Monday 19 December 2011 11.56pm
Hello, my name is Wendy Wallace and I lived at number 65 Campbell Buildings from 1967 to 1971. Our building was the third along from Frazier Street
towards Lambeth North Tube Station. I also went to Joanna School with my sister Gillian, (two years younger). My mum a single mother, was called Pruderie but everybody called her by her nickname, ĎLuluí. Many of the people who lived there used to work for British Rail or London Transport. Some were in the armed forces. My neighbours were an Irish family. The motherís name was Mary but I have no recollection of surnames. My mother was born in Jamaica so we were part of the London Caribbean community. They seemed to be the only people who had rowdy booze and 'whatever' parties with full blast reggae music, which I am sure used to upset the neighbours. There was a Maltese family who lived on the first floor; Vera, Brigitte Angelo, Carmello and Maria. There was a lady called Violet who lived opposite. Her son, a year younger than me, was called Tyrone. My mother used to baby-sit for him. Then there was Peggy and her two children, Paul and Donna, a boy called Roy and my Uncle Tom, his wife Roselynne and their two children, Maria and Julie.
There being no playground meant that there wasnít much to do for children. I used to spend most of my time walking up and down the redbrick perimeter wall (which is still there) or hanging around the bins. I found a bottle of pills there once, thought they were sweets and shared them with my friends. We used to hang over the vent of the tube station, at the end of the red-brick wall or play hide and seek in the under ground car park of the office building next door to Lambeth North Tube. Extremely dangerous. When we were really bored we would run up and down the flat roof where our mothers hung their washing or climb up and down the outside of the building hanging onto the protective railings at the end of each stairway. There was only one tree. It had red berries on it but they canít have been poisonous because many a time I had had a mouthful. Just by that tree I got my head stuck in the railings and my neighbours called the fire brigade. They cut the railings with a giant pair of pliers. What nobody knows until now is that I was just pretending to be stuck because I was so bored. When the coalmen came with there lorry loaded with sacks of coal we would pick up odd bits of coal to mark hopscotch numbers onto the cold white cemented courtyard. Nice days were when the gasman came to empty the meter. Mum would give us pennies (old pennies) or sixpences to buy sweets. I would buy a lucky bag or bazooka bubble gum in winter or a jublee in summer. Ice cream was a bit more complicated. The ice-cream van would sound its melody but before most children could run upstairs to beg tuppence from their mothers it was gone, so we used to stand around the motherís of other children with sad looks on our faces hoping that somebody would feel sorry for us.
Wow! I remember the milkman too, although I could never remember his name.Thank you so much for reminding me. Angelo and I once stole his T-key and crashed the milk float into a wall. I remember, then, my mother being extremely upset and having to pay for the damage with her milk tokens.
I used to go to school all by myself. My mother showed me how to cross the road (with the green cross code) at the zebra crossing outside of Donís supermarket; just the once, and that was it. Independent at the age of five. My teacherís name was Miss Crabtree but Iím afraid I wasnít very nice to her. If ever I get the chance I have a lot of things to apologise for.
By the way, it snowed on my fifth birthday, Christmas Day 1970, about one centimeter. My mother spent her dole money to buy me a white-specked fur coat and a hat with bobbles on it, which I dutifully lost in church at Christmas mass. I was christened on that day at St. Paulís CE church in Brixton.
Now I live in the green countryside of northeast Italy and I often tell my friends about Campbell Buildings but they donít believe me when I tell them that we didnít have a bathroom. My mother used to give me a wash in a plastic bowl. We had no central heating or electric fires. There were two open fireplaces, one in the living room and one in the bedroom but I think my mother couldnít afford coal because we had one smelly, Esso blue paraffin heater- and there was no hot water. Our flat had three rooms; living room, bedroom, kitchen and a small toilet. My memories of Campbell Buildings are bleak to say the least; black and grey with ambiguous shades of brown. From the window of the bedroom which I shared with my mum and my half sister, I could see the hundred or so windows of the next building, about fifty yards away. Not a shade of green in sight. On bonfire night many of our neighbours would go up onto the roof to see the fireworks. I went just the once and the thing that amazed me most was the sight of a moonlit clock tower across the rooftops. And the wonderful resonance of a sound to which I was quite familiar. The ding-dong, ding-dong of Big Ben. At the time I had no idea where I was. I had no idea of being anywhere.