Sunday, 26 June 2016

Garden sheds I have known and the stories that come with them ........ Millie the Mole, and the Polish builder

Now the garden shed is as much a part of the landscape and our history as the stone water trough, red telephone kiosk and the equally loved old fashioned rear entrance double decker bus.*

The garden shed, 2010
Some of these old favourites may now be no longer fit for purpose and some like the double decker were useless if you were in a wheelchair, but the humble garden shed just goes on and each will have a story.

This is ours; built in our garden in Lausanne Road sometime in the mid 1950s by one of the people who rented rooms form my parents.

He was Polish and later became very friendly with another tenant who was German and in the fullness of time they married and moved out to a flat just round the corner.

I think he had replaced Millie the Mole and her boy friend Boy Boy Jones.**

This was the period just after the last world war and housing was still in short supply, with many people living in rented accommodation.

It was the age of the private landlord and “living in rooms” was commonplace.

We were I think unique in owning our own house and most of my friends lived in grand old Victorian houses which long ago had been sub divided in to flats.

Lausanne Road, 2010
I don't remember, Millie the Mole and Boy Boy Jones. He was involved in smash and grab raids which were at the cutting edge of big time crime.

The gang would choose a suitable jewellers and using a brick and pick axe handle smash the window, grab the loot and escape in the waiting car. Boy Boy Jones was the driver.

A career which came to an abrupt end when he drove off during a raid, leaving the gang to struggle along a crowded Peckham High Street, with assorted diamond rings, a necklace and several watches.

Needless to say their progress was somewhat hampered by the loot and the Saturday shoppers and they were caught.

Boy Boy Jones remained free which was not necessarily a good thing for Millie, whose relationship with him was tempestuous at the best of times and led on one occasion to Boy Boy arousing the street as he dangled her out of one of the upstairs windows by her wrists.

And when they moved on it was the Polish chap and his wife who moved in.  To me they were something different. Occasionally I would be invited to share a cup of real coffee and some Polish biscuits which arrived from the “homeland”.

Like so many of the stories I have posted their experiences reflect the awful events of the century they lived in. Theirs were “little lives lived out in a big century.” Both had been victims of the displacement of millions of ordinary people who had been in the wrong place when the war broke out and found themselves part of that tide of homeless refugees in 1945.

Me, a tent and that garden shed, 1957
I don’t know their stories and like many of their generation they didn’t talk about the past. But he was Polish and may have spent time as a Soviet prisoner, which begs the question had he been on the wrong side in the conflict, or just a causality of the Cold War?

Either way there is a lasting testimony to their stay in the house, because the garden shed he built in the late 1950s is still there. I had almost completely forgotten about it.

And then on an impulse while on a visit to London for a family wedding we visited the old house.

It is almost 50 years since we left but there is much about the place that I remember. I am grateful to Rachel and David the new owners who did not mind that we had invaded their Sunday and were happy to show us around.

The garden seemed smaller and more alive with plants than I remember it. The trees had gone but the shed remained.

I rather liked the fact that something from all those people who had passed through had survived.

Location; Lausanne Road, London

Pictures; the shed in 2010 and in 1957 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, Lausanne Road, 2010 courtesy of Elizabeth and Colin Fitzpatrick

*The history of the Shed.

**Millie the Mole, Boy Boy Jones and a garden shed, ............ London in the 1950s, 

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