our lives have been so special then.  As Barbra Streisand sings:

“Can it be that it was all so simple then or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again tell me would we? Could we?
Memories, may be beautiful and yet what’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter we will remember whenever we remember the way we were.”

Mother has now been dead for some 16 years and so I can’t discuss those far off days with her.  But I do have two sisters who were there at the time.  I wonder if their memories of those times are as vivid as mine.

Mother and girls

Mother with her three daughters

So what is the lesson learned?  To write my blogs in Word before copying it into WordPress.  That way I won’t have to rewrite it.  And no doubt if you read the original version of The Market (and I know that some of you did as you have already commented on it) you may see the changes.  Obviously, this mind cannot retain what was written just a few hours ago.  Oh dear.
As a dear departed friend once told me “Growing old aint for the fainthearted”.
And now I have restored the original so you will be able to read the same post twice. 🙂 🙂 – sorry about that.
Related posts

A Train Ride

Steam train

1940s Steam Train via Wikipedia

“I took a trip on a train and I thought about you.
I passed a shadowy lane and I thought about you.
Two or three cars parked under the stars a winding stream.
Moon shining down on some little town
And with each beam the same old dream……”
Johnny Mercer (American lyricist, songwriter and singer. 1909-1976

Early in my blogging adventure, I wrote a post entitled “I Took a Trip on a Train”.  In this post, I talked about all the trains on which we had travelled over many years.   At that time I think I had only two or three followers and two of them were my sisters.  I note they were the only people to comment on the post.

Anyway, I thought about train travel again today for some reason.  And I remembered travelling between London and Glasgow on the train.  We always made a point of doing so with our children when we went ‘home’ on holiday.

The train was a highlight of the trip.  We would board early in the morning and then when breakfast was called we would make our way to the dining car.  I don’t remember whether you had to reserve a table but there was always one ready for us.

Coffee and tea were instantly provided, cereal and toast and then the piece de resistance, the waiters came round with extremely large silver salvers with bacon, eggs, sausages, hashed potatoes, mushrooms etc.  These people (in memory they were always men) were adept at balancing these salvers while the train was moving along at high-speed.  I don’t recall there ever being an accident with salver and food crashing to the floor.

Tablecloths were pristine, starched white linen as were the napkins.  Silver British Railways cutlery and crockery.  Tea never tasted as good when travelling by air.  There was an aura of quiet distinction and good taste when eating in a BR dining car,

We continued to do this until our children were well into their teens and I do know that they remember this as we have spoken of it to their children on occasion.

I have never been any distance on a train here in New Zealand.  I do know that when I worked and caught a train most mornings, one could have coffee and always at night one could have an alcoholic drink, but I am sure that no service ever existed to match the London to Glasgow British Railways breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

Back to the Real World

After my foray into fiction writing, I have returned to the real world with a bump.

When writing about the Terrible Trio (Maisie, Juliet and Imogen) I got to thinking about school and school days.  So I Googled my old school, John Howard in London to find that it has completely changed.  It is now an ‘academy’ and its name has been changed to Clapton Girls Academy.

When my two sisters and I attended the school there were about 450 pupils, all girls and now I read that the role is up to 900 (still girls only)  and more than 50 languages are spoken at the school and 70% of the students hold English as an additional language.  When we attended I don’t think there were any girls whose first language wasn’t English.  How times have changed.

When we three attended John Howard there were strict conduct and dress rules.  No running inside, outdoor shoes had to be changed into indoor shoes when entering the school building; and the uniform was an indescribable brown tunic with custard yellow blouse.  I think we wore brown polished leather shoes in winter.  For gym we had an awful green romper suit; we had a brown beret and blazer for wearing in the street.  Woe betide anyone caught not wearing the beret in a proper manner (as determined by the sixth and seventh form and/or prefects).  I can’t remember what the summer dresses were like – perhaps green with white trim.  And we wore leather sandals with these.

Sandals

Leather sandals circa 1945

Oh and I do remember that plimsolls aka gym shoes had to be dyed brown.  (Well this would surely have killed those shoes anyway.)  Poor mother having to dye three pairs this ghastly colour.

There was a magnificent oak staircase in the main entry hall, but only staff and prefects could avail themselves of it.  The rest of us, the hoi polloi, had to use the back service stairs.  Oh, the joy in being made a prefect and the first time we could use that staircase!

I haven’t thought about school for many, many years but today after looking it up on Google I decided to become a member of the Old Girls Society and so I have joined.

