There was our food shop, Station Stores, tiny, without telephone or fridge which my parents managed to sell before the approaching self-service wave swept such places away, their purchaser wasn’t so fortunate, it being demolished a few years later and replaced by an estate agent. I would like to go there to find out what became of the blown Victorian glass in the window between the shop and the cramped living quarters behind, which had a strange acidic taste when sucked by a curious child. . And upstairs the main bedroom facing the street, where there was functioning gas lighting. And the stairs to the attic with their blue lino, used by me as a playroom apart from the short inglorious period when we had a lodger. I could survey the street from the dormer attic window. Watching the crowds of railway carriage workers cycle by on their way to and from shifts and the few aristocrats with their Fords, Austins, Hillmans, Standard Vanguards and all the rest of the fifties and pre-war fleets.
The attic faced west and I remember the blissful feeling lying in the spare bed enjoying the calm, yellow light.
Some of the furniture consisted of fruit boxes painted in bright colours. I’m not sure why they didn’t buy second-hand furniture if budget and rationing put a stop to new; the economics of painting boxes can’t have been great but it wasn’t quite respectable to use someone else’s bedside table, better a virginal repurposed Tasmanian apple box.
Behind the shop and living room, there was a galley kitchen, no washing machine but a copper for heating quantities of water. A tin bath to be hauled up to working level or bent over, a dreadful working environment for the housewife of those times, especially with a disabled husband unable to assist with heavy lifting.
And beyond the kitchen with its brass door knob, source of anxiety for me after I’d touched it after touching our hermit neighbour’s deadly nightshade (quite why I didn’t simply wash it is beyond me). A strip of concrete leading to a cycle shed and the toilet (no such fancy facility in the house).
I had no feeling of poverty or restriction, it was simply home.
I remember one game in the garden with a boy of my age, a relative. I persuaded him to run to the house from the garden shed and remove an item of clothing for each completed round. I can’t recall any openly erotic aspect to this – the first hesitant stings of desire came much later at the end of of my time in Lancing. Maybe I was timing him to see whether his performance improved with lighter loads but I don’t think so. It was probably more curiosity as to how long this game could continue before the adults intervened. They eventually did but, engrossed in chatter, after a surprisingly long time as this increasingly naked child flashed past.
Next next door was the Luxor cinema where the projectionist suffered from the hot little room at the top and liked to keep the door open making the soundtrack only too audible to the neighbourhood. My mother had the distressing habit of writing notes of complaint and sending me to the cinema with them). I hated this but had not at this tender age developed ways of derailing this undesired behaviour.
And a few doors up were my parents’ friends who ran the stationery shop with its notebooks and pencils of much interest to me. There was, however, the question of money which was in scarce supply, my collections of the maid and old lady Victoria, Edward, George etc. nor being impressive.
I knew where the supplies of notebooks were kept in a box on a bottom shelf near the floor. Probably inspired by some violent scene from Saturday morning children’s cinema, I cased the joint and waited for my opportunity. I wasn’t however, thinking of some sneaky child’s filching but planned to charge into the shop in style, shouting, grab what I wanted and retreat. It worked surprisingly well – I was well away with my haul before my parents’ friends recovered from their surprise. How I expected to get away with this is unclear. I can’t remember the consequences in detail but they were surprisingly mild after the products had been restored. A lesson for life – if you’re going to misbehave, make sure you do something really bizarre which people have problems taking on board; they will tend to forget it rather than struggle to work it out.
Finally, on 23 January 1958, this world disappeared when West Country class 34046 Braunton steamed out of Worthing station with the Plymouth express en route for my parents’ retirement home in Somerset. And hence this blog post, dagen till ära.