Going Home

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Sep 08 ~ Day #121
Budget to date
Spent today
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Miles by Sea
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Current Location: Custom House, London

Today’s Total Expenses: $114.03

Transportation: $19.59 (£12.60 for the Tubes)
Accommodation: $75.64
Food: $18.80 (£11.98 for Bangers & Mash)

Written by Geoff Wells

I grew up in England. From the time I was born to when I emigrated to Canada at the age of 17 we lived in the same house in a suburb of London called Edgware.

Our local underground station was called Queensbury, which was on the Bakerloo Line. Directly opposite the Queensbury underground station was the Esoldo Theatre which was a marvelous old building with an elegant restaurant on the balcony level. My mother and I would stop in for afternoon tea on our walk home from my piano lessons.

My parents purchased our home before the Second World War and had lived there during the London Blitz. I didn’t come along until after my dad got out of the army.

It’s not a big house, just two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs with a living room, dining room and kitchen downstairs. We had a good sized back garden where dad grew all kinds of fresh vegetables. The front garden was a typical English floral garden with lots of fabulous smelling roses.

Today I was going home for the first time in more than 45 years. I expected there would be changes but I was not prepared for what I found.

We caught the DLR (Dockland Light Rail) train at the Custom House stop and made our way to the Jubilee Line.

Some time, about 10 years ago, the Bakerloo Line got shifted around and my home stop was now on the newly created Jubilee Line.

Okay, you have to expect some changes after 45 years, even in England. Nothing really looked familiar until we got to the Kingsbury Station which is the stop before Queensbury. This is a journey I made every day when working at my first job in London. The Queensbury station was familiar but much smaller than I remember.

The Esoldo Theatre was replaced by a seedy looking apartment building. Everywhere I looked were buildings that were familiar but nothing looked quite right.

The walk from the station to my old home was much shorter than I remembered and the houses along the way were looking tired and in need of care.

My dad and neighbours on the street were proud of their gardens and worked tirelessly on wonderful displays of flowers. All the gardens were gone, concreted over to provide parking spaces.

On a whim I rang the bell on my house not really expecting anyone to be home. We saw the curtains move and then a lady with a head scarf opened the door.

I explained who I was and surprisingly she invited us in. I’m sure if Vicky had not been with me she would not have done so. She very graciously showed us around and even offered us refreshments.

From the street the house looked close to how I remembered it. The garden was gone and the front door was different but I could still reconcile my memories with today’s reality.

Inside was a different story – nothing was the same. It was so small – there was no way the furniture I remember could possibly have fit.

We had three fireplaces in the house and they were all gone. The wall separating the living room and dining room had been torn down and the two downstairs fireplaces were covered by built-in closets.

The kitchen and pantry had changed so much there was no way I could fit my mental picture into what I was seeing.

When I was young, my brother had built in cupboards on one wall but I ripped them out and put the head of my bed where they had been. This gave much more room but ironically now the new owners have built a new set of built-in cupboards where the old ones had been 50 years ago.

The next stop was the shopping parade on Mollison Way. This is where we went every day for groceries, meat and bread. At the head of the parade was the Flying Eagle Pub, the off-license and the fish and chip shop.

The Flying Eagle is now an Indian restaurant and the fish and chip shop now sells kebabs.

Not a single shop is the same – groceries, butcher, green grocer, fish monger, drug store, bakers – all gone. There is still a Post Office in the news agents but the store is totally different.

We continued walking as I struggled to find anything familiar. We kept going right into Edgware and the site of another favourite theatre that had been torn down and replaced with apartments. Both the butchers and the hardware store I had worked at as a kid were gone.

I gave up. This was not anything like the area I grew up in and nothing was familiar. We caught a bus that would take us along the Edgware Road back to London.

I am not naive enough to believe that I could return and find everything exactly like I left it but I did expect some degree of familiarity. At the very least, I would hope for improvements, but I didn’t see any.

The new residents of this area do not seem to share the same values as my parents.

My father paid £500 for our house which is now worth £250,000 but I don’t think I would want to move back even if I could get it for what my dad paid.

My home is gone and all that is left are the memories.

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