Lesson One : do NOT assume that people will be helpful.
Car hire (cheap) at Gatwick Airport was not remotely interested that I had lost both driving licences in Rome. Despite what the T&C’s say, they will NOT make that call to the licensing department (for $25). So no physical licence, no car.
(Incidentally, don’t lose anything at Rome Station; there is no Lost property office – despite being shown on the website – and the Police (to whom you “must” report the loss), lurk un-signed at the farthest extreme of Platform One and are not remotely interested either!.
Lesson One (continued): deal with the car hire companies with a reputation to maintain. A ten minute conversation back at Gatwick Airport and a quick phone call to the licence people and I was on my Honda-ed way.
So I have missed the meeting arranged, and have little to do until much later, so the Memory Minions remind me that I pass through Croydon in saath Lundun. Not born but somewhat bred there, from the age of 4 or so till I left home in my teens. Croydon is directly south of London – halfway to or from Gatwick Airport and it rates a mention in the history books from around 800. Even features in the Domesday Book.
On the other hand, SOUTH Croydon – where I lived – is a much later (Victorian) suburb that grew as the railways pushed commuting further out from central London. It has little of historic note: see this local tourism information:
Landmarks of South Croydon include:
- The former Swan and Sugarloaf public house, now a branch of Tesco Metro.
- The former Red Deer public house, now a branch of My Local
- St Peter’s Church (designed by George Gilbert Scott)
- St Augustine’s Church
- South Croydon Bus Garage
2 ex-pubs, 2 churches, a bus garage and a school where all the posh gits went!
I knew the Red Deer PH well in my youth, not as a drinker, but the biggest local landmark where you got off the bus. Unless you had already gotten off at the bus garage (see also above) since either was was a walking route home to Pampisford Road.
I didn’t know who George Gilbert Scott was back then – now I believe he is the son of Giles Gilbert Scott (similarly an architect and designer) – he (Giles) is the man who designed that classic Red Telephone Box and what is now the Tate Modern Gallery on London’s South Bank (formerly the Bankside Power Station) and, of course, Battersea Power Station. I don’t know what else George designed!
Oh, the connections memory makes! On this same drive I will pass by Battersea – the opposite side of the river Thames from Dolphin Square, where I lved for 20 years. The scale of residential development (inc. the Power Station) is striking and impressive. A far cry from the dereliction that the area displayed when I first lived nearby and cycled or jogged streets still cobbled in the 2000s. Now every warehouse is a “new york style” loft!
But back to Croydon. Must we? I know what you mean…… Pampisford is a village in Cambridgeshire (also ancient) and why the name is used here I cannot establish. But at 177 Pampisford Road is the Catholic primary school of Regina Coeli. A winning place!
Twas not always so! Though I remember it with fondness now, it was not a rich school back in the day. My father was the School Caretaker, so we lived on site, in what had once been stables for the main Victorian house. They are long gone, and a new wing stands near their place, though the house remains – smaller, of course than I remember it!
Terrible pictures, I know; my feeble attempt at blocking out parked cars which were impossible to avoid! SO many cars! I can’t recall if there were ANY back in the 50s – apart from a big old school coach. But I suppose the nuns who came and went from their convent had to be transported somehow. If you’d asked the young Jim Flynn how they travelled, I’d probably have said by broomstick!
Actually, no. I have quite happy memories of those Infant/Junior schooldays – so much so that 20 years later, as a budding Actor and Teacher of Drama & English, I returned to Regina Coeli for teaching “practice” and worked briefly with the lady who had been my top form teacher (and whose ‘teacher’s pet’ I had been!).
A kindly secretary let me in the (security) gates and was surprised to learn that there had been a stable block, or a giant metal fire escape along the side of the building – where the new wing now attaches. Alas, there are now NO NUNS at all – she seemed quite pleased about that! She congratulated me on being in Australia – since England was now swamped with immigrants and the whole place (it seems) is going to the dogs! I fled shortly after, since she was looking for affirmation of such views and I had none to give.
But there’s another of those strange “connections”. I’m reminiscing over Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven in Latin) school. In a few days time I return to my Italian friends to house-sit at Al Settimo Cielo – 7th Heaven in today’s Italian!
