Sunday, 25 January 2009


Moving to Islington

Although we were reasonably happy in our first little ‘cellar flat’ there was no way we wanted to stay there any longer than we had to. We continued to search for bigger and better accommodation, as did my mum-in-law. Since my parents and all the little Leaches were still vastly overcrowded at Oakfield Road, there wasn’t anything they could do to help. They were desperate themselves to get more room. Arthur’s mum was pestering her estate agents each week when she went to pay her rent. The agents promised her that they would let us have the next available flat, but flats did not become available very often.
So it went on, for some months, until one miraculous day we got word that a flat had indeed become vacant. If we liked it, we only had to say the word and it was ours! Good old Mum Chapman. With the help of her agents, she had come up trumps yet again!
It appeared that the previous tenant had left a lot to be desired on the cleanliness front, and the flat had to be cleared, cleaned, fumigated and decorated before we could even view. This took a couple of weeks, and we both spent the time all but jumping up and down, screaming: ‘We’ll take it, we’ll take it, whatever the condition!’
The great day for viewing came round and there was no holding us back. Clutching a bunch of keys that were tied together with string and labelled 166 St.Paul’s road, we hurried to Islington.
The house stood on the bend of a busy, main road with cars and buses roaring by. There was a flight of stone steps leading from the pavement up to the front door, and a flight of steps to the right leading down to a basement. We let ourselves in through the front door at the top of the flight of steps into a long, narrow hallway. There were two doors on the right leading to ground floor rooms, and a flight of stairs to the left going up to the first floor flat, which was ours for the asking.
Half way up the stairs was a landing where a small, corner hand basin with a cold-water tap was set into the wall. This was the only running water in the flat. On the next landing were two rooms: a medium sized, rear facing room to the left, and a large, front-facing room immediately in front of us. The backroom looked out onto a long garden that ended with a railway embankment. We could see the railway lines. This, we decided, would be our bedroom and we would have to get used to steam-trains puffing past the bottom of our garden.
As you went into the front room, there was a fireplace on the left and two large, sash windows with a good view of the street. We were quite high up and could see traffic and pedestrians scurrying about far below. Everything was clean and newly decorated and, we were assured, bug-free! The rent was eleven shillings (55p) a week, and it was most definitely a step up the ladder. Now we would have two rooms. We told the agent that we’d like to take up the tenancy, and started measuring up for curtains and lino, and made the necessary arrangements with a local removal company.


It was 1952 and, for the first time since we married, we had all our furniture under one roof, including Arthur’s piano. The piano had belonged to Mum and Dad Chapman, and Arthur had been paying tunes on it since he was a toddler. Dad Chapman no longer used it and so they decided to give the piano to us as a wedding present. We hadn’t enough room for it at our first flat, but now it stood in all it’s glory in our new flat.
Because the piano was dark brown and old fashioned, Daddy thought it would be a good idea to make it more modern and in keeping with the rest of our home. He covered it entirely in a substance of his own invention. Very like the Artex finish of today. The surface was stippled all over, somewhat resembling the frosting on a Christmas cake, and painted in a creamy biscuit colour. All the black keys were painted bright red, and Arthur cut out a fretwork treble clef and some musical notes, which he also painted red, and mounted them on the front of the piano.
It looked quite smart and everyone who saw it thought it was great. The only drawbacks were that the red paint wore off the keys and rubbed off onto the ivories, and the Artex type coating somewhat deadened the sound. Still, it was different!!

To be contd.........


weechuff said...

So glad to see you back blogging after your long absence. I am looking forward to the next part:0)

Croom said...

Oh what memories Leeta.

Glad to see you back. Like Sandie I look forward to the next

Bet the piano looked very different, in fact very like a Leach/Chapman invention! Together a formidable duo.

GoldAnne said...

Leeta its super to be in touch again.
Oh my that piano do wish you had a pic!!! but you described it so well.
I lived in a flat b4 marring and trains came past the window i loved it.
Take care love Anne xxx

granny grimble said...

It's so good to be back in the driving seat! I hope I haven't lost all my blogging frends though.
I'll post another in a couple of days.

The piano looked so modern and theatrical. We loved it. It didn't do the sound any favoura though. It was OK and playable, but would have sounded better without the 'Artex'

Welcome back Anne lovely to hear from you again. I wish that we had a photo of the piano too. It was very posh. The trains used to release their steam right at the bottom of our garden in the small hours. We soon got used to it and never heard it!

Babs (Beetle) said...

I don't remember the little sink on the landing. It must have been taken away before we moved there. I'm sure I remember that old piano, but maybe it's because you explained it so well :O) Did you have it at Oakfield Road? If so, that's where I remember it from.

granny grimble said...


Pat and her mum moved in after us, and then Mum and Dad. I expect Dad removed it when he took over. The piano never made it to Oakfield Road (see Right said Fred.

Swubird said...


Ah yes, the first apartment. I remember those days so well. Actually you had much more stuff than I. Our place was completely furnished, including a rickety old bed. Plus, I would loved to have been up high like that so that we could look over the street. That sounds great.

My first apartment was in a place called Lone Pine, California. The little city was at the base of Mt. Whitney - the highest point in California.

It was freezing cold in the winter and the heater didn't work too well. Plus, we were both in the shower one day and the thing fell over. We were embarrassed to tell the landlord. I remember how grumpy it made her.

But we survived and eventually made our way in the world.

Looking forward to the next installment.

Happy trails.

granny grimble said...

The thought of the newly weds rocking the shower so badly that it fell over really made me laugh. What with that and a rickety bed, you didn't have much luck did you?
Embarrassing then, but such great memories to carry through life. I bet they still make you smile.
Yes the view from our front windows were sort of exciting. I used to sit out on the window sill,with my legs danging down into the room, close the sash window down to my knees and clean the outside glass. I wouldn't do that for anything now!

Sandi McBride said...

I am so happy to see you back! I'm headed for part two of the story, and finding your life quite fascinating!