Moving to London felt like a huge culture shock to me. We lived in a flat provided by the Council, for whom my husband worked. It was at the top of a house, and we moved in in the middle of a heatwave. I have never lived anywhere so hot in my life before. The flat was airless, whatever we did to it, and the man who lived in the flat below us took every opportunity possible to verbally attack us for something. The streets were literally melting, and I longed to get back north again where it was cooler. Everyone seemed to live out on the streets too, even right through the night. Most of the men seemed to be carrying boom boxes on their shoulders. There certainly was no getting any sleep there.

We were in the process of selling our house back north, hoping that we would be able to afford something right out of London, though my husband would have to drive a fair distance in to work each day. On an evening we would often have a drive out, and take a walk on Hampstead Heath, which was a little more refreshing. We always went past Highgate Cemetery, and always, there were loads of milk bottles at the gate. We quite naturally assumed that the deaders had put them there because there were so many of them.

In time, our house back north sold, and we did find another one to buy in Waltham Abbey in Essex. It was a massive terraced house, on three floors, but when we looked round it, it was disgusting! Dark and dingy and looking almost unliveable in. However, I saw it through eyes that had painted all the walls, put new carpets down, and generally spruced it up.

We moved in, only to discover that it had its own rat population! Plus some dry rot! However,we soon got those things dealt with, and we started to settle down. Life was so very different there to how we had known it, and I felt homesick. I did take my motor bike with me though, and I rode around on it, trying to get to know the area a bit. One day I was on a roundabout that had a few lanes on it, and I wanted to go to Waltham Cross, but with all the lanes and all the traffic, I could not get into the lane I needed to be in. After going round the roundabout three times, a gap appeared on my left, in the exact opposite direction to what I wanted to go. Realising that I was never going to get off the roundabout if I didn’t seize my chance, I thought, “Oh bugger it, I’ll go to Chingford,” which was the only exit I could take.

Then my motor bike got stolen, and that was that. I felt gutted, but driving it around that area was definitely not my thing.

We didn’t make many friends there as it wasn’t really a very friendly place. I felt very lonely and out of place, and my husband had to go to Broadwater Farm at the time of the riots. It was an extremely frightening time, knowing he was going there. He also had to take the police into the drains in London, and he came face to face with rats!

All in all it was not a very celubrious experience living there. Not only that, but you could not get decent fish and chips either. Well, certainly they were nothing like we had back north!

I did used to play the piano a lot however, and most afternoons I would be sat at my piano playing away to my heart’s content, not realising that they could hear me in the shop next door that was attached to our house. I had been treating them to Beethoven, The Entertainer, a bit of jazz, and a few Gospel hymns thrown in for good measure. They had been stopping what they were doing especially to listen! I was astounded when I was told this. I had no idea that the sound carried so much!

After some time there, my husband did get another job back north, and we were on the move again.

One thought on “HELEN’S STORY cont.

  1. Before we moved to Norfolk, we were living in a third floor flat in Camden, on the Regents Park Estate. I have never lived anywhere as hot and airless as that, and during hot summers we would escape across the road into the park to cool down.
    Best wishes, Pete. x


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