A Map to Remember Me. Part Three: Munich

A Map to Remember Me. Part Three: Munich

  Munich   There were dances almost every night in village halls, church halls, the Palais. Another pal was a bit like your Uncle Ken; quiet and nervous. He was keen on building himself up and was doing a Charles Atlas Body Building course. The rest used to tease him but it definitely made a difference. He was in the T.A. and went for summer camp in 1939 and never came back. Most of those chaps in the T.A. went for what was supposed to be a two-week long camp but they were sent to Narvick in Norway and were killed or taken prisoner. I cannot remember his name. Ebe also went to night school with me. He was mad on electricity and Morse code. He used to listen to the late night wireless. His ambition was to be an operator for Reuters. I did hear some years after that he had become a telegraph operator. I suppose he finished up in the forces. I never heard of him again. A crowd of us, about 8 chaps and 8 girls used to go out as a gang. Girls always got taken right home in those days. They were great times. No heavy situations at all. We used to drink around Queen’s Park ‘The Falcon’ on Kilburn High Road, the ‘Rifle Volunteer’ the ‘Black Bear’, and a lot of others I cannot remember, there must have been 20 public houses along that mile stretch, also at Willesden Lane area ‘The William IV’, Big and Little Lamb, the ‘Grey Horse’ was a favourite. They were good friends whom I lost sight...
A Map to Remember Me. Part Two: London

A Map to Remember Me. Part Two: London

      London   I went into a public-house to get a pint o’ beer, The publican ‘e up an’ says, “We serve no red-coats here.” The girls behind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die, I out’s into the street again an’ to myself says I: O its Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”; But its “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play, The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play, O its “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play. My dad and I liked Kipling and even when he was quite old I saw him read Kim again, probably for the third or fourth time. He also wrote a journal: We moved from Queen’s Park just before I was 8 years old. My Dad, your Granddad got a job in a school with a caretaker’s cottage, Lower Place School; a right rough area by the Grand Union Canal. Only housing there was us and a gypsy encampment. Harlesden was the nearest station. There were a lot of minor villains there, blokes always in and out of borstal or prison. Families on benefit, kids with no shoes or trousers, the teachers had a box of old clothes and shoes in the cupboard. Eddie Stevens was my friend, a nice lad, locally born, his father had died. Like me he also passed the 11+ but could not go on to a grammar school as they were too poor. He was a quiet lad and a very good artist; he later joined the RAF...
A Map to Remember Me  Part One, Home

A Map to Remember Me Part One, Home

      Home   I was saying goodbye to my Father. He was standing on the doorstep as I was leaving, going home after a visit. My sisters and stepmother were watching through the lounge window like a tragic chorus. The pressure was immense. He was about to have surgery to remove a cancer. The operation could kill him. If he survived that the cancer was going to kill him anyway, everyone knew that. He was 86. He and I, we both knew that this moment could be it for us, until the next world. Suddenly on that very ordinary porch I was drowning in the memories that swam up and swallowed me whole and I wanted to tell him that I forgave him for making me cry when he was carrying me past the shops and I leaned out towards the window and he was rough and angry and that I forgave him for calling me a ‘big girl’s blouse’ in front of my friends. I wanted to tell him how much I would miss his belief in me and I remembered how he always sat with me on every childhood hospital visit. There were many. After one of those visits we sat in a café and he drank his squash (never juice or tea or coffee, always orange squash) so fast that I repeated something he had said to me many times, ‘I bet that never touched the sides did it?’ Something passed between us. I remember that innocuous moment because he smiled at me when I said it and it was my first memory of...