Time being a distinctly questionable aspect of creation, I have anticipated a little in my ramble through antecedents, but in principle, these were the circles into which I was inducted on 14 August 1920 and my brother Richard on 2 July 1922.

I had seven happy settled years at 22 Blake Road, Wood Green, in northern London – well recorded visually from the earliest days because my father had acquired a camera, developing, printing, and enlarging the plate photographs himself. He was ahead of the pack in other ways too, removing our gas lighting and himself wiring the house for electric lights in their place. He also built his own radio set, and by 1927 had acquired a car – an open-top Morris tourer number ML 2940, which he periodically stripped down to its ultimate components and successfully reassembled. Under no circumstances would he employ anybody to do a job which he could do himself – a trait he has passed on to several of his descendants.

Few of my earliest memories are datable. The earliest I can fix was in 1925 when my mother and I waited anxiously in the big bay window of 22 Blake Road for my father to return very late from school because of expected problems with public transport at the start of the General Strike of that year. I can see him striding purposefully up the hill in the serviceable but tidy suit which teachers wore in those days.

Possibly earlier, I see myself assiduously cleaning out the joints between the newly laid paving slabs of the footpath passing the front of the house. I regarded this as a worthwhile public service and felt greatly put out when, on looking up from my squatting position, my eyes travelled up the extent of a severe and very tall man in a black suit, with (I am convinced) a chunky gold chain and pendant around his neck, who proceeded to reprove me gently but distinctly for interfering with public property. I was impressed, but to this day I remain uncertain of his status.

When I saw it in the 1990s this part of north London certainly did not give a particularly rural impression, but it was a different matter in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century. My parents were the first occupants of their house, built on a road laid into a greenfield situation – presumably by a speculative builder. At the bottom of the garden, my mother had a henhouse from which emerged a useful supply of eggs, and also chicken corpses. Little was said about the latter, but I had a distinct impression that they were a source of unease, and probably the reason why the henhouse was abandoned before we ourselves departed in 1927

The gap between the henhouse and the back fence of the garden was a convenient meeting place for myself and my chums when we wished to be outwith adult supervision, and it is my fond belief that this secret rendezvous was never discovered.

Behind the back fence..

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