One of my greatest pleasures, when I was a young child, in the years following the end of World War II, was when my father would take me, at weekends, on trips to various parts of London.
Of course at times we would go and play in the local park, but, in those days young children tended to roam and run free in their own neighbourhoods, so I could visit the park (and beyond !) any time I felt like it: but those trips with my dad were something special; although I didn’t realize it at the time.
My dad was a railway worker, and I was always amazed just how well known he was, for as we travelled on, what was then the Southern Railway, he was always greeted with a .. “Hello Jack !” .. and .. “Is that your boy ?” .. by uniformed railway staff everywhere, and as no ticket inspector ever asked to see his ticket, or the one I didn’t have, I imagined that he must be someone of importance. In fact, he was just a humble carpenter, but of course, in those days, like many ‘industrial’ workers, railwaymen were a fairly close-knit bunch.
Our sightseeing trips often included other sorts of ‘sites’, for London was still showing the devastating effects of the Luftwaffe’s visits and Hitler’s V1 and V2 missiles. However this did not stop us from strolling along The Mall or Regent Street and visiting the Tower of London and Saint Paul’s Cathedral. London was a very different place then, and in particular ‘The City’, for that one square mile and the nearby docks of the ‘Pool of London’ had been very badly damaged during ‘The Blitz’, but there were still alleyways to explore and the strangely beautiful ruins of churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren to marvel at.
It seems strange now that my dad knew so much about London and it’s history, for he had only a limited education, having left school at the age of thirteen. However, he had spent a good deal of time repairing bomb damage done to London’s railway stations and bridges during the war, so I guess that he must have picked up some knowledge along the way.
I can well remember a day when we found ourselves in one of London’s recently reopened art galleries. It was full of huge rooms; which, in turn, were full of huge paintings, depicting huge ladies, showing huge amounts of naked flesh ! It was all very puzzling to a young lad still in short pants, and I can still see the amused expression on my dad’s face as he saw me wondering why none of them had any naughty bits.
When my daughter was young I used to take her on similar trips, only this time it was by car. We would watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and feed the ducks in Saint James’ Park. Her favourite treat was always a visit to the fun fair in Battersea Park, but I believe that the biggest treat for both of us was that …
… her Grandad came too !