The Memoir

'This was a house with a little garden the size of a handkerchief and there was a lavatory to ourselves but outside. I hated it. The kitchen and living room were in the basement and the scullery led out of it and to the garden and lavatory. I did not like this house. The memories were mostly of wood lice and snails and it stays in my mind as being dark, with the gas light on.'

'We then moved from 21 Ranston Street to 8 Ranston Street on the opposite side of the street. The row of about seven or nine houses, were called St Botolph's Cottages. They are still in perfect condition on the outside although both ends of that street was bombed during the Second World War. This house was no bigger than 21 but much brighter, sunnier and drier, with an inside loo which had a nice bright window. The garden was bigger and more open, although we were enclosed by very tall buildings with rough families in them.'

'My father loved a garden but ours was enclosed and cats abundant. He used to buy all his flowers on the point of coming into flower: marguerites at the back and geraniums and calceolarias in front. It looked quite nice but there were continual outcries of rage from Dad against cats and slugs and of course soot. We had wire lines for the washing but the people in the buildings facing our garden, but living in the next street, having no yard, used to prop a broom out of the window with a line round it and hang washing on it a bit at a tine. When one went into Paddington Station by train one could see the houses using this method. The washing hanging out and the crazy chimney pots were one of the delights knowing that I had come back to London again.'

'Our landlady who called for the rent at 8 Ranston Street, ten shilling and sixpence a week, was Miss Sims. Miss Sims used to wear a large bag with steel chain handles threaded through her belt. She was very upright, plump and wore a grey costume. A very austere gentlewoman. My mother had a very high regard for her. I understood she was a wealthy person who took an interest in poor housing etc. and developed several plots of land, renting them out at economic rents and taking an interest in the people who lived in the houses.'

'Our row of houses was built in 1889. They had diamond leaded panes and looked pleasant. Bugs were the normal pest in those days and I remember my father fumigating it. He then distempered all the bare walls. This was quite an innovation at that time. The whole house was painted in light colours so that any bug would show up and be dealt with.'


Margherita Rabuffi, her mother, grand mother
and great grand mother.  Margherita is sitting
on her great grandmother’s lap.

The Rabuffi Family, taken in a photographer's
studio in Edgware Road a few years later.

 

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Updated August 8, 2011