INKLINGS # 4

47 Ritherdon Road, Borough of Wandsworth, South-West London.
Nanny & Grandpa Jones live in a flat on the middle floor of a three-storey Victorian semi-detached house at 47 Ritherdon Road in Balham. Mum & Alan drop me off for my weekend visit and I cross a checkerboard of tiles and pass from daylight into a dark hall. Stairs rise to the left; shiny dark brown doors face you; I’m conscious of the stairs that descend into the basement, but I’m afraid to look down into the shadows as I move across the hallway to climb towards the flat. There is an ambient smell – cooking, dust, polish, damp.  It lingers faintly, like distant music; it speaks to me of the past, of the ghosts who are sealed beneath wallpaper and paint.

The kitchen is warm.  Nanny cooks. She slices slivers of butter into a frying pan. The creamy yellow brick that she holds down with her left hand she bought that afternoon at Sainsbury’s in Balham High Street. A bald man in a white coat cut it from a huge block and he beat it into shape with two paddles like cricket bats and then he wrapped it in greaseproof paper. I play at the kitchen table with wooden building blocks, utterly absorbed. They are different shapes, colours and sizes. Some are cylindrical, some rectangular, some square; some are formed into half circles and they accommodate the cylindrical blocks perfectly. These I make into tunnels and bridges as I run my rainbow railway across the table’s rough surface.

At 6.00 PM Grandpa listens to the News from the wireless in the Living Room. He demands total silence. I sit behind his chair with Nanny’s sewing basket, passing a ball of amber beeswax from hand to hand. Its surface is laced with the tracks of the lengths of cotton she pulls across it to stiffen them when she sews by the evening fire. The chair creaks as he leans forward towards the mantelpiece for his pipe and tobacco.  I see his arm reach for a paper spill from the copper container shaped like an ice cream cone. He grunts as he leans across and takes a flame from the fire and I listen to him draw it into the pipe bowl with a reedy crackle. Seconds later the aroma reaches me as he leans back into his cushions. I breathe in its richness.

I sleep in a creaky folding bed placed across the unused fireplace in Nanny’s and Grandpa’s bedroom. The cavity is concealed behind a wooden screen on two ornamental feet. Every inch of it is covered with pictures – items from ancient magazines, newspaper and catalogues, book illustrations, old photographs, box tops, Christmas and birthday cards. Nanny made it, she tells me each time I come to stay, when she was a ‘young married’. As the light fades after bedtime, I study each picture that is visible above the tideline of the counterpane. I lay my head opposite Little Miss Muffet in a hooped skirt and a cartwheel hat and I drift off to sleep…

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Alan, Mum (with cat Tarky), Grandpa and Nanny Jones
outside 47 Ritherdon Road.

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INKLINGS # 4.

47 Ritherdon Road, Wandsworth, South-West London.
Nanny & Grandpa Jones live in a flat on the middle floor of a three-storey Victorian semi-detached house at 47 Ritherdon Road in Balham. Mum & Alan drop me off for my weekend visit and I cross a checkerboard of tiles and pass from daylight into a dark hall. Stairs rise to the left; shiny dark brown doors face me; I’m conscious of the stairs that descend into the basement, but I’m afraid to look down into the shadows as I move across the hallway to climb towards the flat. There is an ambient smell – cooking, dust, polish, damp.  It lingers faintly, like distant music; it speaks to me of the past, of the ghosts who are sealed beneath wallpaper and paint.

The kitchen is warm.  Nanny cooks. She slices slivers of butter into a frying pan. The creamy yellow brick that she holds down with her left hand she bought that afternoon at Sainsbury’s in Balham High Street. A bald man in a white coat cut it from a huge block and he beat it into shape with two paddles like cricket bats and then he wrapped it in greaseproof paper. I play at the kitchen table with wooden building blocks, utterly absorbed. They are different shapes, colours and sizes. Some are cylindrical, some rectangular, some square; some are formed into half circles and they accommodate the cylindrical blocks perfectly. These I make into tunnels and bridges as I run my rainbow railway across the table’s rough surface.

At 6.00 PM Grandpa listens to the News from the wireless in the Living Room. He demands total silence. I sit behind his chair with Nanny’s sewing basket, passing a ball of amber beeswax from hand to hand. Its surface is laced with the tracks of the lengths of cotton she pulls across it to stiffen them when she sews by the evening fire. The chair creaks as he leans forward towards the mantelpiece for his pipe and tobacco.  I see his arm reach for a paper spill from the copper container shaped like an ice cream cone. He grunts as he leans across and takes a flame from the fire and I listen to him draw it into the pipe bowl with a reedy crackle. Seconds later the aroma reaches me as he leans back into his cushions. I breathe in its richness.

