Saturday, 7 July 2018

Adventures out of Peckham ........ the park, General Wolf and a song by Mr Como

The sun is shining and while it might not yet be hot enough to crack the paving stones, there is a promise of a fine day ahead of us.

Greenwich Park, 2017
And on days like this when you are ten, adventures just happen.

We had met up mid way between all our houses and immediately fell out about what to do.

None of us had much in the way of money so Red Rovers which offered unlimited travel across London for 2/6d was not going to happen and it became a matter of where we hadn’t been and how far it would take to get there.

All of us agreed that whatever we did it had to be out of Peckham and so for the second time in a week we headed off to Greenwich Park.

River, 2017
This was not entirely such a good idea as all three of us had been in the dog house for our last adventure which had involved us exploring the beach by the foot tunnel.

We could have chosen that sandy strip in front of the Naval College but instead opted for a spot down river by three beached barges, and that led to disaster as each of us sank up to our ankles in oozy, oily Thames mud.

That was terrifying enough, but having been rescued by a bargee who pulled all of us free, there was the long walk home caked in that mud and a series of almost identical interrogations about what had happened. To my eternal shame I blamed John and Jimmy.

But undaunted by such an ordeal we went back, although this time we kept to the park.

That long walk, 2017
Once through the gates, and having made the long walk past the water fountain to General Wolf, and faced with that steep slope we rolled down it.

Now that was fun but daft, given that the grass was newly cut and stuck to us, and then took ages to fall off while we played amongst the trees and explored the courtyard of the Royal Observatory.

Then, as the sun climbed higher in the sky we sat on the bench by General Wolf and like him we gazed out across park and the river to that other place, north of the water.

From General Wolf, 1978
Back then the river was still a working river and the tall blocks of flats and offices had yet to be built leaving a vague memory that we could see the Monument but sixty years separate me from that adventure and I dare say I have got that bit wrong.

But never underestimate the power of a sunny day and cut grass to throw you back into your childhood.  Or the delights of warm lemonade from a glass bottle that we shared.

We were the master of all we surveyed and to the bafflement of passersby recited a rhyme which contrived to name all the TV Westerns in a story.  I can no longer remember the details suffice to say,  that Rawhide, Bonanza, Laramie, Cheyanne and perhaps Have Gun Will Travel were all featured.

Looking up towards General Wolf
I guess it was inspired by the 1959 Perry Como song, Delaware, which had lines like, “What did Del-a-ware boy, what did Delaware, She wore a brand New Jersey”, going on to mention another 13 US States.

The challenge of both Mr Como’s song and our rhyme was to remember each line perfectly, a task I failed to do then and still can’t today.

Perhaps out there someone will remember the TV rhyme and offer it to me.

We shall see.

Location; Peckham and Greenwich

Pictures; Greenwich Park and the River, 2017 from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith, and looking out from General Wolf, and looking up to him, 1978 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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