Bleak house


My father was always trying to improve me intellectually and would frequently organise visits to stately home and places of interest (just what you want when you’re a teenage boy!)

Around this time, in 1970, my parents had agreed to move out of Balham and look further afield.

One Sunday we took the train and a series of buses to Bloomsbury. Our journey ended at 48 Doughty Street, WC1 (this’ll be a bugger in the morning to get to school in Tooting, I thought to myself).

We were let into the building; it was dark, foreboding (a word I used frequently as a teenager); it became ever darker as we climbed the several flights of stairs (no one step was the same height – however, I realised I’d certainly get my money’s worth out of my new Slinky!)

“So, Michael” said my father, (this didn’t bode well as I was normally called Mick unless I’d been naughty, set fire to a relative or not tidied my room) “do you think you’ll be happy in your new home?”

I suddenly realised what the little princes in the Tower had felt like – the only thing this house lacked was a scaffold and a bloody great axe.

But before I could run away (which would have been interesting as I’d no money and bus drivers tended not to accept half-eaten sherbet dabs as payment) my dad informed me we weren’t moving here but this was in fact where Charles Dickens had lived!

My joy of not moving was as evident as was the relief of not having to rewrite Hard Times – only with less gags!

We did move two years later – to Carshalton – famous for its ponds rather than greedy orphans.

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