Prefab Days update: the green thing

When I wrote Prefab Days, little did I suspect how much interest it would stir up, notably among former residents of the Pilgrims Way estate in Kingsbury NW9. The original post was written for a museum housed in a prefabricated building, and I had to work to a word limit. One of the memories which I chose to leave out of the article concerned a cast-iron object in the street, just outside our back garden, known locally as “The Green Thing”.

Perhaps a subconscious motive for leaving the green thing out of my story was that, as I recall, my sister and I were forbidden to go anywhere near it, even though it held a magnetic attraction for other kids as the place to hang out. I am pretty sure this ban was just one outcome of our Dad’s horror of playing in the street. However I may have defied the edict on at least one occasion because I remember an event which took place right next to the green thing, which I mentioned in “Prefab Days”:

“When we moved in, work on the infrastructure was still going on, mainly finishing the roadway and footpaths. The labour force was a couple of German prisoners of war, supposedly supervised by British soldiers. We kids were strictly instructed not to fraternise with them, but of course we did, as the squaddies seemed to be notable by their absence. One of the POWs smuggled toys to us somehow, and I remember with affection the tiny metal tractor that came my way.” I am sure this happened next to the green thing, where there was a pile of sand, presumably used officially for laying paving slabs and unofficially as a sandpit for local kids less constrained than us.            Continue reading

A musical gift for the new year

Another year almost gone! I’m sorry I have not posted many stories this year, but you know how it is. Nobody told me that time speeds up the older you get. Dirty trick if you ask me. Anyway, whether you are a regular reader or you have just stumbled on this blog, please accept my best wishes for 2020, and many thanks to those who have contributed comments and “likes”.

My prezzy is a recent memory – one of my personal 2019 highlights, an evening with the Unthanks. (Who? Read on….) I hope you like it. It might cheer you up in these nightmare days of Trump, Boris, Brexit and other insane causes for depression. Escapism? You bet.

The Unthanks?

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Mark Williams: the pop hero from Dargaville NZ

Mark Williams should really have been born hollering: “Here I come, ready or not.”

I often see or hear the work of former journalism students on radio or TV who I taught at university a few years ago, and it’s always a pleasure. But such an experience is even more pleasing when it comes out of the blue, as an unexpected blast from the distant past.

When I was working recently on my post about our life in Dargaville, New Zealand, I happened across an image that rang a faint bell. I almost missed it, but even as it flashed by I thought I recognised a schoolboy called Mark Williams, who I knew briefly when I worked as a teacher at Dargaville High School in the late sixties.

What I not could know then was that Mark would become a national pop sensation only a few years later, the first local act to top the New Zealand National Sales Chart on June 27, 1975 with ‘Yesterday Was Just The Beginning Of My Life’. I had no idea until now.

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Prefabs update: Pilgrims Way talk

Pilgrims Way NW9, looking toward Barn Hill. Origin unknownPretty much as I remember itFellow Pilgrims Way denizen Paul Kennedy recently sent me a file used to illustrate a talk by Philip Grant of the Wembley Historical Society. The talk covered all the prefab estates built just after the war in Wembley, including Pilgrims way, and draws on evidence held by Brent Archives. The Pilgrims Way section is about half way through the talk, and includes a letter from Charlie Watts and some images I have not seen before. Thanks Paul!

Here are some of the slides Philip used, but you can also download the complete presentation Kingsbury’s Post-War Prefab Homes (pdf file – 8Mb) Continue reading

My window faces the south, Part 4: Netley days

Previous post

A few weeks ago, out of the blue the phone rang to tell us that our old, and much-loved next-door neighbour Tony Bray had died. This sad news, followed by his memorable and moving burial at sea near Gosport a few days later, reminded me just what a formative period this was for us all.

Looking back, Tony, his wife Adrienne and their two sons remain right up there in the top ten greatest strokes of luck we ever had. There’s only so much research you can do when looking for a new home – estate agent blurbs, surveys, casing the joint, it’s always hit-and-miss, and one of the most important factors, your new neighbours, is the hardest factor to find out about. In this case we had won the lottery, but we didn’t know it straight away.

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Old maps tell the story of Lincolnshire

I recently came across a fascinating blog post by Dr. Caitlin Green, featuring a collection of early maps of Lincolnshire. Caitlin describes herself as a historian and writer whose professional interests lie in the history, archaeology, place-names and literature of late Roman and early medieval Britain.

She explains: “This post is primarily intended to share images of some of the interesting early maps of Lincolnshire that still exist, dating from the medieval era through until the early seventeenth century. Details of each map and a brief discussion of the principal points of interest—including the curious region-name ‘Ageland’ that appears in eastern Lincolnshire on many of them—are provided in the captions to the following image gallery, which I aim to add to over time.”

Some interesting early maps of Lincolnshire Continue reading

No cucumber unsliced, no camp chair unfolded, no pop bottle uncorked…….

In the words of W. Somerset Maugham “There are few things so pleasant as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort”

No cucumber unsliced, no camp chair unfolded, no pop bottle uncorked at the first Kirkby on Bain village picnic last summer (August 18). At 1.45, the school field looked just like any other day, except for some bunting, a table and a couple of chairs, but within an hour or so about thirty villagers, undaunted by the KoB wasp brigade, were happily tucking in to traditional English picnic grub and chatting to friends and neighbours.

The idea, suggested by Margaret Dewrance, was inspired by a similar event in a French village a few years ago. It had a lot going for it – no complicated arrangements or red tape, just bring your own picnic and spend a pleasant afternoon in good company. We were lucky though – the sun came out just on time after an overcast morning.

Since we packed up our empty picnic baskets, we have had some really good feedback on this initiative, and even a welcome offer of an alternative venue for next year, so it looks like the event is set to become a local tradition. Continue reading