Here we are again, 2am and I'm wide awake. For the second night running I've gone to bed at a reasonable time, read until my eyelids doop turned off the light and ZAP!! - eyes wide open, brain in overdrive, husband snoring in blissful sleep. This is an inheritance from the last 2-3 years of my working life when this used to happen on a very regular basis. In those days my nocturnal ramblings were mostly work-related and unpleasant and many's the time I was in my office at 4.30am because that was the only way I could solve my problem, on its home ground. That's all over now, thank the Lord, and well & truly behind me but gone are the days when I would sleep through anything, even hurricanes.
Anyway I've decided to write this masterpiece now instead of later. I'm sitting with hot chocoate and good old pencil and paper as I think that sitting in front of a computer screen tapping away at a keyboard is conducive to lulling me to sleep. I'll post it after breakfast.
When I got up this morning (no yesterday morning) the sky was grey with rain-filled clouds, there was loads of housework waiting to be done and the breakfast newspaper was full of depressing news - the government caught in more lies, Tessa Jowell and the Italian job, the resignation of NHS boss over over a record £620 million pound black hole in finances (but please don't worry about him, Tony's giving him a peerage), the rape of an 11-year-old in a supermarket toilet and all sorts of other nasty stuff. So I thought: 'Sod it, I'm off to Kingston to research bookshops with coffee drinking facilities'. on went the lipstick, eyeliner and hair gel and off went I.
The scenic route was my journey of choice. It's a bit longer but more interesting. It also takes me through places connected with my life up until we moved here to Chertsey, some 36 years ago and for some reason today I felt particularly nostalgic about them.
First jog of the memory was Lower Sunbury. Sunbury on Thames was where I was raised from the age of 6 months and Lower Sunbury is the prettier bit of it, bordered by the River Thames. Although 2-3 miles from where I lived in Upper Sunbury, this is where I came a lot in my childhood and teens when the world seemed a lot safer and a 9/10-year-old could be out and about with a group of friends and no-one would worry. First there is the building belonging to Thames Water Authority where my Dad, who died when I was 11, worked for a short time one summer as a night-watchman. My mother and I used to walk there sometimes in the evening to keep him company.Then past the road where my first real love lived. Unfortunately the feelings were not reciprocated and he buggered off to County Durham early in the relationship. The next landmark is Monksbridge, a lovely house backing on to the river, where Edward VIII visited often when he was Prince of Wales but in later years was more famous as the home of Diana Dors and her infamous parties.
Now we go past the hairdresser/newsagent on the left (now boarded up) where I had a Saturday job and the open air swimming pool on the right where I never learnt to swim.
Hampton is next, still following the river, but no particular memories here - apart from the one of friends who were married in the church there in the '50s by a bogus vicar, so were not married at all. Quite a scandal in those days!! There are some lovely houses nearby including a villa used by David Garrick who built a temple dedicated to Shakespeare at the bottom of his garden. It's still there.
Past Bushy park, where there is a fairground every bank holiday, on to Hampton Court a wonderful place to visit.
Here I make a detour because I dislike driving through Kingston town centre and want to approach it from the other side so it's turn right over Hampton Court Bridge and straight on to Weston Green, Thames Ditton. This is a lovely memory; it's where we lived for about two years when we got married in 1963.
Now we come to a really exciting bit. There used to be, in Thames Ditton, a motorcycle dealership and workshop called Comerfords. I worked there up until I had Pete and one day, in front of me, sitting on a wall, there was.. Steve McQueen. Oh, he was gorgeous! Apparently he came over here sometimes to race his bikes and on this particular occasion he was using the workshop facilities.
And so into Kingston - loads of memories too numerous to bore you with now - because it was a huge part of my early working and married lives.
By the way, it seems that all of the big bookshops in Kingston (Borders, Waterstones and even WH Smith) have a Starbucks or similar in them now. Hoorah!!!!!
Apart from my dalliance (I wish) with Steve I have also been fortunate enough to encounter one or two other celebrities along the way:
Adam Faith gave me a lift to work once in his Rolls Royce. He was a really nice bloke.
I sat next to Jack Palance in a cinema in Leicester Square.
The Queen Mother's car had to stop behind a bus from which I was alighting on my way home from school. I got a nice smile and a wave.
I once spoke to Rod Steiger on the phone in my capacity as a telephonist at the GPO's Continental Exchange - my first job c.1956.
If, like me, you've reached the end of this post without falling asleep - thanks for your patience. Much appreciated.