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How to lose a day, or several, in the suburbs

I’ve been wandering around Other platforms are no doubt available. However, this is the one to which I have been paying a not-insignificant subscription for several years now and periodically I feel the need to get my money’s worth. The problem is, once I start looking at the two family trees I have created – one for my family and one for my husband’s – I become completely engrossed and the hours pass with little awareness.

The lockdown and the cold weather – and most probably the promise to myself to do more serious writing! – have combined to push me back onto this website and resulted in the discovery that the electoral roll data is available for large parts of the first half of the twentieth century. I spent several hours happily tracking down those of my relatives, and my husband’s, who were adults in the nineteen twenties and thirties in these registers. Once I had found the addresses, I could then look on Google Earth and find images of the properties as they are now. In the case of some of my husband’s relatives, there were some quite large and impressive properties, in fact, in South and South West London. 

Not like my own family who largely avoided the capital until I chose to move here in 1983. In comparison, even the houses built by one of my mother’s uncles in Cheltenham (which we rather thought was pretty smart when I was a girl) seemed very humble.

Strangely, when I wasn’t glued to my laptop gawping at possible ancestral properties, I was marching around Surbiton for want of anything better to do (actually, more on this another time) and encountering a few rather similar properties, most certainly from the same era.

And when I wasn’t able to march around because of the cold and wet, and I’d exhausted my patience for logging electoral rolls, I was reading a book set in mid eighteenth century London (The Foundling, by Stacey Halls) which clearly evoked the feel of what we now think of as central London and the city. The suburbs just weren’t in existence then, and it was odd to see reference to Fulham as the countryside – ‘four miles from Covent Garden but it might as well have been four hundred’.

So, whether online, in a book, in my walking boots, in the past, in fiction or in the cold-weather reality of the present day, I’ve been all over the place recently.

No wonder I don’t know what day of the week it is today.

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