Although I live in France now, I am a Londoner born and bred and, although some of it has changed beyond recognition, I still have fond memories of my childhood and teenage years ‘south of the river’. Before my mum learnt to drive, we went everywhere by bus and train which was very easy to do in London and my dad worked ‘on the railway’ so we got cheap train tickets. When I was 13 the family moved to Surrey but I wanted to stay on at my school – it was a girls’ grammar school and I was so proud to have got in – so I decided to commute. So, for the next 5 years or so, I got up at 6 every morning, walked the half hour it took to get to the station and got a train to Clapham Junction. Then I had a 10 minute bus ride and then another 15 minute walk. I must have been mad – or that’s certainly what my girls would say to me if I tried to get them to do the same.
After school, having turned up the waistbands on our skirts and loosened our ties in what we fancied was a rakish fashion, a few of us would be on the same bus back to Clapham Junction where we would lust after crepe soled shoes in Ravel and, best of all, go in the Slipped Disc record shop which was in the alleyway leading up to the station. Here they had all the reggae imports and we used to go into the listening booths and put the headphones on and have a dance. Sometimes we would even buy something. The other day I dug out some of the old records and blushed like mad. Those Jamaicans making reggae music in their garages would put some of today’s rappers to shame with their lyrics. It was probably better than the sex education I got at school back then where I remember frogs featuring heavily and a very uncomfortable biology teacher.
The old Routemaster* buses were great. You could sit on the top deck in the back row with all your mates – a blight on all the other passengers and then you could swing very provocatively (we thought) and dangerously (the conductor* thought) on the pole on the platform when approaching a bus stop in case there was a good looking boy waiting to get on who might be impressed by your antics. Aaahh, the memories. So, when I saw it was possible to get hold of the old bus blinds – the rolls that were in the front of the buses which had all the destinations on – I had to have a Clapham Junction one.
Just what my home in the French countryside was missing! Mr. Tialys, who comes from the North of England and had nothing to do with Routemasters or Clapham Junction, is a little bewildered but then that is the effect I often have on him. It won’t stay on those chest of drawers but will be hung somewhere – I know not where yet. I feel that I should have a ‘loft appartment’ or ‘industrial space’ really for this bit of nostalgia art but I don’t. However, just to show willing, I’ve also photographed it jauntily at right angles to the floor which is what I believe is done in that sort of style. I’m nothing if not versatile.
For the confused amongst you –