In 1970, a mate of mine’s family decided to leave Balham and move to the West Midlands (might as well have been Jupiter, it was so far away in my mind).
My mate would not have been missed by the usherettes of the Balham Odeon as he was loosely related to St Vitus and couldn’t keep in his faux velvet seat for more than a minute. During the screening of Zulu, he imagined the cinema to be Rorke’s Drift and fashioned a Zulu spear out of an empty tub carton and threatened to impale the projectionist.
After an absence of a year, we got in our family Ford Poplar and travelled the 100-miles (which took about another year with my learner driver dad) to a village just outside Leamington to visit the Balham emigrees.
We were greeted, on arrival, by my mate’s mum, who, having been brought up in Clapham, oddly now sounded like Amy Turtle – she even had an old housecoat on – I assume this would have been handed out by the estate agent upon arrival?
My mate’s mum had Italian heritage, so, if anything, I was expecting to possibly hear some female version of Mussolini, not something off the set of Crossroads.
Once we’d finished and headed home, I think elements of this change of accent worked by osmosis as my mother called me “Benny” down most of the A1.
“I love you, Miss Diane”, was my only retort to her as we ate our all-day breakfast at 10.00 pm at Newport Pagnell Service Station.