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Messages - David Line

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1
General Discussion / Downham Schools
« on: October 05, 2009, 10:48:17 AM »
Various contributors to the site have mentioned their schools on the estate, favourite or wholly disliked teachers and other memories. Does anyone think that it might be a good idea to assemble memories under one "topic roof" perhaps for present and future generations of pupils to get a flavour of Downham education during the middle years of the last century?

Perhaps I could start the ball rolling with Rangefield Road School during the middle 1950s. It was under the headmastership of Harry Gell whose sadism and copious nostril hair was something to be believed. He was also a war hero of sorts and, I believe, commemorated on a plaque in Catford. I was summoned to be caned on numerous occasions for such heinous crimes as booing at a player in a school football match who had committed a foul, being half an hour late for school (at this time I was staying with an aunt in Catford while my mother was in hospital) as there was simply no buses arriving, and for a fight in which I took no part and was totally innocent. People who say "caning did me no harm" are simply idiots. After all these years I still wrangle at the injustice of my treatment and the humiliation it caused.

Things were not all bad at Rangefield Road despite the outside toilets, draughty classrooms, poor lighting, and scratchy pens which left ink blots all over your work. Miss Costello was the prize of the teaching staff - best described an ancient crone had I known the meaning of the two words at that time. She had warts and hair growing from them. Having said that she embued a love of language in her pupils, laughed with them and encouraged their imaginations. Mr and Mrs Rees were both teachers at the school. She would arrive on her bicycle each morning while Mr Rees more lavishly reached the school gates on his motor assisted cycle,  a bicycle with an engine encased in the rear wheel. His son - who was a pupil in the infants school - rode a on a small saddle fixed onto the crossbar. Either in 1955 or 1956 Mr Rees committed suicide.

During the school year various seasonal activities took place in the school playground. For example May 1st (or the nearest school day) saw maypole dancing in which my good friend Eric Oxburgh always managed to get his ribbon entangled. Empire Day was always celebrated as was harvest festival, Battle of Britain day, etc etc.

During break time there was dinky car racing, marbles, cigarette card flicking, conkers and, of course, burning holes in the wooden fence using plastic magnifying glasses given away with the Hotspur.

2
General Discussion / Re: Holidays
« on: August 19, 2009, 02:29:45 PM »
Christine - I have to say Luberon is not my favourite part of France - too many Brits, too hot and dusty and virtually impossible to get into places like Avignon. Yes, the scenery is stunning in places but it is an expensive area ( mainly because of tourism ) and the food is not that good. There are a couple of sites worth visiting if you are looking for a long-term house rental. Try www.connexionfrance.com . This is an English language newspaper published in France with an extensive classified ads section frequently featuring properties to let. You can order a trial copy free-of-charge via their website. Another possibility is a website at www.thisfrenchlife.com which features classified ads - you can advertise for a property in the region of your choice, period and price band.  One other suggestion is to conact Brittany Ferries in Portsmouth. They have an extensive portfolio of properties to let throughout France ( they also own Gites de France ) and it may be you can cut a deal with them.

Our bit of France is right in the middle in Indre-et-Loire which is thought of as the "garden of France". We are basically equidistant from all the borders of the hexagon even though a journey, say, to Annecy in the Alps will take eleven hours and about the same to the Mediterranean coast.

David Line

3
General Discussion / Re: Holidays
« on: July 31, 2009, 09:12:43 AM »
Christine, I can thoroughly recommend Verona although it is some years since I last visited.  The amphitheatre is better than the Coliseum in Rome and I have some fond memories of sitting there on a warm summer night enjoying an open air concert.  For my part I feel no desire to leave France for a holiday - we have it all, super beaches, mountains, countryside of all shapes and sizes from Norfolk flat to Bavarian forest. Most important you can find good food and good wine everywhere.

David

4
General Discussion / Re: Grove Park
« on: June 13, 2009, 07:05:26 PM »
Grove Park was always pretty scruffy, even back in the 1950s. The worst bit was the terminus for the buses ( 36B, 63 and 124 I think ). It was a sort of a concrete basin marred by huge oil stains from leaky RT49 sumps - less of a problem with the Routemasters that followed on a decade later. Someone please correct me if I am wrong but I have an idea that Grove Park Station and the stairs leading up to the roadway and booking hall were gas lit.

