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As Time Goes By: New Neighbourhood

Eileen Perrin tells of the trials and headaches caysed by moving to a new home in the late 1970s.

To read more of Eileen's account of her life and times please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/as_time_goes_by/

At the beginning of the year 1977 there were gas explosions attributed to I.R.A. terrorists in Brentford in Middlesex, Beckenham in Kent and also in Scotland.

On January 29th while the trial of the Irish Republican Army bombers was on at Old Bailey, thirteen bombs went off in Oxford Street and Bond Street in reprisal, but no one was hurt.

I began to do a little watercolour painting in my free time, - which time didn’t amount to very much, after working in London every day and coming home to washing, ironing, house-work, gardening and cooking dinners. I was still going to cookery evening class in Gt.Russell Street.

In April our Car Tax was £50 for the year.

On June 1st the British Medical Association declared that smoking had been proved lethal and were asking that all advertising of tobacco should be cut.

As it was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee on June 7th, London streets were decorated with flags and bunting. There was a river pageant, with fireworks over the Thames.

Street parties took place in London and elsewhere, and in the evenings on high points all over England, large bonfires were lit reminiscent of the warning fires that were lit at the time of the coming of the Spanish Armada.

For a fortnight in July we were lent a cottage in Anglesey by Ted Eustace, my Head of Department at college, and in August we had a week in north Norfolk at Mundesley in a bungalow loaned to us by Len Clark, one of Leslie’s printer friends.

On August 16th Elvis Presley died of a heart attack. He was forty-two.

The 1977 Academy Film Award was given to ‘Annie Hall’, a comedy with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

The complex at New York’s World Trade Centre with its twin towers was finally completed.

In September in Rome, Pope John Paul 1st died after only 33 days of papacy, and was succeeded in October by Pope John Paul 2nd – the first Polish pope.

Les and I had been working hard house-hunting, but after considering moving out into the countryside of Herts, Berks, Beds or Oxford, we decided we wanted to be near London, because we went to the theatre so often. In September we put our house in Horsenden Lane, North Greenford up for sale and the Garnetts bought it.

After looking at dozens of houses in the Eastcote, Hatch End, Harrow, Pinner and Ruislip areas of north-west London we finally decided on a larger 4-bedroomed house with garage in a three-sided close in Pinner which would be near to Cathy in North Harrow, and where we would have room to put up visitors. From the front, our house overlooked trees and shrubs surrounding a lawn and three flower-filled garden beds maintained by the Council.

We bought the semi-detached house from the Wrights for £23,350 and spent the rest of September, October and November doing never-ending packing of boxes and tea chests in what spare time we had after work. It was a very warm autumn that year, and I suffered continual miserable headaches as I was going through the menopause at this time.

We moved on a dull but fine day on December 15th 1977. We were up at 5.30 am and the van arrived at 9 am. By midday we were outside our new abode, but found the house keys had not been given over and the Wrights were still not ready.

Our men went off to the nearest cafe and we went round to Cathy and Geoff’s house to have some lunch. When we returned at 2.30 pm we were relieved to see that the men were moving us in. They had finished by 5.30pm and we paid them £75 for the job.

Later on we were delighted when some of our new neighbours came along to introduce themselves and welcome us, and were interested to learn that the large lawn and flower beds in our close had been converted into allotments during World War 2.

At the end of the following January in 1978 Scotland had the worst blizzard for 20 years with 20ft drifts. In February there was very heavy snow in Devon and Cornwall which covered sheep and buildings. Villages were cut off and there was no power or water and roads were impassable. It was the worst snowfall in living memory. It was like the snowfall described in the story of Lorna Doone, and there was 10ft of snow in the city of Exeter.

Memorable films of that year were ‘The Deer Hunter’ with Meryl Streep and Robert de Niro, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ with John Travolta, and ‘Star Wars’ with Alec Guinness.

In March we went to the Cottesloe theatre on the South bank to see ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’.

The price of a large wholemeal loaf was 35p. And eggs were 35p per dozen.

There were repeated ‘bakers’ strikes that year, and the shops did not always have any bread.

At the hairdresser’s a shampoo and set cost £1.50p.

That year an oil tanker ran aground off the coast of Brittany, and later split in two and discharged 50,000 metric tons of oil into the Channel, causing an oil slick 18 miles wide and 80 miles long.

Much of 1978 was taken up in settling in, decorating, having the place investigated by the Rentokil people who found nothing wrong, planting up the garden, buying appliances for re-fitting the kitchen, putting up shelving, rewiring, laying carpets, replacing the kitchen boiler, sink unit and the toilet. All this was managed although we were both out at work every day.

We had never felt so worn out, and it was no wonder that I suffered bad headaches.


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