Our garden backed on to my Primary school playground. When I was six or seven, a few friends and I would lean against the school fence of a break, and shout: “MUM, biscuits!” and she would come and hand out the custard creams for us to eat on the grass, each in our own individual way. A couple of years later she went to work full-time and I would go over the road to a family of eight children before school. The breakfast production line would have made Henry Ford proud.
We lived in the middle of our street (my parents still do) and it’s book-ended by a pub and a church. And like many of the streets people grew up on, it had its array of different characters; a number of Irish Catholic families as well as those who had grown up in the city (although they were in the minority); a British heavyweight boxing champion, who’d let you knock his door and hold his Lonsdale belt. Then there was the spooky overgrown house on the corner where two brothers lived, although you only ever saw one of them – rumour was they were identical twins and never went out together, and that one had a wife who he drowned in the little pond in the garden.
Forgive these reminiscences, but I wonder how much you think back to your childhood street and all the people who lived there and where they might be now? I have to thank Mona Arshi for her wonderful poem, On Ellington Road, for jogging me back in time. But Mona has a much better memory than I do, for the detail she gives of the many characters on her street is remarkable. ”Old man Harvey, with his thick specs and polished shoes/shouting ‘trespassers’, yet offering us a penny for collecting/his waspy pears.” Each line or couplet has a life story that you want to explore more, “Aunty Kamel, knocking on our door, with her black plait undone,/begging us to keep her for the night.” (more…)