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As Time Goes By: Coming Up Roses

Eileen Perrin and her husband buy their first car – a Ford Popular which they name Oggy the Pop.

Eileen continues the story of her increasingly busy life. To read earlier chapters of her engaging autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/as_time_goes_by/

The year 1956 was the height of popularity for Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll in Nashville, Tennessee. His songs were played constantly on the radio and television, including Jailhouse Rock, Blue Suede Shoes, Love Me Tender and young Val’s favourite, Hound Dog.

We were lucky having All Hallows church opposite. Val went to Sunday school there, and I went to Young Wives Guild every Friday, helping at their useful jumble sales. Just round the corner from us was Horsenden Hill where we took the children to fly kites, and to walk to the top to look out over London and Perivale.

Leslie’s sister was married in 1956 and our little Cathy was a bridesmaid for the first time, and we bought our first car - a black Ford Popular, whose number plate OGX 346 led to its nickname of Oggy the Pop. It was housed in a garage in our back garden.

That year we ‘branched out’ and holidayed in Somerset, in a bungalow at Doniford Orchard just outside Watchet. The following year we went to Holywell Bay at Newquay in Cornwall, where Cathy learnt to swim in a very large rock pool on the beach.

Our neighbours the Cuttings were some years older than us, and Charlie, who used to work on the railway, grew geraniums in his greenhouse, the back wall of which was built from railway sleepers. He always had plenty of veg in his garden.

He once told us that ‘Mother’ while he was at work, had pulled up some of the new potatoes, and stuck the tops back in to fill the gap, so that he would not notice.

The children nicknamed her ‘Mrs.Beggar’: she was often at our door, borrowing a cup of sugar or flour or a shilling for the gas, asking ‘the boy’ to run errands, usually for bread efore ‘Father’ came home.

I dug and planted our garden with lettuce, beans, tomatoes, parsnip, carrots and radishes. We had raspberry canes, blackcurrant bushes, a Cox Orange apple and a plum tree. I bottled the plum crop every year. Under the plum tree we made a wired enclosure with a small wooden house for our two tortoises, Fred Fruit and Nellie Nut. Cathy had a budgie and later a hamster, which at one point, luckily in summertime, disappeared up the chimney for a while.

On October 4th 1957 we were amazed to hear that the Russians had sent the Sputnik capsule into space, followed by Sputnik 2 on November 3rd with a dog as passenger.

Films of the late fifties included ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ with Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins and William Holden, ‘Sayonara with Marlon Brando, ‘The Big Country’, Maurice Chevalier in ‘Gigi, and ‘Some Like it Hot’ with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. In 1958 the film ‘Ben Hur’ with Charlton Heston won 11 awards. This was not beaten until 1997 when the film ‘Titanic’ was released.

On May 25th 1958 its former title Empire Day was changed to Commonwealth Day. That year the first section of the new M1 motorway was opened, running from what is now junction 5 near Watford, to junction 18. The great mass of hardcore needed for constructing the M1 was acquired by buying the broken-up concrete of the WW2 airfields from the many farmers who had ‘lost’ their land to accommodate the Royal Air Force in the war effort.

In 1958/59 we spent many happy evenings at the church hall Square Dances. We made a flurry of acquaintances, including Eve and her father Harry, who made a fuss of our children. There was Fay and Cecil Sylvester who produced the Church Christmas pantomime. Their son Norman, who worked in a medical research lab, started Val on a butterfly collection and lifelong interest in the world of insects, and also introduced us to his favourite composer Mahler. We would go round to Ridding Lane and listen to his records in Fay’s lounge.

We made friends with John Andre who spent a day on Box Hill with us, encouraging Val with his interest in butterflies. His later career led him to enter the Church. He it was who introduced us to his friend Bernard Howard, a lonely individual, who worked at Southall Psychiatric Hospital. He was brought up by his grandmother, and attended St.Benedict’s boys’ Independent day school in Ealing. His mother then married a Parsee, Mr.Umrigar, a member of Leander Rowing Club at Henley. Bernard told us of the famous Indian cricketer Pahlan ‘Polly’ Umrigar, but was not sure if he was related to his stepfather. He then lived with them in Delhi for some years. Having similar interests to us, in books, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, music, and even a bit of cooking, he became a welcome visitor.

When the Square Dancing sessions came to an end we organised a weekly ballroom dance class with teachers Bob and Doris.

In 1959 Val, having passed his 11- plus, left Horsenden Lane Junior school and went to Ealing Grammar School. He joined the Scouts, but that did not appeal, so was short-lived.

About this time the American company of Beauty Counsellors wanted young women to sell their products, demonstrating them to the customer in their own home. It attracted me, as I was interested in skin care and makeup. I went over to Bushey Park for an interview and when I joined them was issued with a pale grey attaché case containing samples.

We invested in a telephone and starting with neighbours and friends, I was recommended on, including a few of the masters’ wives at Harrow Public School. Les would drive me out to the booking, and then collect me. So I was able to make a bit of money from my sales.

I was then asked to teach an Ealing evening class for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, and was paid to teach beauty care and skin health for six sessions. The classroom was in a prefabricated building near the Target roundabout on the A 402. One evening I could hardly hear myself speak, as a class for budding guitarists was in the adjacent room, repeatedly playing ‘There is a house in New Orleans, they call the Rising Sun; It’s been the ruin of many a poor boy’ ....... maybe you remember it.

At the end of the year some of my girls gained their D. of E. Awards, with invitations to receive them from the Duke himself at Buckingham Palace. I was given a ticket as one mother did not want to go. On the day, directed up red-carpeted stairs, along a gallery hung with oil paintings, and into the ballroom, we sat waiting on little silver chairs under huge crystal chandeliers, while a Lifeguards orchestra played softly in the balcony above.

An event I still remember.


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