Thursday, 3 September 2015

The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 42 ............ the not so rosy glow of memories

The story of one house in Lausanne Road over a century and a half, and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

It’s odd what you begin to remember and even more how once you start there seems to be no stopping the memories.

Added to which once they are published they bounce off the collective memory confirming some and bringing forth new ones.

And so it was with The Family of One End Street** which I pretty much devoured at one sitting back in the November of 1961.

It was the story of a dustman’s family set in the late 1930s and told the story of Mr and Mrs Ruggles and their seven children.

Rereading it today bits of it appear a tad sentimental but it struck a chord as a way of life I was familiar with and certainly one my parents would have recognised.

Not that the book or the story is really the point, it is more that this was the year which set me as a serious reader, falling on everything from history to science fiction and the books of Ian Fleming.

I have Mr Rhodes who was my form teacher in my first year at Samuel Pepys to thank for that.

He and later Mr Berry had a simple approach to literature which was let them read what they want and bit by bit they will either move on from science fiction to Shakespeare or they won’t but either way they will have read some books.

In the case of Mr Berry’s class it was a battered old bookshelf at that back of the room filled with whatever he could pick up from second hand book shops.

And in that fourth year of secondary school in Mr Berry's class I worked my way through a lot of science fiction, a couple of ghost’s novels and the odd master piece.

But then not all my reading was the stuff mother would have approved.

For a short while I became hooked by PARADE a magazine I have since seen described “a magazine for men” which at a shilling was a lot cheaper than Playboy but worked on the same principle, mixing pin ups, jokes and “serious” article.  Not that the articles or even the jokes were of much interest to me, nor I suspect to any other young 13 year old back in the 1960s.

Recently I came across some of them on line with their distinctive yellow or blue banner which ran along the top and down the left hand side.

Briefly they had pushed the Eagle comic into touch but it was a short love affair because by the spring of 1964 we were on the move and while some at least of the Eagle collection went with me, Parade with its pin ups and dashing titles like “June is bursting out all over” were not destined to make the journey.

Some ended up behind the garden shed and others were slowly slid one by one through a space into a locked cupboard the key of which I lost.

It is one of the few memories which has never left me and one that even now makes me a tad guilty.

But no one was hurt, and I appear to have got away with it, which is more than I can say for those memories of Edmund Waller School and the class of 4a run by Miss Reeves.

I doubt that either of us would have chosen the other as companion on a desert island and that year of unmitigated failure and humiliation was pretty much laid to rest till Robert posted his school report from 4a at Edmund Waller.

Robert had followed me the following year and like these things are Miss Reeves had taken up the mantle to see another top year 4 class through.

Her signature was there for all to see and for once I rather wish the memory of that year had laid quietly in the past.

Robert went through the year after me but there was that signature of Miss Reeves, which brought back the dismissive words to a mother that "Andrew was not academically minded" a sentence which carried a judgement which had been weighed and delivered but in the long run proved as worthless as those piles of Parade.

Pictures; cover from The Family One End Street, Puffin Edition, 1976, The Great Invasion, Leonard Cotterell, Pan edition 1961and detail from the Eagle Comic, from the collection of Andrew Simpson
*The story of one house in Lausanne Road

**The Family of One End Street, Eve Garnett, 1937

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