Ne’er cast a clout till May is out

On her 12th birthday the writer was given a little dog, Pat, which led to a change of address to Cool Oak Lane, Hendon. She lost several friends in a mysterious huge wartime explosion.

On her 12th birthday the writer was given a little dog, Pat, which led to a change of address to Cool Oak Lane, Hendon. She lost several friends in a mysterious huge wartime explosion.

I was born in West Hendon High Street, in the middle flat over a chemist’s shop called McKay’s, on the corner of Telford Road. We had to go along Pollard road to gain access to the back of the flats, which were over a group of shops. There you had to climb a steep iron staircase with a couple of bends in it. Mind you, it made a good playing area for us kids, as each square as the staircase turned became a different type of habitat – make-believe living room, doctor’s surgery or ship’s deck depending upon which game was popular at the time.

There were three flats above each shop in the group, the first lived in by the shop owners and the other two rented out by them. The two storeys above had a shared entrance into a concrete yard. I liked being over the chemist’s as it was right at the end and I could play in our yard and look over Telford Road. My friends and I liked to drip water on to passers-by, much to their disgust and our glee. What little horrors we must have been!

I learned to ride my bicycle in the alleyway which ran from the top of the staircase to our end flat. There weren’t many young children living in the flats: I can only
remember one friend called Joan who lived right at the opposite end. All my friends from school used to congregate on the staircase where we played so many games, most of us ending up with scraped knees and elbows, falling down stairs and against the iron surrounds.

We actually had a recreation park running parallel to the Welsh Harp Lakes’, it ran from Cool Oak Lane to several roads past our block of flats.

The mischievous face of Marj. Busby when she was a toddler living in a flat at West Hendon High Street.

The mischievous face of Marj. Busby when she was a toddler living in a flat at West Hendon High Street.

During the war several of these roads were flattened by a huge explosion, not during an air raid, so there were many rumours about what had caused it. Sadly I lost several old school chums in that disaster.

Luckily my Dad had bought a house in Cool Oak Lane by then, as he’d given me a dog for my 12th birthday and it needed a garden.

I enjoyed living there better than the flats. All we had to do was cross a bridge in Cool Oak Lane between the upper and lower ‘Welsh Harp Lakes’ and we were in the countryside. There we roamed for hours, picking and eating wild blackberries in season and gathering bunches of May flowers. I was never allowed to take May indoors as it was considered unlucky, so I had to leave it in ajamjar outside.

The old saying “Ne’er cast a clout till May is out” was observed by my parents, May referring to the flowers, not the month, therefore I couldn’t leave my vest or any other warm clothes off, no matter how hot it became, until those darned flowers had bloomed.

I still visited the old iron staircase to see the chemist’s housekeeper, with whom I’d become very friendly, as we shared a love of cats. I still went to the newsagent’s-cum-sweetshop for my comics and different types of sweets from those on sale today. Looking back, they were really idyllic days. Sadly youth cannot last forever, but thankfully memories can.

Mrs. Marj. Busby