St John's Wood High Street - in an idyllic village
by Angela Devaney
Angela came to live at number 77 St John’s Wood High Street in the early 1960s, in the flat above the pastry cook “Jacquet – Patisserie”, from where ravishing smells floated up to the girls in the mornings.
When Angela married Mike after a couple of years, her friends moved out, and he moved in, so she began her married life in the High Street. In those days it was just a quiet village street with all the usual essential shops: butcher, chemist, fishmonger, baker and newsagent. Round the corner the Panzer delicatessen supplied more exotic food for dinner parties. Angela remembers buying pheasants from the butcher and attempting to cook them for the first time.
Mr Wood, next door to number 77, was their landlord and he sold electrical appliances and odd bits of furniture, though it was an untidy, dusty shop which looked as though nothing ever got sold. Opposite was the greengrocer Salamone, and from her kitchen window, Angela watched their stout young lad arranging the fruit and vegetables in the mornings. One day she noticed that his hair was unusually long, and that he was wearing a tight fitting jacket with a mandarin collar, rather conspicuous in those days. It was some time before she realised that this was a fashion set by four young men who were much in the headlines….
Almost next to number 77 was the junction of the High Street and Circus Road – an unmarked crossing. A regular sound was the crash of metal upon metal and the screech of brakes. They would rush to the window to watch the drama unfold.
Otherwise it was pleasant and peaceful. Angela learned to drive in the quiet residential roads nearby, just then a mass of spring blossom. Every time she uses her red tin tea caddy now, she recalls winning it at Elspeth March’s tombola stall at the St John’s Church summer fair.
Angela’s first son was born in the nursing home on the corner of Avenue Road and St Edmund’s Terrace. She lay in bed for a week, as one did in those days, and heard the regular tolling of the bell in the Convent opposite, a gentle sound, and imagined herself in a mountain village.
She was a regular customer in the children’s shop in the High Street, buying the multitude of things new babies need, and took her son to the clinic round the corner, wheeled him in the Park and the Churchyard. They outgrew their flat and reluctantly left St John’s Wood for Camden Town, its opposite in every way. Camden was then grimy from the railway, ill lit and hardly changed from the 1930s. Angela and Mike’s time in the High Street had been idyllic.