Snapshots from a Child's West London

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Snapshots from a Child's West London

I remember my cherished Wolf Cub pack, 
How I loved those Wednesday evenings, 
The games, the pomp and seriousness of the camps, 
The different coloured scarves, sweaters and hair 
During the mass meetings, 
The solemnity of my enrolment, 
Being helped up a tree by an older boy, 
Baloo, or Kim, or someone, 
To win my Athletics badge, 
Winning my first star, my two year badge, 
And my swimming badge 
With its frog symbol, the kindness of the older boys.
                                                                    
I remember a child's West London.
                                                                    
One Saturday afternoon, after a football match
During which I dirtied my boots 
By standing around as a sub in the mud, 
And my elbow by tripping over a loose shoelace, 
An older boy offered to take me home. 
We walked along streets, 
Through subways crammed with rowdies, 
White or West Indian, in black gym shoes. 
"Shuddup!" my friend would cheerfully yell, 
And they did.
"We go' a ge' yer 'oame, ain' we mite, ay?"
"Yes. Where exactly are you taking me?" I asked.
                                                                    
"The bus stop at Chiswick 'Oigh Stree' 
Is the best plice, oi reck'n."
"Yes, but not on Chiswick High Street,"
I said, starting to sniff.
"You be oroight theah, me lil' mite."
I was not convinced. 
The uncertainty of my ever getting home 
Caused me to start to bawl,
And I was still hollering 
As we mounted the bus. 
I remember the sudden turning of heads. 
It must have been quite astonishing 
                                                                    
For a peaceful busload of passengers 
To have their everyday lives 
Suddenly intruded upon 
By a group of distressed looking Wolf Cubs, 
One of whom, the smallest,
Was howling red-faced with anguish 
For some undetermined reason. 
After some moments, my friend, 
His brow furrowed with regret, 
As if he had done me some wrong, said:
"I'm gonna drop you off 
Where your dad put you on."
                                                                    
Within seconds, the clouds dispersed, 
And my damp cheeks beamed. 
Then, I spied a street I recognised
From the bus window, and got up, 
Grinning with all my might:
"This'll do," I said. 
"Wai', Carl," cried my friend, 
Are you shoa vis is 'oroigh'?"
"Yup!" I said. I was still grinning
As I spied my friend's anxious face 
In the glinting window of the bus 
As it moved down the street.
                                                                    
I remember a child's West London.
                                                                    
One Wednesday evening, 
When the Pops was being broadcast 
Instead of on Thursday, 
I was rather reluctant to go to Cubs, 
And was more than usually uncooperative 
With my father as he tried 
To help me find my cap, 
Which had disappeared.
Frustrated, he put on his coat 
And quietly opened the door. 
I stepped outside into the icy atmosphere 
Wearing only a pair of underpants,
                                                                    
And to my horror, he got into his black Citroen 
And drove off. I darted down Esmond Road,  
Crying and shouting. 
My tearful howling was heard by Margaret, 
19 year old daughter of Mrs Helena Jacobs, 
Whom my mother used to help 
With the care and entertainment 
Of Thalidomide children. 
Helena Jacobs expended so much energy 
On feeling for others,  
That when my mother tried to get in touch 
In the mid '70s, she seemed exhausted, 
                                                                    
And quite understandably, 
For Mrs O'Keefe, her cleaning lady 
And friend for the main part 
Of her married life
Had recently been killed in a road accident. 
I remember that kind 
And beautiful Irish lady, 
Her charm, happiness and sweetness, 
She was the salt of the earth. 
She threatened to ca-rrown me
When I went away to school...
If I wrote her not.
                                                                    
Margaret picked me up
And carried me back to my house. 
I put on my uniform 
As soon as she had gone home, 
Left a note for my Pa, 
And went myself to Cubs. 
When Pa arrived to pick me up, 
The whole ridiculous story 
Was told to Akela, 
Baloo and Kim, 
Much, much, much to my shame.
                                                                    
I remember a child's West London.
                                                                    
The year was 1963, the year of the Beatles, 
Of singing yeah, yeah, yeah in the car, 
Of twisting in the playground, 
Of "I'm a Beatlemaniac, are you?"
That year, I was very prejudiced 
Against an American boy, Raymond, 
Who later became my friend. 
I used to attack him for no reason, 
Like a dog, just to assert my superiority. 
One day, he gave me a rabbit punch in the stomach 
And I made such a fuss that my little girlfriend, Nina,
Wanted to escort me to the safety of our teacher, 
                                                                    
Hugging me, and kissing me intermittently 
On my forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks. 
She forced me to see her:
"Carl didn't do a thing," said Nina, 
"And Raymond came up and gave him 
Four rabbit punches in the stomach."
Raymond was not penalized, 
For Mademoiselle knew 
What a little demon I was, 
No matter how hurt 
And innocent I looked, 
Tearful, with my tail between my legs.
                                                                    
I remember a child's West London.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2015

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