Writing that blog-post about how hearing Aled Jones singing took me back to the garden of my childhood brought more memories of those times back to me. I feel, as I write this, the nostalgia of asking myself “Where are they now?”.
Our length of Dunstall Road, Wolverhampton, has changed very much since those days. We lived on the side between Christ Church (now a beautiful mosque) and a disappeared pub called “The Australian”. And the houses opposite our terraces were built long after our crumbling places, and those newer ones still stand and look good.
Our “community” – if that’s the word – stretched about 100 yards along our side of the road in both directions. And the people who lived there were of the same social-class as was my family. I got to know many of those hard-working folk as I grew towards my teens. Which is the reason for me asking myself that imponderable question.
Their faces, way of talking and other characteristics are as clear to me now as back then. There were some youngsters of my own age. There were grown-ups in all stages of maturity. There were nice, friendly folk who far outnumbered the one or two miseries.
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I was a bit of a solitary sort of kid. Though I played in the street with some of my peers, or mixed with them at Christ Church School in Leicester Street, I didn’t really see them as friends.
For a while, I swapped comics – usually American ones which Mom got for me from a little shop in Evans Street – with a lad known as “Piglet” Smith. Vic – for that was his real name – lived round the corner in Staveley Road, and was a nice lad. But Mom said his family were “a bit funny” and put an end to our comic-swaps.
And my whole community, limited to our side of the street as it was, was neighbourly in the old-fashioned way. Like here in the little Welsh village where I live now, word-of-mouth updated local news. For instance, up the road lived one Billy Collins who liked little boys. He would try to lure us into his house with offers of sweets. He must have been very frustrated: the word had gone round about his “preferences” and our parents had warned us. Today, I suppose, communities have stronger ways of dealing with such men.
So that’s the sort of working-class community I grew up in. I did not keep in touch with anyone in the street when I went into the Army at nineteen, not even my cousins who lived in the same six-house “back” as us.
My life had changed so, so much by the time I was demobbed. And many of the neighbours who’d lived in our street seemed to have disappeared.
I wonder – often – if there’s anyone still around the Dunstall Road area who remembers those now distant days. So I ask, and even wrote a poem which asks “Where are they now?”.