It was the mid-early sixties. I lived with my parents about 12 miles from the centre of London. I worked near the Tower of London at the time. On this ordinary day I left for work by the back door of our semi-detached house on the street which could have been named for the famous writer of the Yorkshire veterinary stories, if only it had two Rs. I passed by the aviary Dad had constructed, and the six pairs of jabbering budgies. I walked purposefully down the crazy-paving pathway (everyone in London walked with purpose, for no apparent reason). I crossed over the tiny bridge Dad had made over the fish-pond, glimpsing the orange flash of the gold-fish among the weeds.
I unlatched the back gate and headed up the back-alley climbing the hill. I glanced over the fences at the various back gardens. Such a variety in the design and upkeep of these patches of property. Some had built high fences to keep away the prying eyes from the Englishmen’s castles. Half way up the back lane, where the hill suddenly becomes much steeper, I was careful not to damage my thin soled and gleaming leather shoes – black of course (only ruffians wear brown shoes! Brahn boots: I asks ya? Brahn boots!). at this mid-point in the alley the surface was in constant need of repair. It had been a nuisance when we used to race down the hill on our trolleys, and it was a nuisance still when trying got look debonair on the way to the City.
At the top of the alley I turned down Lansdowne Road and then left on Leadale Avenue. Funny, it had never occurred to me till now, it was called Leadale as we were on one hilly side of the Lea Valley. Very rustic sounding.
I walked to the end of Leadale where it meets Chingford Mount Road or Old Church Road. There was a Norman church at the top of Leadale built in the 12th century. It was near the top of The Mount, a high hill from the top of which, on a clear day, you could see the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was a rare sighting being London in the early sixties.
My bus stop was on the other side of the main road – we could catch a number 38 (my bus) or the Green Line bus – a longer distance route with fewer stops and a more comfortable coach.
I managed to cross the busy road and took my place queuing for the #38 which would take me to Leyton underground station, where I would catch the train into London. An hour a half commute each way (that’s about 9 miles an hour – you could do it faster on a donkey!)
As usual I waited patiently for my bus. I used to prefer to sit upstairs in the red double-deckers or On Top as it was called ( a throw back to the days of the open-topped buses double-decker buses, you rode on top or inside). I would try to get near the front so I could watch as we went over the top of the Mount. Then I would get out my book – probably a James Bond story.
But this particular, ordinary day, I was still waiting for the bus when suddenly I heard a loud squeal of tires and a bang. I looked towards the sounds – close to the top of the Mount. I saw a woman’s body flying through the air – then disappearing, hidden by the car that must have struck her.
Everything went very still and quiet for a few seconds. I couldn’t take in what I had seen.
I was quite a long way away from the accident. Then sound returned and I saw people running to the woman in the road. I saw someone take off their coat – I assumed they covered her to keep her warm. Someone ran to the nearest house – I supposed to call for an ambulance and police, there were no mobile phones in those days. People at the bus stop were standing, staring, with hands over their mouths in disbelief.
Soon my bus came as usual, but it was no longer an ordinary day. Suddenly everything had changed.
Don’t leave things unsaid.