This time our new abode was an old, Victorian house not far from Brockwell Park. Since most of our South London homes had been in Brixton or Stockwell, we were always near that particular park. I soon made friends with some children that lived in the flats at the back of us. My particular friend at that time had a sister who was deaf and mute. I'd never come across this before and I was fascinated. She went everywhere with us and I remember being quite protective towards her. Nowadays she would have been given a hearing aid and/or be taught to sign and would be little from her peers. Life wasn't like that then. The girl was looked upon as something of a curiosity by the other children.
For reasons unknown to me, Mummy decided to send me to a Catholic church-school at the bottom of Brixton Hill. I can truthfully say that his experience left me with the most unhappy memories of my entire school life, but that's another story.
At least it didn't go on for too long because we were soon on the move again.
The next house in Rymer Street, was quite small after Madora Road. Even the road was small. Once more, we were just around the corner to the park, and back living with the ack-ack guns and the search lights. For a while life was fun once more.
We all loved Aunty Audrey. She had a lovely singing voice, and would sing 'The Toy Drum Major' for us. She and her little girl Annette had a room upstairs but unlike the other houses Mum and Audrey shared, we now all lived together, ate together and played together. Audrey worked in a war munitions factory and Mummy used to look after Annette while Audrey was at work. I remember the BBC visiting the armament factory where Audrey worked. There used to be a war-time radio show called 'Worker's Playtime' which was transmitted each day from 'A factory somewhere in Britain'. The basis of the show was that any worker who was talented and suitable could perform on this programme, if they could pass an audition. Audrey had volunteered to sing on Worker's Playtime, and we were all very excited. We never did hear her on the radio though. At the very last moment she'd got a terrible attack of nerves and chickened out!
Our next door neighbours at Rymer Street were the Johnson's. There was a daughter Rene, who was the same age as me, and a son Freddie, who was the same age as Dougie. We all became the best of friends and frequently played in each other's homes. Looking back, I could see that they really weren't Mum and Dad's type, but during the war years everyone befriended and helped everyone else. Mr. Johnson was a typical London cockney. He wore a flat cap. braces and a white silk muffler round his throat, which he tucked into his shirt or vest. I don't think I ever saw him without his cap and muffler. Mrs Johnson was always hard-working and, as I recall, looked a little like Andy Capp's wife, although she never wore curlers in her hair: it was straight, dark, and slightly greasy, anchored on the side by a large kirby-grip.
I don't remember many air-raids at Rymer Street. Maybe there was a lull in the bombing for a time. I do remember, however, one especially bad night. The warning sounded and we all say around waiting to see what would happen. We didn't have to wait long. Soon, the German planes came over and the bombs started falling.
If they were near enough, you would hear the swish or whistle as the bombs fell from the sky, then the explosions as they hit their target. We always said a silent prayer to thank God that it wasn't us, but you knew that someone, somewhere, had copped it.
On this particular night the bombing was very heavy, the searchlights were sweeping the skies and the guns in the park were bang-banging away. Daddy thought that we would be safer in the shelters, so we put our coats and hats on and opened the front door.
As I said, Rymer Street was only a small street, and there weren't more than about six or eight houses on each side of the road. The park ran across the end of the street, and the air-raid shelters were just around the corner to the right. It was very dark, the only light coming from the flash of the guns and the searchlights in the park. We all waited for a lull in the firing of the guns, and then made a run for it with Mum. Dad, and Aunty Audrey trying to keep all the children together. The shrapnel from the guns was hitting the pavement and houses, making an awful noise. As each new rain of shrapnel bounced around, we'd scuttle into a doorway and wait, ready for the next pause in the action, then we'd dash off again.
At the time, I was quite thrilled with the excitement of it all and Dougie was busy ear-marking bits of shrapnel that he would claim the next day - which he did.
to be continued...