Back in August 2022, my sister Jean came to stay in Dorset with me. She’s a widow, lives on her own, older than me by six years and doesn’t get out much, so you have to show willing don’t you? (She does have a great sense of humour, so I know that’ll make her laugh). While she was here she expressed a desire to go back to where we were born and brought up many moons ago in Eastcote/Ruislip, Middlesex.
Her comment ran around my head for a few months and being a kind and loving younger sister, I phoned her up and said I could fit her in for a quick visit at the very beginning of February. Plans were afoot! I drove up to Surrey, where she lives, dropping The Man with his mate Jim, also in Surrey, on my way up. We spent the evening making plans for our trip down memory lane. So we were well prepared to set off early on the morning of the 2nd February.
First on the list was Breakspear Crematorium, Ruislip, where our parents ashes are, in Waterside; one of the beautiful gardens at the crematorium. Our dad will have been there for sixty years at the end of this year. He was joined by our mum much later in 2005. I think he spent a lot of time waiting around for her in real life too.
On our way to Breakspear we drove past the Conservative Club in West Ruislip — we had to stop and take a photograph. It was the venue my father was visiting with his mate Ray on the fateful evening of the 27th November 1963. As they were turning right into the club they were hit by a car racing down the hill. Neither of them saw it approaching, it was a filthy night. My father died at the scene I think, his mate Ray survived but it must have been an awful thing to live with. My mother stayed close to him and his family afterwards.
We parked up to take a look at our old house in Eastcote Road but we couldn’t really see it because the latest occupant is doing some serious renovations. I think my parents paid around £2,500 for the place back in the 1940s. At the last sale noted in 2017, it went for over £600,000. Phew! Opposite the house was a bus stop, which is still there. I used to catch the 98B to go to Hillingdon for my dance classes with Joanne Blackwell from the Marsden Blackwell School of Dancing.
Both my sister and I went to Coteford Infant and then Junior School. Now then, if you’d asked me last week how far it was from our house to the school I would have suggested maybe a twenty-minute walk. However, when we were there this week, I realised it was only about five minutes away! We drove there in less than a minute! It’s located in Fore Street only a short walk from our house. On the way there you pass Pretty Corner. Neither of us remembered it being called that but we both commented that it was indeed a ‘pretty corner’ and always had been.
Next stop my secondary school where I wasted a few years doing very little. I regret that but I can do nothing about it now. I went to what was called, St Mary’s Grammar School for girls. It’s now combined with St Nicholas’ Grammar School for boys and is called Haydon School. I was pleased to see a sign that said, ‘St Mary’s Building… nice they’ve kept the name.
Back down Wiltshire Lane (I used to cycle to school and remember haring down here at the end of the day and removing my grey, felt school hat at the earliest opportunity. We headed for Black Horse Parade and the Black Horse Pub in Eastcote Village. Jean had lived above the shops for a short time in her twenties and was a frequent visitor to the pub for a tipple or two or three or more.. . . what a gal! I don’t think she’s too impressed with me giving up alcohol for good a year ago!
We sat in the pub and made idle chatter with the barman and a couple of regulars who remembered Mrs Tapping at the sweetshop, the blacksmiths opposite the pub, which is now a bungalow called The Old Forge . . . very imaginative. Jean said the pub didn’t resemble the one that she knew from years ago. I suggested a few more glasses of wine and it might seem more familiar. Only joking Jean.
We didn’t get to see everything we set out to visit. We wanted to walk around Eastcote House Gardens but it was a bit cold and February is not the best time to wander around. only to see the leafless trees and muddy footpaths and very little colour. I’ve promised to take her again in July.
As a writer it was wonderful to jog my brain into remembering so many small things of my childhood; going on the back of my brother’s motorbike when he was in his teens and me only about five! It wouldn’t happen today would it? Also memories of my sister pushing me in the pram, down to Eastcote Village. We used to sit and watch the blacksmith in the forge and then buy sweets in the sweet shop which had big jars full of boiled sweets and other treats — you know the kind of thing if you’re over a certain age. I also loved buying half-a-pound of broken biscuits. I always liked the round Lincoln biscuits best with the little knobbly bits on the top that I could nibble at like a rabbit. Ah times gone by. There’s a lot I miss from the past. . .nostalgia is not what it used to be….🤣