As for “immigrants”, I’ve been back in London for 2 weeks and am greatly cheered by its cosmopolitan, mixed and vibrant feel. I was not sure, though, quite how to react on a rather crowded tube (subway) train as I headed centrally. Standing room only – though not quite sardines in the middle of the day. A tall and powerfuly built Rastafarian young man, with ear phones and dreadlocks, leant across two people to tap me on the arm and enquire if I would like to sit down? Sometimes my perception of me (young, carefree) must be an odds with the outside world (old man with a large bag)!
I thanked him of course, but kept standing.
Now, please don’t think this macabre, but leaving the school northwards took me past the cemetery where my father is buried. A long time ago – 1968 to be precise. As I drew nearer I realised I could not pass by without saying Hello. Skip this bit if it seems odd, by all means. My connection with my father – I was a rebellious, unhappy and truanting teenager – was not good, and for more years than I care to remember, everything was his fault! Now I am around the age he was when he died, and I realise a few things:
a) It wasn’t. We all do the best we can with what we have.
That’s Lesson Two, by the way!
b) I don’t envy him trying to bring up 6 kids in the strange 1960s.
c) I wish I had had a better relationship with him.
But I’ve told him all that on previous visits to this cemetary across the years and we are – as far as I can tell – at peace with each other. He has a great grave-stone!
This piece of granite with a simple brass plate stands higher than all the other graves around – easy to spot after an absence of several years – and has weathered well.
My siblings and I were permitted to dig a hole and had it craned in some years back to remedy the many years when Charlie Flynn’s resting place had no marker!
It has – if you look closer- a little niche at the top that is perfect hand height for me to stand and rest a while and chat. A couple working not 10 feet away were attending the man’s mother’s grave – sweeping and raking the usual low-level stone chips surface, while I needed to perform no maintenance at all, simply to stand and wait.
They also serve………..
I’m staying for some days – before I return to Italy for another house-sit – in a friend’s apartment in an area they like to call Telegraph Hill. It is really New Cross Gate, but much different from before. Gentrification! 2 Bed apartment ? 800,000 pounds. A 3 storey house ? Try 1.8 million. (I have no ‘pound’ symbol on this keyboard).
Yikes! There was a time – not THAT many years ago – when New Cross was an area on the Old Kent Road (the main route out of London to where I lived after I left home). Here you did not stop and you made sure the car doors were locked! Now it bustles and hustles, with a big super-store and quite a collection of pavement cafes.
We are walking distance, too, of Greenwich – home of the ubiquitous “mean time” and of course an important town and docks area throughout history and Rule Brittannia. I never tire of this view : the magnificent Queen’s House, the Naval College beyond and across the river, the towers of Canary Wharf. For those who don’t know London, this area lies east of the “city” of London and Greenwich is on the south side of the River Thames! If you visit, I urge you to take a river boat trip from Westminster down to Greenwich and then return on the DLR (railway) or vice versa. There’s a wonderfully atmospheric (and old) foot tunnel that crosses under the river and always makes me walk faster as footsteps behind echo in a rather horror-filmic way!
I know I am in the right place when I walk down the road and turn a corner to see this street before me :
As you can see, some mistaken grammarian (is that even a word?) has stickered an apostrophe between the “e” and the “s” – which would make my name Jame !
Pedant that I am, I might have to go back and move it, so it reads James’ or I might even have to confuse them all further and add and “s” so we would have James’s.
And how to finish a visit to Greenwich by the water?
A : To be eaten by a fish, perhaps ?
This extraordinary copper fish wobbles in a rather unnerving way as you climb and sit it – I hasten to add it is designed for the purpose, you just can’t see the steps in this shot.
Or B : to eat the fish?
No mushy peas available ! Not that my friend Shay needed them since we was eating Pie and not fish! I noticed afterwards the establishment was called Mrs Lovett’s. That’s a musical theatre joke for those who can be bothered.
And on that note (!) I will send love and light till the next time. x
PS : Talking of love – has everyone noticed Ringo Starr’s posting? Urging us all to chant “Peace & Love” at noon local time this Friday 7th July? Wherever we are in the world?