Pip pip

David Line

5
General Discussion / Re: WHERE DID WE COME FROM ?
« on: June 10, 2009, 05:14:43 PM »
Splinter, yes still in the land of good food, good wine, low taxes and, most important, lots of space and great French friends. Thanks for your kind words. Brenda, as and when I have the time I`ll be dragging a few more skeletons from the closet to add to the site so keep tabs.

The great danger of relying only on memory for family history was illustrated yesterday. I got onto Google Earth and focussed on Gareth Grove - one of the camera shots shows my old house (No 63). What I had completely forgotten was that the front door was actually on the side of the house, something that only came back to me when I saw the picture. I could have sworn (on the Bible) that the entry was at the front. It makes one wonder what else has been distorted with the passage of time.

Pip pip

David Line

6
General Discussion / Re: WHERE DID WE COME FROM ?
« on: June 09, 2009, 04:22:23 PM »
Once you start tracing your family origins it becomes addictive and, at times, obsessive. Today it is made so much easier thanks to the internet. As a result, I`ve managed (from the middle of France) to trace my paternal family back to 1715 and my maternal family back to an Irish tinker who arrived in the UK at the beginning of the 19th century. It`s not just the various censuses ( or should that be censii ) that help but parish records, various on-line museums, etc, that are now available on line. Fortunately the Downham part of the history is well established in-mind.

The obsessive bit came about because I had an ( maternal ) uncle killed in the First World War. Little was said about him in the family other than that he was blown to bits while carrying ammunition. No-one ever went to see his name carved on the memorial at Tyne Cot in Belgium or showed interest in his last days. But after all these years it was amazing at what could be researched. Starting with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission the route led to his old regiment who supplied copies of the regimental diary for the day he died with coded locations. The Imperial War Museum then came to the rescue with a copy of the army map for the area in which he was killed and an explanation of how to decipher the location codes. Some time passed but bit by bit the story emerged. Finally last year after overlaying the correct portion of the army map onto Google Earth I was able to calculate what I thought was the exact location of his unit on the day he died.  My wife and I visited the site using GPS for navigation and arrived at a splendid house in Belgium. The occupier was very helpful and pointed me straightway to the bunker, completely hidden from the view, which had been mentioned in the regimental diary.

The evidence is at:

http://line.david.free.fr/bill.html

and is a continuation page from the maternal family page at

http://line.david.free.fr/noon.html

David Line
formerly of Gareth Grove/ Beechmont Close


7
General Discussion / Car free Downham?
« on: December 19, 2008, 02:46:06 PM »
I have no idea what the roads of Downham are like today but I can imagine them (correct me if I am wrong) being bumper-to-bumper with parked cars. In the 1950s a car in Downham was a rare site, so-much-so that as a youngster I paid particular attention to them.  Virtually all were pre-war and in poor condition. In Gareth Grove There were just three vehicles that were regularly parked there - A small ex-WD lorry owned by Mr Grimitt, a Swallow Sidecar bodied Austin 7 usually parked halfway up the road and which would now be worth a small fortune and, shock-horror!!, a brand new 1954 Austin Cambridge owned by Mr Hamilton who was a coal merchant and delived to the estate with a horse and cart.

I have vivid memories of car owners during the winter months stepping out with paraffin heaters to place on the road under their cars to stop them freezing overnight. I also remember during the Suez crisis, when petrol was rationed, the number of local vehicles which passed-by emitting a haze of blue-tinted exhaust smoke - a sure sign they were running on a petrol-paraffin mix.

Perhaps a more common sight was the proliferation of motor assisted bicycles. Small engines were either strapped onto the back of bikes and transmitted power through a roller onto the back tyre or formed part of the rear wheel assembly itself. The trade name Power Pak comes to mind. Our window cleaner employed such a lethal machine as this, riding the roads with a ladder over one shoulder and only one hand on the handlebar throttle.

