London Traders And Trades: Photos By John Claridge

During the 1960s, John Claridge took hundreds of photos in the poorer multicultural districts of East London that he knew well. I have featured his work before on this blog, and recently found some more of his interesting portraits. The areas he photographed have changed completely since that decade, and these have immense historical value.

The Groundsman at The Memorial Sports Grounds. He was responsible for the upkeep of the sports pitches.

A Kosher Chicken slaughterman.

A lady selling sweets from a small kiosk, posing with her new gumball machine.

Wrapping spices in a spice dealer’s large warehouse.

A Muslim butcher posing outside his shop.

This lady butcher wanted to be photographed with her finest cut of meat.

The workers on a street fish stall, setting up. They have just received their delivery from the north coast.

A newsagent outside his small shop. The headline to his right is announcing the death of Walt Disney.

Secondhand shoe-seller with a street stall.

A Jewish lady inside her strudel bakerry.

Shopkeeper poses outside a very small grocery shop.

Selling hot saveloys from a stall. For anyone not familiar with a saveloy, they are something like a cross between a hot dog and a larger sausage.

Sunday Musings 14 Days Before Christmas

The tree is decorated and shining its lights in the side window. The presents are all wrapped, and stacked around the base. Julie wrote some Christmas cards, and they are posted. With two weeks still to go, that’s pretty good, by our standards.


The weather is the main talking point this week in Beetley. With the wind coming from a northerly direction, it got cold very quickly. Very cold. Ice on the cars, on the ground, and in the freeezing fog. There is no mistaking we are in the grip of winter, especially with the chance of snow forecast for next week here.

Ollie finally succumbed to an ear infection, and began dropping his ear and shaking his head. Luckily, we still had some of the antibiotic gel left, and I squirted that into the affected ear. Fingers crossed we don’t have to visit the Vet before Christmas. But I never say never, not where poor Ollie’s ears are concerned.


Julie made two trips into Norwich this week. One to take her oldest son to dinner for his birthday and go around the shops with him, and the second to accompany one of her friends who wanted to get everything in one trip. She was worn out by both trips; walking around the city, and having to stand still in shops for ages as they chose things. Now she has a very painful back, and is using her heat pads for pain relief.


I hope you are having an enjoyable festive season so far, and that the stress of it all is not getting on top of you.


The Last Sunday Musings For September

It has felt like a long week, for no good reason. Perhaps because Monday was a Public Holiday for the Queen’s funeral, the days have been out of synch.


Unusually, everything closed for the day on Monday. No shops opened, not even for reduced hours. So my usual supermarket shop had to be put off until Tuesday. That made Tuesday feel like Monday, and every day after that just felt in the wrong place. By Thursday, we were both convinced it was Friday, and I was wondering why the TV was showing programmes on the wrong day.


For Ollie of course, nothing changed. As long as he got his routine in the right order, and his walks at the right time, he didn’t notice any changes. On Friday, I had to drive to the Vet to get his repeat prescription. I had added an extra, a steroid cream that helps heal a sore spot on his chest. It worked exceptionally well in July, but soon ran out. I wanted to have some more just in case, so asked for another tube. That increased the bill to a mammoth £91. I had to remind myself once again that he is always completely worth the expense.


After the relentless 10-day TV coverage of all things Royal, the normal news returned and I finally found out what had been happening in places other than Balmoral, Windsor castle, Westminster Abbey, and in countries outside Britain. Naturally, Monday was written off, with 24-hour coverage of the funeral on all main TV channels. Once they got back to normal on Tuesday, all the schedules had to be ‘bumped up’ by one day.


Out on the dog-walks, we caught up with some friends (and their dogs) we had missed for the week we were away in Lincolnshire. It was back to greeting familiar dogs for Ollie, and marking his territory with an intensity that had to be seen.


Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you have a peaceful and happy Sunday.


More Photographic Memories Of My Youth In London

Although we lived in the Borough of Bermondsey in South London, we were within a short walk of other areas. Walworth, where I went to senior school, and Camberwell, where many of my friends lived. The main road from London to the Kent coast ran through the whole area, and is named The Old Kent Road in that section. That is actually one of the places on a British Monopoly game board.

The surplus stores on Walworth Road was where you could buy an ex-army jacket, a rucksack, or in my case, Doctor Martens ‘air-wear’ shoes. It was a regular hangout on Saturdays.
(This is a relatively modern photo. It is still there.)

Not far away was the A1 Stores. They seemed to sell everything at the time, but we went there to buy the latest records. Following the purchase, we usually sat in the nearby Wimpy Bar for ages, drinking ‘frothy coffee’.

But A1 wasn’t always my first choice for record buying. On the corner in this photo is May Smith, a dedicated record shop. I bought my first .45 single in there. It was ‘Sweets For My Sweet’, by The Searchers. That was in 1963, and I was eleven years old.

Many years before that, one of my places to hang out was St James’s Park. Not the famous one in Westminster, the one in St James’s Road, Bermondsey. It had a famous covered slide, the only one I have ever seen like it.

