In 1966 inexpensive accommodation in London was in very short supply and I would follow up adverts every day as soon as the Evening Standard was out. Eventually we rented an unfurnished flat in no.5 Vinery Villas for £5 per week with one week rent free in return for redecorating the two rooms. I remember that the agent arranged to meet me very quickly and as soon as we had agreed terms he said “right, let’s get out before all the others arrive”. Apart from painting the two rooms we accumulated some basic furnishings before we moved in and I well remember “putting my back out” (which stayed with me) lifting an electric cooker up the front steps, the man-with-a-van being clever enough to let me take the weight.
In August 1966 Susan and I were married and moved into number 5. I worked in sales at British Cellophane in Henrietta Place between Wigmore Street and Oxford Street earning £14 per week. This was a step up from my previous employment as an articled clerk to a firm of accountants in Grafton Street at five guineas a week and a wedding surprise from my employer was a pay rise to £20 per week.
Vinery Villas were typical Victorian houses on four floors: a lower ground floor, outside stairs up to the front door and ground floor and then first and second floors above that. We were on the first floor and our living room at the back had a side window overlooking five railway tracks. Each floor was a flat comprising two rooms off the common landing: a bedroom at the front and living room at the back. There was a shared toilet on a half landing and a shared bathroom on the top floor complete with hot water geyser with its own coin operated gas meter. A man on his own lived in the lower ground floor, an Irish woman with her West Indian partner and children on the ground floor and I think another couple on the second floor.
In January 1967 we had our baby daughter Sarah and Susan remembers attending the clinic at Lisson Grove and briefly working for the dentist there.
We shopped in Marylebone’s Church Street market and Tesco’s at the bottom end of Church Street with our daily budget of five shillings.
We took full advantage of having Regent’s Park on the doorstep and an occasional Sunday treat was a walk down to Speakers Corner, however our experience of being in St John’s Wood at that time and in our circumstances, was definitely of existing on the very margins of a wealthy enclave.
I cycled to the office in the West End until my bike was stolen from the strip of garden beside the house, then I used the 113 bus. For a few months I commuted in an old Ford Anglia (which I had no problem parking outside the flat as yellow lines were still relatively rare) to the company’s main sales office in Twickenham which the company subsequently decided to close and relocate to the factory in Somerset.
We left Vinery Villas in late 1967 and moved to Somerset which gave us the opportunity to buy our first house in late 1967 for £1850.