“Will you pop up to the shop for me Babs?”
I was fourteen, my mum had run out of something that she needed in order to cook our evening meal. The shop was about 200 yards up the road, and we constantly shopped there for items that mum had ‘run out of’ throughout the week. She did a main shop once a week but it was a mammoth task to shop for our large family. We always needed extras.
If it was a Sunday, depending what food item you asked for, the shop owner would wrap it in a brown paper bag and say “Don’t let anybody see what’s in the bag. I’m not allowed to sell it on a Sunday.” It was 1959 and the ‘corner shops’ were now allowed to open on Sundays, to sell essentials only. Certain foods were not allowed.
I need to set the scene here.
Our house had two front doors. One that you climbed a flight of steps to reach, and another that you went down a flight of steps to. The house had a semi basement which meant that the rooms were half underground and half above the ground. Windows looked out at ground level, which was very strange. While dad was decorating the rest of the rooms, we were living down in the lower part of the house. There was a small concrete area at the front with steep steps that led up to street level. Thanks to Google Maps, I’ve just found the actual house fifty years on.
“OK” I said. Mum handed me the money and I left the house. I loved to run places when I was young so I ran up the steps and along the road to the shop, oblivious to what was going on around me, as always. When I got back home this is what greeted me.
A lorry carrying huge lengths of timber had rounded the bend in the road, a bend that had seen lots of accidents, and would see many more. As it took the bend, probably too quickly, the safety straps gave under the weight and it shed it’s load, straight down the basement of our house. Poor mum and dad were standing, frantic on the top steps wondering if I had made it up the steps in time, or if I was underneath all the wood. Their relief showed as they saw me approaching the house. It seems that within moments of me leaving this had happened. Had I dawdled and not loved running so much I would no doubt have been underneath, and very squashed! I don’t remember how, or when I managed to get in the house, but I’m sure clearing the wood from our home would have been first on the agenda.
That was a close call. I don’t think my mum and dad could wait to move away from that dangerous road. Two years later we were gone from London completely.