Well over sixty years ago my best friend was a boy named Paul Brewster. Paul was a big lad even at the age of nine or ten where I was comparatively small. Paul and his Mum and Dad lived on the top floors of fifty seven Gibson Square and I and my family were in the basement of fifty nine. Paul’s dad, John was a second hand car dealer and quite rich compared to my dad. On several occasions Paul and I would walk back to his place at school dinner times, where we would be by ourselves as both his mum and dad were working. I was at first amazed and delighted to see that they owned a modern record player and stacks and stacks of both 45 and 78 records.
Of course we spent most dinner times in Paul’s flat and played all of his dads records one after the other. One of my favourites was Johnny Ray singing “Just Walking in the Rain”, another was “Cotton Boss”. When I do occasionally hear those old songs played over the radio today, I can be instantly transported back to those dinner times where we had usually bought two crusty rolls from the bakers in Liverpool Road, for one penny and a halfpenny each. Then we would raid his mums cupboard for an Oxo cube each and with boiling water from the old kettle on the gas stove we each made a cup of gravy for ourselves. Often, we would dunk our rolls, bite by bite, to eat the soggy bread. Fortunately, his mum kept a big stock of Oxo cubes for some unknown reason.
Money was tight in those days and as kids we were largely protected from the worries of rationing and the austerity caused by the war. However, mum (when she could) used to give me threepence a day as pocket money. Sadly, both Paul, or me, used to save our money for three days in order to by five Woodbine cigarettes from the sweet shop in Barnsbury Street, that was managed by two very camp gay guys, who we thought of as just being friendly then. They would even split a packet of five in order to sell us just one cigarette for tuppence halfpenny – which we would share on our way home on some days. It was only a mile or so, from school to home but we nearly always ran the distance along Upper Street , through Barnsbury Street, past Milner Square, to reach Gibson Square. Those were such uncomplicated times, where I thought I knew everything about life.
Little, did I realise what a nasty cruel world awaited my development as a boy as I turned into a nasty cruel teenager – but that’s another story.