Key Balham

I was brought up in a block of flats in SW London with various relatives.

I lived one floor away from my Nan, but was trusted to go back and forth, on my own, from my flat to hers.

I was also entrusted with a key: three times.  Such was the ease with which I lost each passkey, I was finally never assigned another – three keys and you’re out. 

So, my Nan taught me how to break into the flats.

This was the same woman who’d told me she’d been a waitress at a Lyon’s Corner House, when, clearly, she must have been breaking and entering throughout the fifties. 

All I needed, she instructed, were very thin wrists (easily done as I “didn’t eat enough to keep a fly alive”); a belt (which I owned, despite my daily intake of Virol) and the knowledge of the outer workings of a doorknob.

I was taught to put my wrists and belt through the letterbox, above which was the knob; attach the belt; get some traction and – Open Sesame – I was in.

As Balham’s answer to Raffles of Arsène Lupin, I was able to get into my Nan’s flat.

With this success, literally under my belt, I thought I’d try it out next door – where my aunt lived.

I assumed she’d be counting her trillion Embassy coupons, but, unbeknownst to me, she was getting dressed.  Successfully in her flat, I revealed myself, only to find my aunt peroxiding her hair – dressed only in her industrial bra and panties.

When you’re only ten, there are some things you simply cannot unsee.

It is the sole reason I’ve never became a hairdresser.

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