Friday, July 17, 2009

the stables that never were

Between the ages of - roughly - seven or eight and thirteen or fourteen, I used to pass these very dilapidated looking garages every day, en route to Wimbledon High Junior School and, after that, to the station - or just when walking down the hill to the library.   I still walk that way to the station when I'm back, and they don't seem to have changed at all - a curiously dated little enclave in the midst of a whole lot of spiffily done up mews cottages and little (once upon a time) artisans' dwellings.

These garages were the site of my preferred fantasy when I was around ten or eleven - running a riding school.   Not the actual riding school where I worked before and after school filling water buckets and hanging haynets and filling feed buckets and stirring linseed mash and mucking out the stalls, but my own would-be enterprise.   I estimated exactly what it would cost to keep and shoe and run veterinary bills for ten or twelve horses, knew what the horses themselves would cost (indeed, chose good-sounding ones from advertisements in the back pages of Horse & Hound), worked out what the income from lessons and hacks and liveries would be, made up imaginary clients and schedules for imaginary horses; calculated, even, lighting and bills.

What's scary about this is that it sounds horribly, in retrospect, as though I was practicing running a university department - only I really, really, miss having horses looking over their stable doors.   Perhaps I could convert some rooms in Murray?   

It's also really striking, to me, how this photograph makes one kind of sense when filled with a narrative of nostalgia - or at least me trying to make sense of the past in light of today - and yet if one were to look at these shabby garages without text, they look like a rather sinister place - the kind of location in which one (at least in detective fiction) finds corpses or signs of violence behind these doors, or other evidence of crime.   The Hillside Detective Agency (one of my enterprises from a couple of years earlier, with me master-minding Andrew, William, and Simon) did, indeed, get very excited when, just up the next road, some of the loot from the Great Train Robbery (1963) was found in, yes, a lock up garage that was also used to store antiques (at least, so I've always believed and remembered, but, disappointingly, there's a strange lack of corroborating evidence on line...).

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