Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve, 1947

That’s what is written on the back of this photograph in my mother’s handwriting. That’s me, striding along in my lisle stockings and my sensible shoes. And that’s Garby down the Lock. Both sets of my grandparents lived close. My mother’s parents lived about a mile away in Mandeville Road. They were “Nana and Garby round the corner.” Enfield was divided into several districts: there was Enfield Chase, Enfield Wash, Enfield Town, Enfield Highway and Enfield Lock, named for the lock there on the River Lea. My father’s parents lived in Enfield Lock, about two miles away. Hence “Nana and Garby down the Lock.”

Garby round the corner died when I was young. I mostly remember his moustache. But Garby down the Lock was very much a part of my growing up. He had served in India and then worked at the Royal Small Arms Factory. I remember his fondness for walking through the fields near the Lea and picking mushrooms, his love of jellied eels and his dachshund, Carlie. I remember vividly the combined living room/dining room of his little house and the picture which dominated one wall: a gondola moored on a canal which suggested Venice. I reframed the picture and now it hangs in my house.

This photo was taken in London, on Oxford Street. Then, and maybe still, street photographers would take photos of passers by. Garby must have purchased one as a memento of the day. I wonder what we did on that Christmas Eve. From the look of the objects under his arm, we must have done some shopping, probably in Selfridges or John Lewis. Did we have lunch in a Lyons Corner House? Did we travel up to the West End by bus or train? I don’t remember. I do remember that coat. It was a cornflower blue and made for me by my Auntie Doris, the cloth presumably bought with carefully hoarded clothing coupons. If you look carefully, you can see the deep hem. That coat was meant to be worn for years.

So many years, so many miles, so many Christmas Eves. To everyone reading this, best wishes for this Christmas Eve, for Christmas Day and for many years to come.

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