Number 49, the only house that’s ever been a home to me. We weren’t posh but our house was different. The privet hedges of the carbon copy houses that sprawled into the horizon of Ivyhouse Road all mostly looked the same. The Becontree estate was the largest undertaking of social housing in Europe of its time, in other words the biggest council estate in post cold war Europe.
I used to be proud of that fact, I’m sure it was even in a copy of the Guinness book of records I got one Christmas. I used to love facts; things that made me imagine hugeness etc fired up inside my skull.
Number 49 was a semi detached house, how my dad used to dream of owning his neighbours side too, mainly so he could have a drive in drive out driveway , not because he was pretentious or anything, more he liked the idea of no neighbours.
Yes, he owned the house, no rent book for him. This was the result of serious misfortune in 1966; I’ll get to that later. Number 49 stood out, my dad liked to tinker, he could modify anything inside his shed. I noticed our house had different windows, instead of the noughts and crosses lattice of our neighbours we had one piece picture windows, even at the back too, where nobody could even see them. We backed onto the rear of the shops on Heathway Hill, at the top of the hill sat the tube station; the platforms were visible from our back garden. The squeal of tube trains arriving and departing with haste also created a lovely smell of burnt brakes. The station lights broke winter darkness and the station never slept. I liked that. The noises created by passengers kicking seven bells of chocolate out of the vending machine could scare me if I let it. Drunken conversations carried from the concrete platform.
Number 49 was also pebble dashed, millions of coloured stones, like hundreds and thousands on a cornet. I used to like picking them off the cement, usually after a few my nails hurt; using anything blunt was easier but nowhere near as rewarding!
I also picked the woodchip wallpaper, and then tried to cover my tracks. The polystyrene tiles fascinated me; their texture was addictive to my naughty finger nails. 40 years later they still showed my boredom marks.