Its history like this that you fail to find in history books
How very true.
In the mid to late seventies, i would occassionally accompany my grandfather on his Egg Round,round NW London.Being of cherubic appearance and a well mannered lad many of the old ladies took a shine to me and would give me a few shillings each for sweets.
Now my grandfather was a raconteur,he could talk for hours on a subject without once repeating himself.What was even more amazing was the way he could keep his audience enthralled as they followed his tales attentively as they meandered without ever seaming to come to a logical conclussion.His stories would interweave with other tales and his audience would nod appriciativly as one tale,new in the telling would meet more familiar ground before being led off down a narrative sidetrack.
Now my grandfather was from the East End of London. He relocated with wife and family after the war.This was because the Street they used to live in was bombed by the Luftwaffe and was demolished.The whole area was redeveloped.
An important part of the stories he would tell on his Egg Round would center on who lived where and when.He could tell the whole history of a street and its inhabitants,more importantly where they moved to.I guess in those days the only way to trace someone was by asking someone where they lived,keeping track of who moved where, was a way keeping a community together over both distance and time.
Another part of his stories would involve the best way to get from one destination to another.Often one or more of the places involved or the landmarks on the way would no longer be there,requiring further diversions as explanations of when the Dry cleaners replaced the chipshop on Suchandsuch Street.When Wherefore Lane changed its name to Something Avenue.
I accompanied him again once in the early nineties,he was keen
as ever to show me off to the adoring ladies,Who would tell me how i had grown,how they knew me when i was "so tall" before giving me a pound for a drink.Age had taken its toll on some of the ladies,and though some were exactly as i had remembered them some 15 years before,some were excedingly frail,and some had passed on into the stories my grandfather told.
He is dead now and the lore he carried with him has vanished with him forever.I wish as a child i had listened more attentively to his stories,instead of gently tugging on his sleeve to hurry his stories along.But I was a child,what did i care of the names of long gone streets ?
But what struck me just the Other Day was, it wasnt the Stories that were Important,
It was the Act of rememberance.
That was what was Important.