Dr Charles Hackman - more memories of Avenue Lodge

Avenue Lodge
 (the young brother of Josephine Bacon, who  earlier wrote about life in Avenue Lodge)
 I have  early childhood memories of the inside of the flat in Avenue Lodge at the age of 1-2: a view from a pram in the kitchen (brief – like a snapshot); stuck interminably in pram under  a bare tree in watery sunlight next to a derelict church , now the site of the Polygon, (we were always afraid of the elderly lady caretaker, who some of us kids were convinced was a ghost;) age 2, now big enough to rock enough to tip over pram and escape from the communal back yard and crawl up front stairs to clatter at letterbox of 1st floor flat (no idea how I located the right one); age 3-4 sticking  a horseshoe magnet into 15 amp powerpoint in corridor of flat (big bang, magnet shot across passage, don’t think fuse blew),  and  age 7/8 tying a pretty green firework to a rocket, which landed on the church roof before the green firework (“Emerald Shower”?) went off, and being terrified it would start a fire.
Memories of locale: early morning mounted battalion exercise of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery down Avenue Road  from Ordnance Hill Barracks  with field guns (horse poo rapidly retrieved by keen gardeners) –  buying lemon sherbert with a straw made of liquorice from the newsagent near the dry cleaner’s in Queens Grove (north side, opposite Queens Terrace, near Finchley Road). – the Salt Beef shop in St John’s Wood High Street; Swiss Cottage Arcade, with an antiquarian bookshop and an Italian barber’s shop at the north end, which came out on a steep cobblestoned hill  just at the junction with Finchley Road. That used always to give the milkman’s horse real trouble on icy mornings – and there were a lot of those.
The extent of the bombing:  Avenue Road was largely spared, only 3 or 4 houses were  hit at the north end, but the north end of St John’s Wood Park, including the whole area now occupied by the Queensmead development was derelict or destroyed. I believe we sometimes had picnics in the gardens, but I don’t actually remember that. What I do remember is that next to Park Lodge and behind the derelict church was a big, overgrown garden behind a bombed -out house facing onto St John’s Wood Park. The wall separating it from the flats was low enough that 2 or 3 small kids could struggle across, and by 1948-9, when I was 4-5, the whole place was overgrown with small trees and bushes of broom or gorse with brilliant yellow flowers, and hidden among one group of trees was a patch of brilliant green, short turf with a semi-permanent small pond (more a puddle, actually, and the grass area could not have been much more than a meter across), to which I sometimes brought unfortunate newts from a backwater of Regent’s Park lake (near York Bridge). They never lasted long, probably because the puddle would dry out.
This page was added on 24/09/2022.

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