The New Playing Fields

These two childhood memories of the School Playing Fields also appear in “1000 Memories”, available as a Kindle book here (UK) or here (US).

 The new playing fields

I was going to a new school in September. It was in Hammersmith. I’d have to get the bus. The playing fields were a long way away, two bus rides. One day during the summer holidays Mum and I went there, took the two buses. The first one was easy, to Hammersmith Broadway. Then we went round the corner. The pavement was narrower there and we waited for the bus, the 220. We went a long way. Mum was pointing out things along the way, the cinemas in Shepherds Bush, the BBC, but I wasn’t really paying attention.

We could see the playing fields up ahead and we got off the bus. We walked up to the traffic lights. We could see the sign on the corner of the playing fields. The name of the school was there and someone had painted the word “Poofs” just beside it. We crossed the road and walked beside the fence up one side of the playing fields and got to the gate. There was another bus-stop right outside it. That was where we should have got off. We looked in through the gate, which was locked. There was nobody there. I could see football pitches and rugby pitches and a building where you could sit to watch the games.

We stayed for a minute and then crossed the road, to get the bus back to Hammersmith, the 220 again. We got off opposite the place where we’d got the first 220. The pavement was much wider. There were shops and a café. They were set back from the road, under a big building. You could shelter outside the shops if it was raining. We went into the café. The windows were steamed up so you couldn’t see outside. Mum had a cup of tea and I looked at the menu.

“What’s an egg burger?”

“I think it’s a beef burger with an egg on top.”

“Can I have one?”

“Yes, of course.”

When the egg burger arrived it was still too hot to bite into so I had some chips first. Then I bit into the burger. I’d never tasted anything like it. The egg was soft and the yolk burst when I bit into it, so I had bun, runny egg and beef burger all in the same mouthful. There were onions too. It was delicious. I tried to describe how good it was to my Mum but I couldn’t, I couldn’t find the right words.

“Mummy, you’ve got to taste this” I said and tried to hand her the burger.

“No thank you, dear”.

I didn’t mind. I didn’t really want to share it.

 

“Vincent”

 

We all overslept. We had been up late watching TV in the living room. Jim and I fell asleep on the sofa-bed, that really uncomfortable grey sofa-bed. It was uncomfortable when it was a sofa, and it was really uncomfortable when it was a bed. Even Dad overslept. He was going to be late for work, which never happened. My sister could get to school quickest, just round the corner, and Jim had to get the bus. I had Games that morning. There was no way I could get the two buses to the playing fields, all the way to Wood Lane.

Mum ordered a cab, a mini-cab. It came while the others were still having breakfast, just a bowl of cornflakes, no time for tea and toast. Mum and the cab-driver were chatting. A new song came on the radio and they both said how much they liked it, and they stopped chatting so they could hear it. I thought it was called “Starry, starry night”, because that was how the song started. It wasn’t, it was called “Vincent”, and it was about the artist Vincent van Gogh.

We got to the sports ground earlier than I’d ever been there before. The sign on the corner still had the word “Poofs” painted on it.

There were only a couple of other boys there.

The next week “Starry, starry night” was number one in the charts.

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