I could never say that life was boring!
Although I was born under the sound of Bow Bells, I lived with mum and dad and my brother Colin at 31, Thurlow Park Road in Norwood, on the South Circular and a stone’s throw from Brixton. I mention this because going to Brixton was always a great adventure, full of interesting people, market stalls, vibrancy, colour and music. I attended Elm Wood Primary School and later Tulse Hill Comprehensive, where the future Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone was educated. At the tender age of 4, I made friends with the girl down the road, Wendy Rose and we used to sit on the wall outside our house together watching the traffic go by and wondering where they were all going.
I wasn’t really aware at the time, that both my mother and father had been married before and came out of acute brokenness in their lives. My father was a fireman during the war and often deployed to the London docks in the East End, where, together with his crew, tackled firestorms during the Blitz. He was hit by shrapnel one day from a flying bomb and ended up shell shocked at my mother’s side. She read Psalm 91 to him over and over again, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…you will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.”
My mum used to tell me stories about how God had provided for her as a child and also later, when she lived in an orphanage as a teenager. He father could not look after her because of a very broken marriage and other complications and she was taken to the Brockham Home and Training School for Workhouse Girls near Dorking in Surrey. It was opened in Wheelers Lane on the 1st February 1859 by the Honourable Mrs Emmeline Way of Wonham Manor, Betchworth. The home offered training to orphaned girls living in Workhouses from all over England. My mother married her first husband at the age of 17 – I suppose to escape from all that. Sadly she was abandoned by this man who went off with the armed forces and never came back to her. My half brother, Colin, was a product of this relationship and we continue to have a close relationship, even though he has lived in South Africa for many years.
During those tough years, mum often prayed to God and He answered. Once she prayed for a pair of shoes and shortly afterwards there was a knock on her door and somebody was standing there with a new pair of shoes for her. She was always a woman of great faith. My dad was well into his forties before he came to faith and that was largely because of the witness of my mother, and the support they received from Chatsworth Baptist Church. Mum was in the Salvation Army, dad Church of England, (naturally!) and after they married they both compromised and became Baptists!
All of this explains why I was Baptised as an infant at St Luke’s, West Norwood, Baptised as an adult at Minster Baptist Church in Sheppey, Confirmed at Chichester Cathedral along with 40 children(!) and Ordained both in the Baptist Church and the Anglican Church! Phew!
And I suppose that was when my own “enlightenment” started.
I was impacted by the preacher at Chatsworth Road Baptist Church in Norwood. Revd Frank Goodwin was a fiery preacher, a thoughtful pray’er and a charismatic personality. The church is still there today with its famous pulpit like the arm of God coming down from the roof and then forming the shape of a hand where the preacher stands.
I’ll tell you all about the gang in the next blog.
However, you may be wondering about the title – the Morgan, Flashman thing!
It was all part of the adventure of those early childhood days. My mother was despatched by dad to go buy a car. They’d seen an advert in the local newspaper, “Morgan for sale.” Off went mum to buy this vehicle and when she arrived, there it was, parked in the garage facing forwards. She declined a test drive, paid for it and took dad back later that evening to drive it home. What mum didn’t realise was that this Morgan was a three wheeler, with two wheels at the front and powered by a motor cycle engine.
It was fortunate that all the traffic lights turned green on the journey from Brixton to Norwood, because my father didn’t know how to stop the thing. It ran out of petrol outside our house!
Dad immediately put the car up for sale and shortly afterwards a man came to the door…
You know the rest!