Some South Woodford scribbles from DD, our resident diarist, commentator and observer of all things local
I wonder if you have noticed the kite, high up in one of the trees bordering Churchfields Park? Not a red kite, of course. How rare a sight would that be in South Woodford! This particular kite is yellow and purple, blue and white and, against all the odds, it has remained lodged up there even during recent gusting gales. Bang on the postcode boundary between the E18s and the IG8s. Keeping watch over us all. Perhaps it will still be there when autumn welcomes winter and all the leaves will have fallen. Locked up there, and looking down on us, locked down here. I am picturing the disastrous day when the line slipped adventurously from the fingers of its owner. I can almost feel the pain, the anguish at seeing it soar away. There were tears and well-meant but inadequate words of condolence. How old was the owner? Six? Ten?
I suppose you have become familiar with my flights of fancy over the past seven years. (By the way, much thanks to the reader who has written in to say how my scribbles “never fail to brighten her day”. I was very touched). I would love that young kite owner to know that, for me, anyway, the flyaway kite is no longer a painful record of a fun day cut cruelly short. It is more like a beacon of hope, similar to a rainbow, in these very strange times. From my breakfast table, I have a perfect view of it. Swaying gracefully in the breeze amongst the branches. It seems to mimic our pretend hugs, with its widespread wings. “Hey! Look up, not down! Have a nice day!” (I hope it’s still there when this edition reaches your doormat.)
We are going cordless. I suppose we have been going cordless since the hour of our birth, really. The midwife wielded the scissors and we were independent beings. Marvellous moments. And even more independent when we later broke loose “from the apron strings” as the saying goes. For my partner, David, it was probably when going to boarding school at age 11. For me, it was probably university. I was from a very happy, united family, but I remember it took all of half an hour to feel absolutely settled and at ease so far from home. (Perhaps those two facts are directly related). But back to the present: I have this splendid new cordless vacuum cleaner and move between rooms without stooping to move the plug or getting the cord stuck around the leg of the table. David has purchased a cordless lawnmower. It’s possible his decision may have been hastened when he tragically whipped the head off a tenderly nurtured begonia plant with the cable from the old machine when moving up to the higher bit of lawn at the end of his garden. The begonia had been bushing beautifully and putting out a display of blossoms worthy of Chelsea. What’s more, it had been in elegant symmetry with a matching begonia on another pedestal a few feet away. So, the view is a bit lopsided now. Yesterday, I fell for another rechargeable cordless gadget with a brush on a small pole of adjustable length which whirrs around and is going to ‘transform my experience of bringing back the sparkle to the grouting in the shower’. This is all good lockdown stuff, isn’t it! ‘Much ado about nothing’. Well, we’ve hardly done anything or met anyone for me to tell you about. And if you are shocked at the sudden spending spree, I must refer you to the eagerly anticipated expeditions with friends, to the Isle of Wight, to Chichester, to sunny Eastbourne. All cancelled. But mercifully refunded. Every one of these recent purchases was secured without stepping outside the front door. By two resourceful and computer-literate, locked-down oldies.
My older brother rang this morning: “If you’re stuck for what to write about, have you thought of a few reminiscences? The level crossing at the station? The school outfitters on the corner? The Plaza cinema?” Of course, the level crossing was a top-class attraction for us children. The flyover is functional but lacks the appeal of the close-up views of trains. Warnes Outfitters occupied the corner opposite the Post Office and required a yearly visit with our parents to upsize our school uniforms. Our father was a very patient man. He would stand peacefully in the background and wait his turn. On one occasion, when he quietly stepped forward, a lady gasped in surprise. “I thought you were a display mannequin!” My brother and I often went to the Saturday morning shows at the Plaza, next to the old Congregational Church, where M&S now simply sells food. One morning, we tried to sneak into the more expensive one-and-ninepenny seats at the back, but an eagle-eyed usher spotted us and relocated us with a stern glance. The trees opposite have survived, but not the Saturday film shows or the Sunday sermons.
The editor also rang me. Reminded me that this would be the Christmas edition. “Perhaps you might include something festive to give our artist-illustrator free rein to run riot with colour?” I’ve been trying to get through without success to the Christmas Street Lighting Department at the Town Hall to find out if they will do us proud, as usual, this year. It would be completely understandable if it didn’t happen. Other priorities prevail. But look, we can all close our eyes and imagine the festive scene, the looping lights between the lamp posts, a stately spruce on the shrubby roundabout, robed in reds, blues, golds. Gifts ribboned in glittery paper, decorations lifted out from dusty cupboards, crackers and cakes and candles, mince pies and holly-topped rich fruit puddings. Nativity scenes in windows. And I can wholeheartedly wish everyone, of all faiths or none, “the compliments of the season”. Peace, goodwill, good company, good health. And high-rising hopes for a happier New Year.