The house where I grew up.
I grew up in Highgate, a tiny North London village at the top of the hill where Dick Whittington stopped and turned back.
It isn’t as trendy as Hampstead. The houses are bigger. There aren’t any fashionable clothes shops, nor a Macdonalds (which Hampstead fought against for years).
Autumn always reminds me of Highgate. I spent my childhood running around Waterlow park and Highgate Woods playing with conkers, kicking up the leaves. Across the road from where I lived was a nurse’s home, a huge gothic building with extensive gardens. (There aren’t any nurse’s homes anymore, Thatcher sold them all off for real estate. Now poorly paid nurses have nowhere to live in London).
Over-imaginative as a child, I fervently believed in fairies, ghosts and witches (still do). One morning in the nurse’s home gardens I saw tulips. The next day, when I returned, the flowers were huge. Giant pink flowers. Stunned, I was convinced it was magic. I looked for evidence of magic everywhere.
Highgate has many pubs, some of them very old. I still go, almost weekly, to The Prince of Wales,(1) a tiny dark creaky pub, crammed with orbs and spirits. Sunday lunchtimes, my parents left me, my brother and sister in the car with a packet of crisps while they went for a drink. We didn’t mind, it was exciting and also we could devote time to fighting, uninterrupted by parents.
I drank in the pubs from the age of 14 (something I’d never let my daughter do). One evening, one of the regulars, Graham Chapman of Monty Python (he played Brian in The life of Brian) was with his friend Keith Moon, drummer for The Who.
Keith had on a huge fur coat, a pudding bowl haircut (actually quite naff but he was cool enough to carry it off) and big brown button eyes. He checked me out. Eventually he beckoned me over. Buying me drinks, he asked me back to a party at Graham Chapman’s house.
I was with my boyfriend of the time and said, loyally, “only if my boyfriend can come”.
Keith looked askance as if to say ‘I’m picking her out of everyone and she’s turning me down!’.
So it shows that Keith Moon was in fact a bit dodgy. I was under-age and looked it.
The boyfriend grew to be a Hollywood movie director (albeit minor) and has dined out on the story ever since.
(More Keith Moon at this blog).
(1) I go for the famous pub quiz, reputedly the toughest in London. My friend Nathan and I are hosting the quiz on the 4th of November. I’m a bit of an anorak at heart, and often one of the few women at pub quizzes! I’m always complaining about too many sports questions and not enough questions on boys and make-up.