The two main cinemas locally were The Regal, and The Astoria. I went to one or other of them almost every week for years. They were both built in the Art Deso style,and beautifully decorated inside. This is The Astoria.

If you wanted to buy a bicycle, get a bike fixed, buy a saddlebag, a new chain, or tyre pump, Edwardes of Camberwell was the place to go. One of the premier cycle dealerships in the whole of London at the time.

Kennedys had shops all over the three boroughs. Their sausages were once considered to be the best you could buy.

George Carter was a menswear shop on the Old Kent Road. It was in there that I bought my first ever Ben Sherman button-down collar shirt.

Pie and Mash and Jellied Eels were staple diets of many Londoners then. I didn’t like the eels, but I loved pie and mash. Just a short walk from my school was my favourite Pie and Mash shop, Bert’s.
(Next door, you can just make out part of the name of The Popular Book Centre. This was a chain of large shops that sold secondhand books, comics, and magazines. They would also buy any you took in there, or give you credit against those they had for sale. My mum’s cousin Raymond was the manager of that branch, so I never had to pay!)

The World Turned Upside Down was a famous Victorian pub on the Old Kent Road. One of my school friends lived in the tenement flats next door, which were managed by the Guinness Trust as cheap housing for working-class people. If you look at the women pushing the prams you can see that they had filled them with coal, probably bought cheap from a nearby Coal Merchant, and too heavy to carry home.

Right at the other end of The Old Kent Road, almost in New Cross district, was this imposing pub, The Rising Sun. My mum’s older sister and her husband bought this pub the year we moved to the suburbs, 1967. They ran it for many years.

Selling Yourself: Part One

Back in 2013, I wrote a six-part series about my life before I became an EMT. This is the first part. I warn you, it is quite a long read. Not many of you have seen it before ( Except Jude and Vinnie) so it may interest you to know more about my early working life. If you enjoy it let me know, and I will re-post the rest in order.


From the time I left school, until I joined the London Ambulance Service, was a period of less than twelve years. During that time, I had an unusually high number of jobs, all but one of which involved selling, in one form, or another. I have written about some of those jobs before, but I have recently reflected on just how easy it was to get work, to come and go as you pleased, sometimes starting and leaving three jobs in the same year. In today’s world, of high unemployment, no-hours contracts, reduced Trade Union rights, and a return to the Victorian era. with no paid holidays, or sick leave, it makes me realise just how easy it was, to live in the 1960’s and 1970’s, compared to the present day. My own employment history, before settling down in the Ambulance Service, may seem like a poor CV. In those…

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Thinking Aloud On a Sunday


The warm weather is back, and the crowds are starting to arrive at the river bend over on Beetley Meadows. Promoted by people on Facebook, family groups arrive from all over central Norfolk. Their children play safely in the shallow water, then enjoy picnic lunches on the tables and benches provided. Free of charge, and free parking on nearby streets and roads, it offers the benefits of a day at the seaside without the crowds, cost, or having to sit in traffic. Very few live locally, but that’s fine. It’s a public area for all to enjoy, after all.

Some arrive unaware that there are no toilet facilities, or shops nearby. I am often asked where they can buy drinks or ice creams, or if there any any public toilets to use. They seem shocked to discover that the nearest shop is in a different village over two miles away, and that toilets are not provided by the tiny Beetley Parish Council.

For those of us that use the area every day, in all weathers, the annual influx of people from outside Beetley on sunny days and during school holidays is something we havve become used to. Very often, the people at the river bend will eventually make their way to the small playground and football/basketball pitch, when their kids have tired of geting wet. So we are used to seeing them using those facilities too.

But the downside is the littering. Numerous bins are provided for litter, and emptied weekly by contractors. They are not that big though, so the bins soon become overwhelmed with the debris of ten or twelve families and their all-day picnics. Then the even smaller bins in the playground and ball-court areas are filled within an hour or two, as they have more drinks and snacks.

So what should these people do? Well, take it home with them of course. Use the bags they brought the food and drink in to take home their rubbish so it is not left littering our local Meadows. What they actually do is stack it next to the already overflowing bins, as if expecting someone to arrive immediately to clear up after them. The more inventive among them actually place their garbage carefully on top of the bins, knowing full well it will soon slip down, or be blown off by the slightest breeze.

Moving here from a litter-strewn city like London, I was very impressed by how neat and tidy Beetley is.

Until the weather gets warm, and the outsiders arrive. Then it is just like London in miniature.

Bags For Life Or Bag For The Week?

I found this interesting article online about supermarket shopping bags.

When compulsory charges for plastic carrier bags were introduced, most large retailers offered the option of the more expensive ‘Bag For Life’. The cost for these can range from 20p, to over £1, depending on the shop, and the size of the bags. The idea was to cut plastic waste, as the shop would replace your ‘Bag for life’ once it had split, or the handles had broken. The replacement was free, and the shop would arrange for proper recycling of the damaged bag.

