Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Kick out against Change - or accept it?
Meditations upon West Ealing

Where am I? This could be anywhere in the UK; generic urban scene. Put me back here 50 years ago, and I'd not recognise the place. This is Singapore Road, West Ealing, between the Uxbridge Road and the railway line. Half a century ago, to my left would have been the backs of the shops long gone - F.W. Rowse, Mac Fisheries, Tru-form - and the Green Man pub; to my left, an estate of single-story pre-fab houses. All gone. A new landscape emerges, new blocks of flats are arising in the distance.

Now, this place I'd recognise, the Salvation Army church on Leeland Road, corner of Leeland Terrace. Childhood memories. From here, the Sally Army band would march out and play on the streets of West Ealing, songs of salvation to salve the soul. Built in 1909, my early-'60s childhood was nearer the date of its construction than today.

Going shopping with my mother at Rowses ('u Rałsa'), to Marks & Spencer ('do Spensera') or Woolworths ('do Łulłorsa'). British Homes Stores? We didn't go there. Below: this stylish Art Deco facade once graced Woolworths; I loved going there with my mother; often she'd buy me an Airfix model aeroplane. Today, Woolworths is but a memory, the store divided into three, the largest part of it a Poundworld. The second-hand jewellry shop to the left has closed. Incidentally, does anyone remember the pedestrian crossings with animated stick-men that moved when you were allowed to cross the road? Maybe a failed experiment, in the mid- to late-1960s?

Below: Ealing Magistrate's Court, Green Man Lane - the street named for the pub. The pub sign, a green man's face peering through leaves, used to frighten me as a very small child in pushchair on my way to nursery school.

Below: Felix Road, and beyond Jacob's Ladder footbridge over the Great Western Railway line. Much as it was when steam engines plied the tracks, which I can just about remember.

West Ealing has changed but has stayed the same; the people are different, the cars are different, some of the buildings have gone, new ones have emerged. The spirit of place is there, recognisable from half a century ago; change happens. Useless trying to set the clock back - the forces of globalisation and information technology have changed the way our towns look. Yes, the search for the spirit of age, the nostalgic longing for times past, bring balm to our rushed lives, rushing away from the known towards the unknown. But we can never bring back those exact qualia, those precise emotions we once experienced gazing on a street scene from our childhood.

Politicians who arouse people's nostalgia for times past, when there were fewer migrants on the streets are playing dangerous games. Times change; we must get used to it. The past was never as good as we think it was, we cannot turn back the clock. Move on, make a shrine to the past by all means, but live for the future.

This time two years ago:
Warwick University alumni meet in Warsaw

This time three years ago:
Pluses and minuses of PKP InterCity

This time four years ago:
When transportation breaks down

This time nine years ago:
Full moon closest to Earth


Anonymous said...

West Ealing – my home from about 1963 for a decade onwards! I remember not one, not two, but THREE separate railway freight facilities associated with the station: a coal depot off Alexandria Road, a milk transfer station next to Manor Road, and a general goods yard between Manor Road and Drayton Bridge Road. All gone together with their fascinating network of tracks, points and crossovers. At least the footbridge from which I surveyed this railway empire is still standing.

Unknown said...

West Ealing - I have a lot of great memories of the Salvation Army, Leeland Road; it was there that I was first taught to play a brass instrument by Eddie Walker, the Junior Band Leader. Thanks to him I went on to become a military musician. That was in 1955 and I played in the corps bands until 1966 when I transferred to another corps because of military necessity. I have fond memories of christmas carolling round the streets, particularly of carolling round the pubs from West Ealing to Ealing Broadway. Jacob's Ladder was also one of my favourite places for train spotting - the Cornish Riviera Express, the Kings, and the Castles, they were good times. This view of Jacob's Ladder is from the direction of The Green Man; I recall that there was a running track on the opposite side of the bridge where I used to go and train, is it still there? Good memories of days long gone, and for what? Certainly not for the better!!