I would just like to share my thoughts on the place where I was born and raised.
Tooting is located in South London and is snugged neatly between Balham, Earlsfield, Colliers Wood and Streatham.
One of its landmarks is Tooting Broadway underground station which was featured in the opening credits for the 1970s comedy sitcom ‘Citizens Smith’.
Whenever I return to my hometown, my heart warms. It’s as though my inner child reawakens and reminds me of my childhood memories and aspirations. Tooting capitivated me in its diverse world. As I grew older it suffocated me until I couldn’t take anymore and wanted out. I guess most teenagers feel this way about where they grew up. Same people, same shops and same everything!
Now when I return it’s like taking a breath of fresh air. As everywhere I look there remains an imprint of my childhood on the existing buildings and still cracked pavements. My memories are able to present themselves like a slideshow as my former thoughts, feelings and experiences are in a special place of their own around this town.
I am sentimental about the place where I was educated, where I socialised and where I just tried to figure complicated life stuff out. Back then there was this sense of community, as teenagers we called it ‘blatant nosey-ness’, which was very convenient for parents. Even though there were no mobiles phones my mother could tell me [whilst she was at work] that I had been hanging out. Oh yes, at exactly 3.55pm I had been in front of Marks & Spencer with my friends. And, she could name every single one of them: Janet, Louise and Jessie, and she knew I hadn’t been home. Why? Because I was still wearing my bottle green school uniform.
Tooting Market was constantly bustling with different products sold by enthusiastic vendors and I have to mention the ‘MEAT’ shop. This was where you would watch the young good-looking butchers flirt with your mum. Seeing your mum blush in those days was priceless.
There were many fruit and vegetable stalls that were robust with bright-coloured and healthy produce of West Indian origin. The fishmongers sold seafood of all types from prawns to snappers which were on display like artwork in crispy crushed ice. Always eye-catching and intriguing.
The market was always awash with a subtle reggae beat as the little record shop played the latest tunes from Jamaica to entice people to either dance or buy. It was always one or the other.
There was always this vibrant energy that was contained in and around Tooting. When I speak to my old classmates from school they tend to disagree and remark how much of a dump Tooting was and still is. That’s why I entitled this post ‘Tenderly Tolerating Tooting’ because even though I have tender feelings towards Tooting I probably just ‘tolerated’ it better.
MY TWO FAVOURITE PLACES TO BE IN TOOTING GROWING UP
Place To Be #1 – Tooting Library
The library was one of the few places I could go without my mother’s half an hour time limit. It was there that I sort of befriended an elderly man who talked at me. He would start each sentence with: ‘The trials of me, the homeless man, with my worldly possessions outside in a Tesco trolley!’ He claimed to be homeless. I say claim because there was never a trolley to be seen anywhere. He would read the daily newspapers but only the ones with ‘real news’ never the tabloids as they were for the ‘dumbsters’. He would snigger at any news article relating to politics especially anything to do with ‘THICK THATCHERISM’.
I learnt as much as I could comprehend at 14 about ‘The Wanky Borough of Wandsworth’ who he said ‘kept sticking parking meters all over the place but up their a**!’
Often he would refer to my ‘SWEET VALLEY HIGH’ book obsession and enquired after the ‘Twitty Twins’. After my account, he would chuckle, ‘Soon enough you will find that life ain’t SWEET, no VALLEYS around here and you might need to get HIGH! Anyway, keep reading! Good for you!’
Place To Be #2 – Tooting Bec Common
Tooting Bec Common is still so timeless. The green grass, surgically naked trees all encompassed by the sounds of traffic on its outskirts infusing life into it, with a vibrant buzzing.
The squirrels brimming with curiosity, stealing glances and popping their heads from behind trees before scurrying away with careful balance onto fragile branches. All these minute bustles of activity is of great interest whilst sitting on a cold bench and just observing the natural system in which the common functions in.
The place to be remains the same. As yesterday. Last week. And quite possibly the last year. It is said that time waits for no man so in comparison the Common offers an immediate standstill within its enclosed space.
I recollect my many attempts to jog around this Common and even though I had youth on my side my level of endurance was nil.
I remember laying on the grass and staring upwards until my eyes saw white blurry rings. Every emotion I felt as a teenager has been perserved and released into the essence of the Common. So upon my return I can feel them as they rediscover me. Whether good or bad I can choose to embrace or cast them away.
I have built up such a mental and near physical relationship with Tooting Bec Common; sometimes I feel I AM the common.
I am grateful to have known such a place like Tooting…