I sleep in a creaky folding bed placed across the unused fireplace in Nanny’s and Grandpa’s bedroom. The cavity is concealed behind a wooden screen on two ornamental feet. Every inch of it is covered with pictures – items from ancient magazines, newspaper and catalogues, book illustrations, old photographs, box tops, Christmas and birthday cards. Nanny made it, she tells me each time I come to stay, when she was a ‘young married’. As the light fades after bedtime, I study each picture that is visible above the tideline of the counterpane. I lay my head opposite Little Miss Muffet in a hooped skirt and a cartwheel hat and I drift off to sleep…

ritherdon_road_2_2

Alan, Mum (with cat Tarkie), Grandpa & Nanny Jones
outside 47 Ritherdon Road.

 

 

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INKLINGS # 3.

1, Hockenden Cottages, Swanley, Kent.
My bed at Granny & Grandad Roberts’ house, 1 Hockenden Cottages, is as high as a haystack. I can lean my forehead against the edge of the faded counterpane. The room smells faintly of lavender. The sheets are cool and heavy. The pillows are stacked three deep and I must beat a channel into the centre of the top one with my head. On the mantelpiece is a huge green marble clock, the face set into the portico of a Greek temple. It’s stopped at twenty past twelve.  Above it is a picture of Ruth & Naomi from The Bible. They are leaning against each other, smiling faintly.  I sleep on my back and the picture is the first thing I see as I am awakened by the Essex’s cockerel each morning at 5.30…

Wooden crates with slatted sides are piled high in each of the clearings in the apple orchards that stretch away behind Granny and Granddad Roberts’ cottage. Faded writing is stenciled onto the end panels – McNair Vinson Farms. Gypsy Georgie Essex and I climb high on the rickety stacks. Throwing crates down and shifting others into position, we create a fortress. I curl up tight inside a crate and breathe in the intoxicating fumes of generations of Cox’s pippins…

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1 Hockenden Cottages

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Richard Alan Jones & Granny Roberts

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Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
I am being carried down the beach at Leigh-on-Sea. The tide is coming in. The sharp primeval tang of salt makes my eyes smart. I struggle & half fall, half slither onto the sand. My father quickly stoops to gather me up. He is wearing tiny white-framed sunglasses. I can’t see his eyes through the twin round lenses.

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INKLINGS # 1

I’m posting in slightly revised form a series of autobiographical sketches that I ran originally on my previous blog, Dick Jones’ Patteran Pages.

28a Emmanuel Road, Balham, South-West London.
There is a railway embankment on the far side of a strip of common land opposite the flat in Balham, South-West London.  Clearly visible from the living room window is a siding onto which freight trucks are shunted by a tank engine. The locomotive seems angry: its wheels spin in exasperation and great gouts of steam and sparks are squirted from its chimney. I kneel on a low chest covered with cushions watching, rapt.

I’m pushed in my pram from Emmanuel Road to Ritherdon Road, where Nanny and Grandpa Jones live.  We pass first through the recreation ground on Balham Common and then through a series of connecting streets, all lined with Victorian terraced houses and short parades of shops.  Even this time after the War, the terraces are punctuated irregularly by partially cleared bombsites. Great A-frame timbers shore up the surviving sections of the terraces. The end walls are naked, two-dimensional cartoons of domesticity: fireplaces, doorways, walls variously painted or papered (kitchens, bedrooms, dining rooms, lavatories), snapped-off joists, some still bearing sections of floorboarding. We pass the boarded-up fascia of the Palladium Cinema, closed since the bombing. Chains and a padlock secure its double doors. A broken shoe lies on its side on the top step. Is the owner still inside..?

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TWO FRENCH-CANADIAN POEMS IN TRANSLATION.

oh
by Raoul Duguay

ALL LOVE TAKES ROOT
by Noel Colombier

Because all love takes root
I shall plant it in my garden
I shall plant it with patience
Every day of every season
So that I can offer it in abundance
To all who come to my house
And I shall place it in my windows
To give pleasure to my neighbours
In the village square
At each and every crossroad
I shall offer my flowers equally
To my friends and to my enemies.
Because all love takes root
I shall plant it in my garden
I shall plant it at all frontiers
And on top of all walls that separate.
You who hear my refrain
Carry the phantom fruits and seeds
Into your house.

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ABU WARD…

‘Abu Ward − whose name means “father of the flowers” − nurtured and tended to the plants that flourished under his care even as Aleppo and its inhabitants continued to die around them. “My place is worth billions of dollars” he told a video journalist for NBC News.  “I own the world! We ordinary people own the whole world!” he said with a smile.

Six weeks after the filming of the NBC News video, Abu Ward was killed instantly by a bomb dropped near the living oasis he had refused to abandon.

The garden center is now closed and the beacon of light and hope that used to emanate from it has now been covered by the same shroud of death that has covered so many in this dying city.

Young Ibrahim has been devastated by the loss of his father and has no idea what he will do now…’

R. Sikora, Orient Net, 29.08.2016

ABU WARD

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