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..?