I'm finding this Inner Child reading so interesting and in so many ways and not just for the flood of memories, though plenty more nostalging today.
So far I discover that books which captured my heart as a child are now just refusing to be read with any degree of adult criticism, somehow it would feel like criticising my younger reading self. Thus Magnolia Buildings by Elizabeth Stucley, a memorable favourite, has been allowed fairly broad license in its depiction of a solid working class family living in a block of flats and first published in 1960. The illustrations are by Dick Hart and they add something quite special.
The Berners family, Mum and Dad and daughters Ally and Doreen and sons Val and Lenny plus Auntie Glad are all squeezed into their tiny high rise flat, number 49 Magnolia Buildings. The only water is in a scullery and the bath is under the kitchen table and if you want to dry your hair expect to do it leaning over the electric fire.
The relentlessly cheerful Mrs B is up at crack of dawn to do her cleaning jobs while the curmudgeonly Mr B is off to work on the railways lifting not much of a finger to help with anything, returning home for dinner and doing his pools coupon before a night out drinking at the The Cock. The invisible Auntie Glad looks after herself and silently glides off to her dressmaking job and the children seem to sort themselves out and struggle off to school.
This is the children's world of gangs, the Eleven Plus, Saturday morning cinema and the ever-present threat of Approved School or Borstal for anyone who gets into trouble. Everyone dreams in their own way of escape but without money that seems nigh on impossible, but dreams have potential and there can be little doubt that the clever Doreen will educate her way out of Magnolia Buildings, whilst Alli will snip her way out as a 'glamour' hairdresser and Auntie Glad has a surprise or two up her sleeve too. As for Val and Lenny, well the future for the boys interestingly far less certain than that of the girls.
Mrs B keeps her ship afloat with vast amounts of humour and light-heartedness but have no doubt,when the going gets tough she stands no nonsense.
But yet again a flood of childhood memories, what about the excitement of the fair?
Mitcham Fair was the highlight of our year and this is actually it in 1963. We were there somewhere for sure.
Then the circus coming to town.
It's here somewhere, my programme from Billy Smart's Circus...yes, she who throws nothing away has found it.
Believe it or not and hate the thought as many may well do, that night we saw amongst others the Chimpanzees, oh good grief...trained Polar Bears (I ask myself trained in what?) , the Flying Leotaris from Germany, the Five Katyanas from Hungary on the high trapeze, the Digger Pugh Aerial Ballet from Australia, the 'mighty herd of Elephants' and a Wild West show with warnings of a considerable amount of gunfire.
Then there's the sunburn on the seaside holidays, the Berners children all burn to a frazzle, peel and then tan nicely, well I don't know about you but we all did that.
Did suntan lotion exist?
I'm sure I was about thirteen and on my umpteenth layer of skin before a bottle of Ambre Solaire oil was invented, and even then that just helped us burn more evenly.
The trip to the maze at Hampton Court...been lost (and scared) in there a few times.
Guy Fawkes and Penny-for-the-Guy. Whatever happened to that?
Legitimate begging on the streets by children.
Pressing the B buttons in the phone box in case some change fell out...go on own up...
It's all there in Magnolia Buildings.
On the forgiveness-over-criticism front, one or two racist undertones from Mr Berners not in the least unusual for 1960s Britain as we know all too well, but all thankfully rapidly dismissed by the wonderful Mrs Berners.
Little seems to be known about Elizabeth Stucley beyond her origins in North Devon and her descent from Sir Richard Grenville of the Revenge, but by all accounts a varied career in teaching, wartime service as a driver in France and work as a children's occupational therapist. At one time, before eventually moving to Bath, her home on Clapham Common a mecca for local children where she started The Adventurer's Club and Magnolia Buildings apparently written for and about those children.
Imagine doing all that without a Criminal Records Bureau check and Ofsted inspections these days.