The bigger, thicker bags use much more plastic in their manufacture, and it seems shoppers are not deterred by having to pay for them after all. Very few are taken back to the shops for replacement, and many shoppers regularly fail to reuse them when buying more groceries on the next shopping trip. They just buy more new ones instead. So most bags for life last little longer than one week, often dumped into the household rubbish where they once again become a problem.

I have a woven basket, and three heavy shopping bags that I have used for almost 10 years. I never forget to take them when I go shopping, and never have to buy any replacements until they literally fall to bits.

It seems we still have a long way to go when it comes to plastic bags in this country.

Lockdown Number Two

On the 5th of November, we begin a second national lockdown in England. Once again, bars, pubs, hotels, and restaurants will close. Only essential shops will remain open, and travel will be restricted to work, food shopping, child care, and some emergencies.

So far, it is planned for a period of at least 28 days, but there is no actual time cap if the current high infection rate continues.

To many, this is frustrating. Small business like hairdressers and beauticians have just got going again after the last time. Some entertainment venues were hoping to open in time for Christmas, but now that probably will not happen. Gift shops, toy shops, card shops, and many others reliant on the huge spending boom before Christmas are likely to go bust, with their biggest trading period of the year cancelled.

Some believe it is necessary, to slow the alarming increase in ITU admissions, and subsequent deaths.

But if so, why are schools and colleges remaining open? You tell people that they cannot visit an 80 year old grandmother, or go and have their hair cut on a one to one basis, but it is okay for your child to attend a school with perhaps a thousand other children every day, possibly bringing home the virus to the rest of the family.

To say that Boris Johnson has handled the pandemic badly is an understatement.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday


Wearing masks in shops, banks, and enclosed public spaces became compulsory here on Friday.

I had a lot of experience with the disposable surgical-style masks when I was an EMT, and I doubt their effectiveness after wearing them for even a few minutes. It should also be remembered that they are worn to protect others, not the wearer.

But that’s not the point.

The government here dragged its heels on ordering the wearing of masks, resulting in many people questioning the point of issuing the instruction now that infection rates are low. This escalated into a smattering of ‘Anti-Mask’ movements springing up here.

And that’s not the point either.

Then some of the largest supermarkets, cafe chains, and retail chains announced that they would not be ‘policing’ the wearing of masks in their establishments. With the real police unlikely to consider it serious enough to intervene, and being too busy anyway, it seems to be a toothless law that is unlikey to ever see any of the £100 fines being imposed or collected.

That’s still not the point.

The point is, why not? Why not just wear one? It doesn’t hurt for the short time you are in a shop, and if nothing else, it reassures the others around you. I just bought a packet of five well-made washable masks from Amazon for not much more than £1 each, so price is not an issue. Some shops are even offering to provide free disposable masks for customers attempting to enter the shop without one.

In one supermarket I visited on Friday afternoon, every single customer was wearing one. Yes, mine made my glasses steam up a bit, but so what? I could still see. I didn’t stand at the bread counter thinking my civil liberties had been abandoned, and I was able to converse with the checkout lady who sat safe behind her perspex screen.

It may solve nothing, and may not even stop me getting the virus. But it might help stop a second wave, or at least reduce the effect of one. It might just work, so has to be worth trying. So if you are still undecided about wearing a mask when you go shopping, then stop overthinking it.

Just wear one.

Another Relaxed Rules Saturday

One of my short reports about living with the pandemic in an English village close to a country market town.

I noticed a few changes since the last time I wrote one of these. A short trip into Dereham to go to the bank brought the surprise that well over half the shoppers there on market day were wearing masks now. They will be mandatory in any shop in England after the 24th of July, so I suspect that a lot of people have decided they might as well start earlier.

The bank still has a system of queuing outside, with entry through a side door, and exit on another street. And it is still only open for four hours each day, for the foreseeable future. Some of the cafes were open, one with extra tables out on the street, another with greatly reduced seating arrangements inside. Compared to a few weeks ago, shoppers appeared to be more responsible, and keeping their distance on the pavements and walkways. I was left wondering why they had waited so long.

The big supermarkets have abandoned the one-way systems and single checkout queues, though the two largest ones still have some form of door policy, letting customers out before allowing more in. I have a little concern that once every shopper is wearing a mask, many of the other safety measures will be abandoned. Whilst masks are good at protecting other people from your breath, so many users don’t wear them correctly, only covering their mouth with them, and not their nose too. Then there is the obvious fact that they are touching things and putting them back on the shelves, something that masks cannot protect us from.

They have also generated a new and more dangerous form of litter. I saw many disposable masks dropped on the street, and the supermarket car park had quite a few dropped next to car parking spaces. There will always be thoughtless and inconsiderate people, sadly.

All schools are set to go back to normal operation in September, and some hotels and guest houses have already opened for the summer tourist trade. Holiday parks are popular, as their lodge-style accommodation or static caravans can be used by a family without having to share any communal area. However, swimming pools are still closed, as are cinemas and play areas like Soft Play centres.

Yesterday, 114 people died in England from Covid-19. People with families, loved ones, friends, and colleagues. It is far from over.

We must never forget them.