I remember him from when we were kids on Pilgrims Way prefab estate. We lived at number 36 and the Watts family were up the road at number 23. Charlie was two years older than me. One day he held me and my sister up with a toy gun and said something like “Hands up – or I’ll fill you with slugs.” I thought he meant those slimy garden pests that used to chew their way through the lettuces growing in our back garden. Years later, some time in the 60s, we met briefly in a pub in Wembley, where he was playing with an R&B group. I didn’t mention the slugs.
My mum and his mum were good friends from the post-war prefab days right up to when both families had moved on to another council estate in Kingsbury. By that time I had left home and Charlie was famous. My mum told me he sometimes turned up to visit his family, dodging the fans and the press.
In 2012 Wembley historian Philip Grant wrote a brief account of Charlie’s formative prefab days and his later rise to fame. You can read and download it here.
Fellow 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!
In 1954 I passed the eleven plus exam, a bundle of tests which, according to Tory MP David Davis “rescued a generation of underprivileged children”. Even at this tender age we all in our last year at Fryent Junior understood the what was going on, and many feared the consequences of failure. I can’t remember much about the tests themselves, and I was surprised that I passed, as I suspect did my parents.
I know my Mum and Dad were pleased, especially as I had missed best part of a year’s schooling when I nearly lost my eyesight when I was eight. I learned later that for Dad, Grammar School entrance was a pretty big deal as he had always resented having been denied the opportunity himself in favour of one of his three brothers.
I remember the impact of my attainment on my Dad’s meagre wage packet, which immediately arose from the need to kit me out with an expensive uniform, only obtainable from a posh tailors shop in Golders Green which enjoyed a monopoly supplier arrangement with Kingsbury County Grammar, the school in London NW9 which the local education authority had selected for me. Continue reading →
1965 was not a good year for me. As a student reading French I was required, not unreasonably, to spend a year teaching in France. This ought to have been a pleasure, but by and large it turned out not to be. However there was one unexpected consolation prize, thanks to General de Gaulle, then president of the republic.
For some unknown reason, that year he decided to pay an extra month’s wages to all those like me who had been engaged in the mostly futile task of teaching English to French schoolchildren. This inexplicable but welcome gesture enabled me to buy my first car – an Isetta bubble car.