I had a very enjoyable day yesterday, despite the weather. It was about the worst I’ve seen so far. Very blustery, wet and – by my standards – very cold. A friend from primary school tipped me off about Southwark History Library, very close to where I was born. It turned out to be a veritable treasure chest of old photos and illustrations of Bermondsey. You are allowed to take photos of the photos but I couldn’t switch off the flash on my camera, so the results weren’t very good. I’m planning another visit.
Then I went walkabout in Bermondsey, snapping pictures along the way so Mum could see how it looks now. The area has changed a lot and is about to change a lot more. For several years now, it has been targeted as prime real estate for redevelopment. There are plenty of new buildings and, as Mrs. Thatcher sold off the council flats, they are now changing hands for $400-500,000 and being refurbished. The area is popular with people who work in Central London and need a pied-à-terre (a residence that is used mostly as a second home).
This photo of Long Lane shows the shops in front of the flats where I was born (Dunkirk House). I think the fish and chip shop is the only one that was there 50 years ago.
This is how Dunkirk looks today.
The middle window is the room where I was born.
This is looking past Dunkirk towards Crayford House, where Tom and Ethel lived.
This is the flat in Crayford where they lived and I spent much time as a child. These flats are very run down.
Walking out into Staple St, the block across the road is being refurbished (at a cost of millions of pounds).
This is Otford House, behind Crayford, where Ethel spent the last years of her life. Her flat was the top window on the right.
I met old schoolfriend Alan for pie and mash in Tower Bridge Road. Unfortunately, the donut shop (Edwards the bakers) disappeared long ago.
This is where the jeweler’s was where I worked. We can’t figure out if it was the shop with the green sign above it or the one to the left in the photo.
The pie and mash shop is almost opposite. I was tickled by the fact that they have their Web address painted on the window.
The food is cooked (in the basement, I believe) and sent up through the dumb waiter on the left of the photo.
This is an old photo of my wife and I in Manze’s some years ago. She was completely underwhelmed.
As the rain was so bad, we then took a bus (via The Elephant and Castle) to the South Bank, where the Royal Festival Hall and the British Film Institute are located. A number of Latinos got off the bus at The Elephant (in Panama I was told the area now has a large Latino community). The Southbank Centre complex, as it is now known, is a very famous and striking set of buildings by the river.
Alan and I spent a long time inside the Festival Hall chatting about the past, present and future. It is a very attractive place to hang out. Lots of people – young, old, kids – were attending the different events going on over the course of the day. There is free live music in one section and a cafeteria and bar.
I bought a Travelcard at Orpington Station. It costs $14 and allows you to travel all day on the train, Underground and buses in the London area.