Biography: Leatherhead

From age 7 (1957) until I left home I lived with my family in a house in Leatherhead; my parents would leave there for the Sussex coast in 1976, the same summer I emigrated to Paris.

Whereas the cottage near Horsham had been a bungalow, the house at Leatherhead was a detached house with three bedrooms. It had bay windows front and back upstairs and down on one side, and the rooms with these were, as is traditional, dining room and lounge, and the main bedrooms. Robin and I generally shared the front bay-window bedroom all the years we lived there, and our parents’ bedroom was the one at the back. And whereas Orchard Cottage had had a large garden and paddock itself, and some open land round about it, the new house had a smaller garden that was was surrounded on three sides by pasture, where a local dairy farmer kept cows. We thus were very familiar with being around farm animals; and father put a gate in the fence near the bottom of the garden, through which we could walk away from the garden across the fields for miles. By ducking through wire fences (we quickly learnt to take barbed wire in our stride as children on those walks) we could go through bits of woodland and across streams and just roam all day at weekends and school holidays.

Once again, at Leatherhead, because my father was officially a Catholic we had to go to the Catholic primary school. In 1957 in Leatherhead, that was St. Peter’s and its premises were a classroom block in the car park of the town's Catholic church, and one or more rooms in the presbytery and another house adjacent to the church. The church, the block and the houses are still there, but the school moved away into new premises in the summer of 1958. However for that one year, September 1957 to July 1958, I walked to the end of Randalls Road (where our house was about 15 minutes’ walk from the town end of the road), up a steep hill and along the street at the top of that hill to the church. After the school moved, I walked that same journey and then past the church, through to the fringes of the next town to the north, called Ashtead. Some of that time my brothers went with me. Some of the time when one of them was too small to walk all that way my mother drove us in her car to the school or organized a lift. We were the only children from our part of town attending the school. I don't recall ever visiting the home of any other child from that school or having them visit me. I was, already, more or less self-contained. My brothers Robin and Alan certainly had their school friends round — occasionally, at least (all my four siblings are far more sociable and greagarious than I am); but I do not remember ever doing so.