Wednesday, December 02, 2015

David Lodge on bullet holes in Brockley

The novelist David Lodge (born 1935) grew up in Brockley, living at 81 Millmark Grove from 1936 to 1959. He went to St Mary Magdelen Roman Catholic primary school in Brockley, and walking home from school during the Second World War he had a narrow escape:

'One afternoon we were a few hundred yards from the railway bridge that traversed Brockley Road just before Brockley Cross when a German aeroplane flew over our heads firing its machine guns, perhaps at a train on the line, though its main target was said later to be an anti-aircraft battery on Telegraph Hill... Some of the bullets hit the white-tiled walls under the bridge and left pockmarks which were still discernible the last time I looked, about fifty years later'.

I checked myself last week, and yes the bullet holes are still there more than 70 years after the end of the war.

Brickley Central

David Lodge's 2008 novel 'Deaf Sentence' is the tale of a recently retired academic at a north of England university coping with going deaf and his elderly father's dementia. Said father still lives in the house where the narrator grew up, situated in an area named 'Brickley', a 'drab segment of  south-east London' with 'its streets of squat identical terraced cottages on the flat bits, and larger terraced houses and tall detached and semi-detached villas on the hilly bits'.

The father lives in 'Lime Avenue', a setting clearly based on Lodge's childhood home in Millmark Grove:  'squeezed in on rising ground between a main road and the railway, and it leads nowhere except to the main road at each end. The houses on the railway side have back gardens which abut on to an unusually high and wide embankment' whereas on the other side of the street the gardens are 'raised up artificially on landfill contained by a high concrete wall' backing on to the main road.

'Brickley' also features in his novel The Picturegoers set in a local cinema, while his time at the St Mary Magadelen parish youth club - St Ignatius Social Club - inspired an episode in his novel Therapy.

Lodge's portrait of Brockley/Brickley is less than flattering, but as he notes in his recent autobiograpy:  'When I was growing up there after the Second World War Brockley was a declining, unfashionable suburb, though I did not perceive it as such. After I ceased to live there in 1959, as Goldsmiths College in New Cross grew in size and status it began to attract more sophisticated residents - teachers, artists, actors - and lately it has become almost trendy'.

(Source for all above, except Deaf Sentence quotes, 'Quite A Good Time to be Born: A Memoir: 1935-1975' by David Lodge, Random House, 2015).

No comments: