Saturday, 31 March 2007
The Power-Station, a medieval castle, the Alamo, a Commando stronghold...depending.
Ribblesdale Avenue with power-station at far end.
This is a picture of May and her sisters Mary and Lily. The woman next to my mother is her friend, Dora. They're walking along Blackpool promanade. For me the picture is all about the sunny optimism of the early 1950's. It brings back the almost magical sense of community I remember as a child. Back doors were always open to children (like cat-flaps today) and the street was like a village with the shared experience of war.
The most important feature of Ribblesdale Avenue was the brick power station at its end. Beyond that was a small haulage yard, a few apple trees and the railway embankment. The power station had a decorative feature on either side of it: red brick protrusions, half and inch thick that allowed us access to the top.
That building was dominated much of our childhood. It doubled up as the Alamo, countless US Cavalry outposts, Spanish galleons, pirate ships, pill boxes against hard faced Germans, or creepily ferocious Japanese.
We never ran out of ammunition for the top of the power station was deeply gravelled and it made excellent grapeshot. Sometimes we would carry up our own stones, when the conflict was serious, the Germans more hard-faced than usual.
Our most usual weapon was the invisible gun - two fingers and a whistling cluck, the invisible rifle, an extended right arm supported by the left and two rigid fingers you sighted down. On each corner of the building were the machine gunners who’d erupt in loud staccato hiccups when the fighting got tough. We saw off Comanche, Apache, Arapaho; Mexicans charging across endless red plains; we saw off rustlers, Confederates, Japanese, SS, the Afrika corp. Our guns were most effective. The other side dying spectacular deaths, only to get up again - after a decent interval - brush themselves down, and continue the fight. It was a child’s Valhalla. When the battle was over we went in for tea.
How did our neighbour cope? They’d just fought world war 11. We were small beer.
When I think of it now, they were remarkable people bound together by remarkable events. All of them had either fought at sea or on land, and those too old to enlist had manned the anti-aircraft guns positioned on the railway embankment close to the street. For years after we scavenged shells, cartridge cases, helmets, gas-masks. Today we have play stations - which everyone knows are really for ‘oldies’ seeking active minds.