February 4th, 2017


Terror On The High Street

We'd had our eyes tested and chosen new frames for our new spectacles and were just about to pay when the fire alarm started clanging and the manager hustled everyone out of the shop. Smoke had been detected on an upper floor. Customers were also being cleared from the shops to left and right. "Please keep away from the windows," said the person who'd been put in charge of the evacuation- and I had a vision of an immense fireball blossoming out into the street- as in the movies. A fire engine arrived. Ailz wanted to hang around and watch the fire brigade go about its business but I'd had quite enough excitement and- with her permission- left her to enjoy the spectacle while I wandered up the road and visited the Oxfam Bookshop- where I bought a copy of Kenneth Grahame's The Golden Age with illustrations by W.H. Shepherd. By the time I got back to SpecSavers the crisis was over and Ailz was back inside proceeding with our business. She told me that someone had told her that the smoke had originated in the staff common room and that just before she opened up again the manager had assembled the staff in a back room to give them the benefit of her thoughts ...

Great Aunt Enid's Photo Stash 1

A family of glum Edwardians take tea in the garden.

Great Aunt Enid- my maternal grandfather's sister- kept meticulous records. I could tell you who everyone in this picture is, but most of them are just names to me. Enid is the particularly glum person sitting in the foreground, like Patience on a monument, gazing to the right. My grandfather is the boy standing to the right with his hand on the upright of the deck chair.

The setting is the garden of  house called Brightlands,  in Croydon. The time is Summer 1904.


Great Aunt Enid's Photo Stash 2

More glum Edwardians.

This is the Sanderstead Ladies Hockey Club First XI, 1908-9. Enid is second from the right on the back row. Her sister Elfrida (Elf) is sitting on the ground to the left.

Elf was a star player, described in the report of a match between Kent and Surrey as "hitting hard and true". Enid is commended in the same report for "her telescopic reach".

My Grandfather's Photo Stash 1

My paternal grandfather suppressed his early history and there are no pictures of him as a child. We first encounter him as a young man- as here- at the very end of the Great War- in the uniform of an RAF warrant officer.


My Grandfather's Photo Stash 2

This is Grandpa's finest hour- as a member of the first delegation of Western industrialists to be admitted to the USSR after the war. These pictures are from a set showing them being given a tour of the Kremlin.

Grandpa is on the front row, second from the left. I'm thinking the man in the middle with the moustache may be their guide or minder; he looks nervous- as well one might be when one is dealing with wicked western capitalists and is answerable to Comrade Beria.

Here they are on the steps in front of the Cathedral of the Assumption. Grandpa is in the back row, second from the right.

And here they are next to the Tsar Bell- the biggest bell in the world- which fell to bits when it was being cast and has therefore never been rung. Grandpa is the figure in the middle, a step or two in front of everybody else.