London Walks: Bermondsey And Rotherhithe

Two more of Joolz’s Guides London walk videos. This time with a very personal connection to beetleypete!
(Each short film is around fifteen minutes long)

The first is a tour of Bermondsey, the district just immediately south and east of Tower Bridge, on the banks of The Thames. We see how the former leather-making district has becme ‘gentrified’ since the 1980s, but all the historic buildings remain. I was born in Bermondsey, and lived there until I was 15, when my parents moved us away to the suburbs. In my youth, the leather industry was still very much in evidence, and the modern-day food markets and smart delicatessens were traditional street markets, and cheap cafes.

The second film features Rotherhithe, which is a continuation of the walk from Bermondsey, along the riverbank to the east. Once again, we see the preserved history, and how docks and warehouses, where my grandfather and my mother worked during WW2, have now been converted into smart (and very expensive) apartments and restaurants. Joolz continues to the famous riverside pubs The Angel and The Mayflower. I moved back to Rotherhithe in 1985, and lived not far from The Mayflower. In fact, I had my second wedding reception in the upstairs restaurant of the pub, in 1989! It has famous connections with The Pilgrim Fathers, and the founding of America.

If anyone is planning a visit to London, watch to the end of the second video. You will see that you can book Joolz for a personalised tour of London, and contact details are shown. I couldn’t think of anyone better to show you around, except me of course!

Video: Another London Walk

My friend Antony has sent me another very interesting video from Joolz, the London tour guide. This time, he walks around Fitzrovia, delving into the fascinating history of the area, and some of the quirky shops and buildings too. I often walked through those streets to get to work, and as I lived close to the Post Office Tower which is seen in the film, it brought back a lot of memories for me.

If you ever visit London, you might never see this district, but it is so close to some of the traditional tourist sights, it is worth a short diversion.

The clip is just over twenty minutes long.

Ambulance life

Reblogging a 2012 post that nobody (except A) has seen. It is about my early days as an EMT in London. It is all very different now of course.

beetleypete

For those who read my posts on a regular basis, you may see a pattern appearing in my ‘Ambulance Stories’ category. That pattern is that many of the calls we were sent to, differ greatly from the description given to us by Ambulance Control. This may seem fanciful and affected to the outsider, though I can assure you that all these stories are 100% accurate. Perhaps some explanation of general life as an Ambulanceman in London (at least when I was still in it ) will put some of this into better context.

At the time I joined, the London Ambulance Service was a very different organisation to the one it is today. It was short-staffed, under-funded, and the staff were poorly paid, and did the job with very little equipment. Many of the operational managers were ex-military types, and the uniform reflected this, in being totally unsuitable for the…

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Tourist London: A Walk In History

My friend Antony sent me another of the You Tube videos of Joolz presenting one of his very informative walks.

This time, he is walking around some very famous Central London tourist areas, and giving a detailed history in his inimitable style.
(The film is just under 30 minutes long.)

If you have ever wandered around the same places, you may well be interested in the background to them.

Nine Years Ago Today

On the 23rd of March, 2012, I moved away from London for good, and arrived in Norfolk.

My wife Julie was already here. Having had to start a job locally, she had moved up on the 31st of December, 2011.

That week in March is one I will never forget. I had my retirement party on the 12th, my mum died on the 14th, and I was 60 years old on the 16th.

For the first months I lived here, I felt as if I was on holiday. Julie was still working full-time then, so I was alone during the day, in a totally unfamiliar place. The quiet of Beetley really got to me then. In a good way, making me relish the move away from the noise and bustle of Central London. But there was still a part of me that wondered if I would ever feel at home in this Norfolk village. I felt out of place even walking up to the post-box.

Getting Ollie saved the day. Having a dog to walk meant that I encountered many other people. Very soon, there was a regular group of walkers, all enjoying the antics of our dogs playing together.

However, I still found it hard to shake the feeling of being rather ‘lost’. So I became a volunteer at the local school, teaching cycling road safety. Then I took on a second voluntary job, working for the Fire and Rescue Service as a home safety officer; fitting smoke alarms, and giving talks and presentations to various groups around the county.

During this time, my friend Antony suggested I start writing a blog, which I began in the summer of 2012.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Of Interest To Photographers

My friend Antony sent me a link to a short (16 minute) film on You Tube.

Two photographers travel to London to experience the city when it is almost deserted during lockdown.

They video themselves, and explain the ideas and the process, also the camera settings and equipment used.

Some of the resulting stills are shown alongside the original video footage.

For me, it was fascinating to see this area of Central London almost empty of people. Soho, Seven Dials, and Covent Garden, places where I worked and walked every day for the last twelve years I spent in that city. Even if you have no interest in cameras or photography, you might enjoy seeing the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the capital city of England.

(There are some short advertisements dring the video, but they can be skipped.)

Bringing Granddad Home

My maternal grandfather died quite young. He was only around 65 years old. I heard the news of course, and despite being only 12 years old myself, I took it quite well, without getting too upset. As was tradition, he was ‘laid out’ in a coffin in the parlour of the house, and every member of the family was taken to see him. It was the first time I had seen a dead body, and to me he seemed to just be sleeping. He had a short funeral, followed by a burial in Nunhead Cemetery, South London.

Many years later, quite recently in fact, I learned the true circumstances of his death, and how the family ‘brought granddad home’.

He died in Essex, at a place called Heybridge, near the town of Maldon. It was just over fifty miles from his home in the London district of Bermondsey. He and my nan had been enjoying a short holiday in a caravan they had bought some years earlier, to enjoy their retirement weekends and summer breaks. My nan had woken up that morning to find him dead beside her. He was cold, and very white. She had seen enough dead people to know nothing could be done. For many years, he had been receiving treatment for Angina, so it seemed likely a heart attack had taken him during the night.

Back then (1965) it wasn’t usual to ring for an ambulance when someone died. But a death did have to be officially confirmed, usually by the family doctor. It then had to be reported to the Police too. But my nan was fifty miles away from home, so she did something different. She walked to a nearby telephone box, and rang her eldest daughter, my aunt Edie. Edie in turn rang my mum, and then the younger sister, Betty. All three were married, and it was decided that the brothers-in-law would be enlisted to deal with the situation.

Edie’s husband was called Albert, and he had the biggest car. He picked up my dad, and then went to get Betty’s husband, Benjamin. They drove the fifty miles to the caravan through heavy Sunday traffic in east London and the Essex suburbs. When they arrived, they packed up my grandparents’ things, and dressed my dead granddad in his overcoat, to cover his pyjamas. Then they propped him up in the back seat of the car, his head against the window. My dad and Benjamin sat in the back with him, to make sure he stayed upright, and didn’t slip down. With my nan in the front, and Albert driving, they set off for the house in Bermondsey.

Despite encountering some heavy traffic on the return journey, nobody outside the car appeared to notice that anything was amiss. Once back at my nan’s house, they quickly carried granddad inside, then put him into bed in his pyjamas as my nan was telephoning for the doctor. The doctor arrived, and immediately pronounced my granddad dead, knowing nothing of the fiasco surrounding his return from Essex. He was prepared to issue a death certificate with Angina as the cause, and he also notified the Police. Undertakers were called to bring a coffin, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

It seems my nan was afraid that if she rang for help in Essex, granddad’s body would be taken to the mortuary at Colchester Hospital. That might involve a post-mortem examination too. Instead, she relied on her family to do the right thing, and get her husband back home.

It’s one of those, ‘you couldn’t make it up’, stories, and is now a source of great amusement to many of our family members.

Times were different then. They certainly were.