There was a time when you could travel from Balham (if you lived there) to (almost) the outer limits of the Universe (as long as a London Transport bus went there) for only ten bob.
A Red Rover was a frequent purchase for me and my mates in the late 60s, early 70s; a time when we were young teenagers and had irresponsible parents who’d cast us onto the streets, armed only with ten shillings, a Tupperware cup full of Coke and or milk (depending on how nauseous you wanted to get), a Penguin and a selection of (one) sandwiches made with the pride of the Shippam’s factory. Travelling from Balham, most of our packed lunches had been consumed by Clapham North.
I had a paternal aunt and two cousins who lived in North Harrow (which, when looking at the bus map at Balham Underground Station, might have been outside the Universe, let alone at its furthest boundary). I decided we should take a selection of ostensibly twenty buses and go and visit my dad’s remote family. It seemingly took several weeks but, having successfully arrived, starving by this point as we’d mistimed our food intake (which is why none of us joined the Commandoes), we discovered they were out. No mobile phones those days to say: “Hi, Auntie Betty, we’re coming to visit”, not even a couple of old yoghurt pots to communicate our impending arrival. So, skint, hungry and tired we ventured back to south London with my friends assuming this extended family didn’t exist.
I go nowhere these days without the aforementioned yoghurt pots (in case of emergencies) and always have a ten-shilling note hidden inside the secret heel of my shoe – the one next to the beaver footprint.