16/09/2021

FULHAM

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In the middle of all of the LIVE fun we had decided to move into London.

24 Greswell Street, Fulham, London SW6 6PP

This was a typical Fulham terraced house; no front garden and a relatively small rear one, the only access was through the house.  It had an enormously long and attractive kitchen (picture) and features which made it very similar in feel to Bedford but at half its width.

Almost as soon as we moved in we walked to the bottom of our road to Bishop’s Park on the Thames and looked over the railings to see the Boat Race crews preparing for that day’s race – stunning to see it up close and personal after years of watching BBC broadcasts – we watched them start and went back home to see the finish on television.

We were also just along the road from Craven Cottage. At the time Fulham had yet to become a Premiership team, its small fan-base on a Saturday relied on reminiscing about the good old days.  Not sure I would be keen to live there now that they attract real crowds.

My Blenheim office (more later) was just five miles away in Chiswick but one night it took me eighty minutes to drive home!  However, for nights out, theatre etc, we were inside the city and getting to and from theatres and restaurants was a dream. Jane found a teaching role just across the bridge in Putney.

We had a great loft conversion done here. The builder was brilliant, perhaps the most organised we ever used.  We moved up to the new floor and through our Velux windows could see a dozen planes lining up on approach to Heathrow.  They were too high to be a sound hazard, except for the daily Concorde flight – but as three of our four parents had worked at BAe on that project, we felt a special pride at its unique look and sound.

When I later left Fulham we weren’t tired of life, or of London, but with Jane’s father having recently died we felt we should move back to Redland in Bristol, near her mother.

ASIDE: I had followed Chelsea FC ever since my Sweda days, sparked by watching that FA Cup match in Rome. One of our LIVE! exhibitors was Commodore, CFC’s sponsors at the time, and invited me into the Directors’ Box on several occasions.

On one of these I was selected to give the home prize for man-of-the-match to the winning player. It had been declared to be between Frank Sinclair and Dennis Wise, and they were both ushered into the Directors’ Box after the match. When formally handing the prize bottle to Dennis Wise, I rather unwisely mentioned I had personally voted for Frank. The look that Wise gave me was withering!

I also got invited to the FA Cup Final 1994, still the only FA Cup Final I have ever attended. They met Man Utd and it could have all been really rewarding. There was a large group of us and the Commodore guy had relieved us all of cash to forecast the time of the first goal and in a separate draw the first scorer. At my selected first-goal time, my randomly-drawn player, Gavin Peacock, hit a long shot on the half-volley that was goal-bound. I am still convinced that as the ball disappeared behind one of the old Wembley pillars it proved enough to divert it a tad, and he hit the cross-bar. Had it not, I would have been almost £1,000 richer, and Chelsea, which was the better side in the first half, would have been 1-0 up.

But it wasn’t to be, two penalties were awarded and converted by Eric Cantona. The referee is on record as saying he regretted giving the second penalty, stating ‘It was my big game and I made a disappointing decision’ – tell me about it! Then Frank Sinclair slipped and allowed Mark Hughes in to score the third, and to think I almost helped him to a prior ‘Man-of-the-Match award’! We lost 4-0 in the end and I skulked out of Wembley, walking through drizzle back to the Tube station and rattled back to Fulham on the world’s worst carriage.

Moving house

While Matt was at college in London, he and Ruth decided to set up home in Bethnal Green and of course both sets of parents offered to help with their move. While I was on my knees helping to assemble their futon, Stuart, Ruth’s father must have felt surplus to requirements and went for a walk in the neighbourhood. He is a super-bright guy who held many senior medical appointments, but just occasionally appears a tad other-worldly. When he returned, he mused, ‘Interesting people around here, sort of working-class peasants.’ We said we hoped he hadn’t actually called them this to their face. It has since become a family term we still often use, as in ‘He looks like a WCP’ and so on.

ASIDE: Before Ruth had moved down to join Matt in Bethnal Green he had lived in halls. One afternoon he and a pal (later to become his best man) had been at the Uni Bar. While queueing for a bus to run them back to their halls, the police pulled up and arrested his mate, Brad, as a suspect for robbing the pub – directly across from the bus stop. Their reasoning was that the suspect was fair-haired, tall and Northern, and this fitted Brad perfectly. Though why the actual criminal would stand on a bus stop opposite the scene of the crime was never explained. He was taken to the station, locked up, questioned and later put in an identity parade. His father, a solicitor in Leeds, got him released and the whole thing petered out subsequently.

But Matt and Brad were in their East End local, the Durham Arms, and explained what had happened to the barman. He leant across the bar and said the same thing had happened to him some years back, then paused and added ‘But I did it!’ Clearly part of the area’s WCPs – of course this was very much on the Kray Twins’ manor.

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