I have a memory that I hold on to very tightly and it is as vivid now as the day I first recorded it.
Many moons ago, my Dad met a couple when he was on holiday on the Isle of Wight. They became firm friends and stayed that way until his death in 1986 (we made sure to keep in touch with them after Dad died). I knew them as Uncle Charlie and Aunty Georgie, a wonderful couple who both sadly, are no longer with us either. I miss them.
Even though we lived in Kent/East Sussex when I was growing up and they lived in Ilford, Essex, that did not stop us from driving up to their home to spend a day with them and we did this many times as I was growing up. I remember being so excited and I always looked forward to those days. Mum ensured that we were smartly dressed (don’t ask, it was the done thing in those days) and when I look at the pictures of us, I laugh – well, the 1970’s were never known for their fashion sense, were they!
I also had the good fortune of spending a week with them on a couple of occasions, if my parents were away and during school holidays of course. Great times, many fond memories, many stories!
One time when my sister and I were both staying with them, Uncle Charlie decided he would take us to see the old wharves of Wapping. I don’t know why but I guess that he wanted to show us a piece of London’s past before it ceased to exist. I was excited just to go to London!
Our visit occurred before the massive regeneration of the docks started, so the whole area was derelict and you could walk around freely. I don’t think I had ever seen such massive buildings like these before, they fascinated me and I was awed by them.
I stared at those magnificent structures that were silent, empty and proud. I walked amongst them and imagined them when they were wanted and useful. They were beautiful to me, these industrial constructions. They were dirty, forlorn and now unwanted, but even at my tender age, I fell in love with them.
The atmosphere was silent, almost eerily so as you would expect, and apart from listening to Uncle Charlie talking, the only other sound that I remember was the litter being blown about in the breeze. Oh, but I knew that if I tried hard enough, I was sure I would hear the wharves breathing out the imprinted whispers of a bygone age. And I didn’t want to leave them.
I have told this story many times to various people over the years and the memory of that day is still clear to me, and may it always remain so. However, when I do think about it my memory is in black and white, and I look at it in the same way as I look at a black and white photograph. Not because if the weather that day was gloomy, but because for me, they stand out and are venerated in black and white. In my emotional mind, that is how I honour their history and their place in it at that time all those years ago. Especially when you consider the enormous changes that have happened to the East End. My only regret is that I wish, just wish that we had had a camera that day.
*N.B. This is the first of several posts about these lovely people who I had the privilege of knowing and having in my life, and I have wanted to share some of the stories for some time. I will post them as and when and they won’t be in any order of time.