We had a scary (for the young girls anyway) headmistress who was called Dr Hunt.  I do believe that even other staff members used her title – no informality here.  She had a magnificent study that overlooked the playing fields and the school grounds and she would sit in her chair and survey her kingdom.  In her way, she was a very powerful person.

I attended that school for 7 years.  There I learned my love of the English language and its literary greats.  I learned to respect authority and to take responsibility for myself and my own actions.  They were good years for me and I wonder if today’s young women will say the same when they get to be my age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

London Pride

 

St Paul's Cathedral

The undamaged St Paul’s Cathedral surrounded by smoke

If you have read any of my earlier blogs you will know that I was born and brought up in London during the Second World War.

It is a well-documented fact that London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights in 1940/41 and more than one million houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 20,000 civilians were killed.  We had an aunt who went to visit her sister and after the air raid warning sounded decided to spend the night.  A very lucky decision because the next day when she and her daughters returned home, they found their house razed to the ground.

So I grew up surrounded by bombed sites where houses used to stand and I thought nothing of it.  I really thought everybody lived this way.  Well, I was only a few months old when the war started and seven when it ended in May 1945.

All through these bomb sites, a little flower grew.  Well, it grew like a weed and while it did have a Latin name – Saxifraga –  it was quickly renamed London Pride.  It came to represent the pride and the unstoppable nature of Londoners at the time.   Noel Coward wrote a song about it.  Coward later said that the song came to him when he was sitting on a railway station in London.   He looked about him and saw the flowers and the people going about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening and he became “overwhelmed by a wave of sentimental pride”

London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be……..

It is very sentimental and very outdated now.  But at the time it was a rallying song for Londoners during the dark days of the Blitz when people were mourning the loss of husbands, sons, family members and their homes.

And now I must admit that I love Noel Coward.  I have a couple of biographies and know the words to most of the songs he wrote.  Another great favourite is “I’ve been to a marvellous party” but that has to wait for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

..

Many and Varied Thoughts

 

In a phone conversation with my sister in Los Angeles yesterday she mentioned that she had begun to follow Dor at Technicolor Daydreams after reading some of her comments on my blog.

Sisters

Oh so very long ago.

My sister brought my attention to a post that Dor had written in November and that somehow I had missed.  The post describes heating in those days when we didn’t all have central heating and used other means of heating the house.  See the post here.

For both of us, this brought back so many memories.  When we were growing up we had not only an open fire in the living room but also a heater in the kitchen that heated water and the one and only radiator in the house.  The open fire used coal and the kitchen heater used coke. For those of you not familiar to this material (and how many are as old as me?) coke comes from coal is grey, hard, and porous and is produced in much the same way as charcoal.

Coal and coke were delivered each week and we had two large bins outside the kitchen door for the coalman to dump them into.  The coalman has now disappeared and open fires are no longer allowed in London.  I wrote about the fog, soot and smoke (smog) caused by open fires in an earlier blog.

Oil heater

From memory this looks like our heater

In memory, the house was always warm but this was achieved with not only the two fires and one water reticulated radiator, but with a variety of other sources.  We had various electric heaters around the house and we also had a kerosene heater in the bedroom I shared with my older sister.  It had a distinctive smell and it too left pretty pictures on the ceiling.  I do remember that if one or other of us had the dreaded bronchitis so prevalent in London at the time, mother would put a kettle of water with Friar’s Balsam in it on top of the heater.  The resulting steam which we inhaled, helped to clear the bronchial tubes in those far off days before inhalers were readily available.

I don’t remember that there were any problems with the one at home.  Only father was ever allowed to fill the thing but we three girls had to take ourselves off to the hardware shop to buy the kerosene and carry it home in a can.  The can was quite heavy and it seems that there was always discussion as to whose turn it was to carry it.

Then when my dashing-young-Scotsman and I moved into our first “garden” apartment (here read semi-basement apartment), we had a really stylish oil heater.  In the cold winter months following our wedding, we would leave this thing on in the hall so that the apartment was warm on our return from work.  One day, when my (very new) husband was away on business I arrived home to find great stalactites of oily grease hanging from the ceiling.  The heater had blown something during the day – how lucky that we didn’t cause a fire. But what was a very young bride to do?  A quick call to the family home, some ten minutes walk away, resulted in both mother and father arriving and taking charge.  They cleaned, scrubbed and dusted while I looked on providing copious cups of tea and encouraging words!

Of course, the ceiling had to be repainted and my very adaptable clever father did this over the next few days.

What memories are revived when reading other people’s blogs.  Thank you Dor and thank you, Christine, for bringing the post to my attention and thus reviving these memories.