Woolwich & Districts
and Tea Leaves.
Common kids would smuggle some King Edward spuds from home and
some matches, with a bit of the striker off the matchbox. Hide
them in our jumpers and sneak over to the furthest recesses
of the Common, down into the holly bushes by the St.
Nick's hospital wall.
gather some dry dead twigs and dry grass and build a campfire
in the clearings we made inside these big bushes. We'd
skewer the spud on a pointed stick and hold it over the flames.
We loved sitting around the fire holding and turning our
smoke blackened raw spud. It really brought out some instinctive
primal satisfaction, which was, after all, only just under
all of our skins anyway!
we were careful and kept the fire well supplied with dry
twigs and grass this would keep the smoke down to a minimum.
about this as too much smoke attracted the dreaded Park Keeper.
If this brown uniformed fella did turn up we would
scarper, running in all directions to avoid getting caught.
This uniformed fella with his brown serge jacket and trousers
and his brown trilby hat complete with brass badge would, often
enough, turn up during our spud baking sessions, or during
our secret experimental smoking pow wows!
these very serious and secret smoking sessions we would
smoke the hollow stems of dry grass, or some smuggled tea leaves
from home, wrapped in toilet paper or newspaper. We'd even smoke
the tobacco from discarded cigarette butts that we'd find in
the gutters. I learnt this last mentioned method of illicit
smoking from the tramps. As they filed along the streets on
their late afternoon journey to the doss house they would
pick up discarded cigarette butts.
doss house was situated along Plumstead High Street towards
the hospital. Sometimes, on our way home from primary school,
we would help a friendly smelly old tramp pick up these
cigarette butts from along the gutter, 'dog-ends' we called
them. We would sit with him on the seat, situated
on Brewery Road and Orissa Road corner, and watch him as he broke
all these butts up into his tobacco tin then re-roll them into
fags and smoke them. So, with this very valuable lesson learnt
we put it into good use, as Common kids tend to do, without
too much trouble!
if we weren't interrupted by the keepers we never actually ever
managed to cook our spuds. We would bite into our still raw,
smoke blackened charred spud and declare, very convincingly,
mmmm!... lovely!....secretly spitting it out as soon as possible.
our spuds were ever only cooked to a depth of around a
millionth of an inch and our smoking exploits made us cough
and choke and our red eyes stream with tears we all
agreed how good it was. I don't ever recollect getting
caught by the Keepers.
On the other hand, I certainly did get
caught once though!
A stunt that we used to play was to set light to the gorse
bushes. These bushes grew in clumps and were dotted along the
Lakedale Road side of the Common's hills. We'd light the fire
and then race down to the fire station on the corner of
Lakedale Road and Plumstead High Street, push the big fire
alarm button on the wall outside and tell the firemen where
the fire was. If you were lucky you might even get a lift up
in the fire engine to the fire.
was we got split on by another kid. A copper came to our house
and told our mums, Ken (Dors) and me, what we had been up to.
We got a bleeding good hiding of course. We were then marched
down to Plumstead Police Station to a very stern lecture and
more clips round the ears before being marched all the way back
home, whilst being reminded every step of the way of how we
were going to cop it when we got back home. And another bleeding good
hiding from dad!