Dodgem cars - not bash-em cars!
I was born in Trafalgar Square, but whenever I tell friends where I was born, they look in disbelief as Trafalgar Square doesn’t seem like a good place for giving birth, but Charing Cross Hospital overlooked Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden.
At that time, we lived in Cornwall Gardens Mews West in Kensington. Mews houses were built in the 18th and 19th century, originally to stable horses with basic accommodation for servants above. Interestingly, they have no windows at the back, which prevented the servants from peeking at their lordships playing croquet on the lawn. Falconry was popular, so many of the small houses were used as cages to keep the birds. Falcons moult or mew, which made a mess and so they were called mews.
My father didn’t keep falcons or horses but always had a car in the garage. If only he had bought our house for a few hundred pounds because they now sell for millions. Recognise an opportunity!
My father always drove a posh car, he might have been a getaway driver at bank raids but he certainly was a petrol head. More evidence of this was on a Saturday afternoon and my lovely mum was driven mad by his habit of drinking Guiness with his friends and arriving home late. His dinner was always between two plates sitting on a steamer.
On this particular Saturday after a terrible row he took me to a local fair, leaving my poor mum in tears. He decided to take me on the dodgem cars. This was fun until I complained that we weren’t hitting anyone. He reminded me that they were called dodgem cars - not bashem cars. Not much fun for a 6 year old.
In those days the food was different. Mad scientists hadn’t started genetically modifying vegetables, fruit and cows and no pesticides on’em or up’em.
I spent the summer and Christmas holidays at my grandmother's cottage in Ingatestone. She had a black range fire and cooker and produced the best roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It was so good that she would serve a slice as a starter, then more with the beef. Sometimes we would have it with jam for supper.
I learned later that the secret was to roast the beef over the Yorkshire pudding so that the juices from the meat would drip into the mixture. Now the supermarkets have the gall to sell individual pieces of stodge which they call a Yorkshire pudding!
When I was 10, we moved to Harrow, which doesn’t feature as a tourist spot.
One day, much later, I took a girlfriend to my mothers' flat for a cup of tea. During the conversation, she casually mentioned she used to take me to Harrods to have my hair cut. That sounded very posh to me, but the truth is that Harrods was the only hairdresser within two miles.
Added to that bit of name dropping, my mum took me in my pushchair every day in Kensington Gardens. Royalty was everywhere, but none of them recognised me!