Are there any more similar tales?

Happy Christmas

David Line 

8
Notable Downham Residents (past and present!) / Re: Notable Downhamites
« on: October 12, 2007, 03:37:45 PM »
All fascinating stuff, but it was not just "the famous" I was thinking about. More important were the ordinary folk who contributed to or impacted on the community in one way or another. It could be someone who gave time to help others, notable teachers at any of the Downham schools, tradesmen or vendors (remember the onion Johnnies in the 50s), those who acted bravely without thought for themselves during the blitz, or simply "characters". The possible list is endless. Don`t forget it is real people who make up a community and contribute to its history.

Best wishes

David

9
Notable Downham Residents (past and present!) / Notable Downhamites
« on: October 10, 2007, 08:34:32 AM »
Could I suggest a new forum is added to Downham Online. Contained on existing pages is a wealth of historical information about Downham which could be vital to future research on the estate. Sadly it is scattered amongst other postings which means it is virtually impossible to unearth without scrolling through scores of of less relevant material ( I am certainly guilty of adding to it ).

Why not kick off with memories of notable Downham characters with a forum allocated to just this subject? There has already been much mention made of Doctor Nathaniel Hockman who I believe deserves his own thread. There must be many like him such as Teddy Taylor (of the Teddy Taylor quintet) who was born on Downham and ran a successful band during the fifties and sixties and became a regular session musician for such radio programmes as Easy Beat and Saturday Club.

I would like to think we could assemble details about ordinary folk who, in one way or another, impacted on life in Downham. Even people like my uncle, Albert Afford who was a gas meter reader on the estate for nearly forty years. His claim to fame? It is said he frequently got more than a cup of tea when he read a housewife`s gas meter!

David Line

10
General Discussion / Re: Wot's 'Appening then?
« on: October 04, 2007, 09:23:34 AM »
Christine - yes I know the Normandy beaches very well. Sadly Arromanches has become very "touristy" and scores of new holiday homes have been built along the beaches which would have been completely empty at the time of the invasion. Perhaps more poignant is a small village along the coast called La Bataille where the French have left the German gun emplacements standing exactly as they were after the invasion. The heavy artillery remains in place and  includes shattered and rusting gun barrels left untouched where they fell ( a bit like the village Oradour sur Glane not far from where I live). It was at la Bataille that I nearly undid all of Europe`s post-war efforts to ensure a lasting piece. Visiting the site was evidently a former German officer who had seen action at this place. Despite my poor German he was pointing out to his wife how he had set up a machine gun to "take out" the allies as they landed. He was obviously very proud of the fact that he had accounted for many of our troops. At this point the "red mist" came down and I automatically went into the John Cleese school of goose-stepping and nazi salute. The German couldn`t see me but my wife could and she was frantically signalling me to stop but I saw no reason to. It turned out that standing behind me was the German`s 6ft tall and very blond and very fit son. The rest is another story save-to-say I escaped with my life.

Pip pip

David Line

11
General Discussion / Re: The Quaggy
« on: October 03, 2007, 11:12:06 AM »
Following a Forest Hill School re-union in Paris the other weekend ( just 10 of us, most of whom had not met up together since 1964 ) the subject of the Quaggy was raised - this is what one of my old school chums e-mailed soon after. You might find it amusing??

Following your comments about our local river, I took a stroll to Sutcliffe Park. In my childhood, the Quaggy ran in a concrete trough around two sides of the rectangular park. Then they put it in a pipe and it disappeared completely. But now it is open again, concrete free, and meanders across the diagonal. Sadly, it is not beautifully landscaped. They’ve taken a more ecological approach, i.e. it’s so overgrown with weeds that you can hardly see any water. So, I abandoned my plans of a quiet evening, sitting beside a babbling brook, watching the dead cats floating into the sunset . . .   I did some minimal research. According to my dictionary, a “Quag” is an area of boggy ground, particularly one that wobbles underfoot (c.f. “quaking bog”), whence “Quagmire” and “Quaggy”. There’s a fifty percent chance that it should be pronounced “Kwoggy” – to rhyme with “Foggy” – following the eccentric English spelling tradition that an “a” following a “qu” is sometimes pronounced as an “o” (as in “Quad”, “Quart”, “Quantity” etc.). I rather like that idea. Quoggy sound a lot muddier than Quaggy and, of course, it rhymes with “Moggy” . . . Damn! I’ve done it again.

