Thursday, 5 January 2017

The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 51 ............. watching the snow fall

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

Eagle Annual, 1963
Now most of us will be able to remember where we were when the news broke of some powerful event.

For my generation it will more than likely be the day President Kennedy was shot in Dallas in 1963 or possibly the death of Otis Reading four years later.

For an older generation there is the funeral of Winston Churchill, the death of President Roosevelt or Neville Chamberlain announcing that Britain was at war with Germany while for a younger generation there is that awful car crash in Paris which ended the life of Princess Diana.

But alongside all these for me there is that that day the snow fell from the skies across south east London and ushered in the Great Freeze.

The snow had begun falling on Boxing Day which almost qualified it as a White Christmas, stopped I think the following day and then began tumbling out of the sky on December 29th locking us into nearly four months of ice and snow with the thaw only beginning in March.

Now when you are thirteen you take such events in your stride and after snow ball fights became boring there was always the game of pulling a wooden bench up the hill at Pepys Park and then descending down the slope.

All of which had the added thrill that we might get caught by the park keeper who probably had more sense and was keeping warm in his hut beside a paraffin stove.

Come to think of it I don’t recall ever being challenged by one of the keepers in their brown uniforms as we risked life and limb.

But all of that was in the future, on that day in December I barely gave much of a thought to the snow.
It was late on a Saturday afternoon and already dark which made that swirling storm of snow just that bit more magical.

This I know because I still have the Eagle Annual which I got as a Christmas present and which I was reading in our kitchen as the events unfurled.

Me in 1962
Ours was a big kitchen dominated by the stove in the corner which heated the water as well as the room.

I suspect it was almost as old as the house and had no thermostat which meant that when it had been on all day the water got so hot that dad had to draw some off.

That was a regular occurrence but more than that there was that sizzling noise made from the water in the tank which was one of those reassuring sounds that seemed to guarantee all was well in the house.

That sizzling noise vied with the sound of the wireless which dad would listen to and which marked him off from mum who preferred the front room and the television.

So on cold winter’s nights you could slide down the Arctic like hall into the kitchen and be met by a wall of heat and Dad, which is how I remember that day when the snow began to fall.

Pictures; Eagle Annual 1963 and me in 1962, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

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