            I also Googled “River Quaggy”. There are a bunch of anoraks called QWAG (“Quaggy Waterways Action Group”?) who publish maps, organise intrepid expeditions to discover the source etc. Apparently, the upper reaches of the Quaggy, where it flows through Bromley, are called the Kyd Brook although, inexplicably, it has given up this name long before it reaches Kidbrooke. The bit of Grove Park it passes through is called Chinbrook, for no obvious reason. And there’s a short section in Lee called “Dead Cat’s Reach” . . . Aaaagh! . . . Catford, of course, is so called because of all the dead . . . No! Stop it Roger!
             
            Best wishes

David Line
             

12
General Discussion / Re: Wakey! Wakey!
« on: July 15, 2007, 07:34:59 AM »
Brenda - sorry but Lemme was played by Alfie Bass. Guy Kingsley-Pointer played the part of Doc and Andrew Faulds (later to become a Labour MP) played the lead role. Perhaps more appropriately it was David Jacobs who played the part of the martian as well as announcer.

The BBC has issued a two-DVD set of all three Quatermass series. Sadly only two episodes of the first broadcast, The Quatermass Experiment, survived on film. The second series Quatermass II starring John Robinson as Prof. Quatermass was recorded on film while Quatermass and the Pit (perhaps the best of the lot) was recorded on very early video. Needless-to-say all are in black and white and, as the broadcasts went out live with some tele-cine, they contain all the missed cues, fluffed lines and studio gremlins.

I agree that radio paints better pictures - does anyone remember listening to the first ever broadcast of The Day of the Triffids starring Patrick Barr. If memory serves me right it was broadcast in six episodes during the Autumn of 1955. Great listening for a nine year old before nodding off to sleep.

David Line

13
General Discussion / Re: Chinbrook Park
« on: March 06, 2007, 01:17:22 PM »
Bren,

There was a pedestrian underpass which I am sure went under the railway line just south of Grove Park Station - perhaps I got the wrong road from which it was accessed.

Your other comments triggered memories of the Woodland Walk in Downham which, if memory serves me well, Started from near the Splendid Cinema. Is it still there or has it been covered in concrete?

David

14
General Discussion / Re: Chinbrook Park
« on: March 04, 2007, 07:05:41 PM »
Yes, there was a model boat pond at Chinbrook Park. My father and I often went there with my model sailing yacht and, on virtually every occasion, the mast broke. I seem to remember there was a "pedestrian underpass" into the park from Chinbrook Road. Did it pass under the railway? And also, Bren, I too remember the place being bereft of people.

15
General Discussion / Lewisham shop
« on: August 08, 2006, 11:54:58 AM »
I remember Dr Hockman visiting our home in (about) 1953. As a youngster I had gone down with mumps, measles and chicken pox in rapid succession. As a treat my mother had bought me a licquorice cigarette in the end of which was a dried pea covered in red foil to represent the burning tobacco. Definitely not PC these days. Being a curious child I unwrapped the pea and managed to sniff it up my nose where it became jammed. Dr Hockman was duly summoned and, with the aid of a small spatula, he manged to prise the pea loose and worked it down to my nostril. Sadly I had been holding my breath and just before he recovered the object I sniffed and back it went! He tried this three times with the same result and at which point, even I as a 7 year old, realised he was losing his temper. The result was a visit to Lewisham Hospital where the staff of trained sadists clamped me to an examining couch and after numerous attempts to dislodge the object finally felt that a recourse to anaesthetic was inevitable. Imagine a youngster  being held down by four nurses by his feet and hands while a surgeon probed his nose. Terror was not the word. The pea was removed while I was unconscious and I was returned home with my mother by Tram still barely conscious.

David Line

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