Sunday 4 January 2015


Back in the late fifties/early sixties there was an old guy who lived in the halfway house along Tubbenden Lane. Sometimes he would sit just outside the gate or would be seen walking along Orpington High Street. Nothing unusual about that except that he wore a black leather bikers jacket, jeans and winklepickers - and a cloth cap and used a walking stick.

And what did we young people think? Silly old fool.

Sometimes he would be found, sitting alone, nursing a cup of frothy coffee in Divs (DiVito's long before it moved into The Walnuts shopping centre) the haunt of the local bikers. Nobody ever spoke to him.

So, here I am in my seventieth year not yet ready to wear that neatly pressed beige uniform that people my age are expected to wear. Instead, leather jacket; T-shirt and jeans - no cloth cap though or walking stick.

The difference between then and now is that I can walk down Orpington High Street because there are others like me. Go to the Ace Café by Stonebridge Park tube station and still find people of my age group dressed the same as we were fifty odd years ago.

Then look at the younger generation  they dress like they want to be us. Parkas, leathers, mini-skirts - Lambrettas and Vespas and motorbikes in all sizes. Nothing funnier than watching a kid try and do a wheelie on a scooter - except that I don't laugh at him but at myself because I can remember when I was him.

These days I listen to heavy metal, play on games consoles and do things that people my age shouldn't. But as my own children say I was doing those things before they did - and when I'm online I get messages of respect. People ask me questions and I respond.

Back in the sixties no one spoke to the old guy - maybe, he just enjoyed that atmosphere and the rock n roll music on the jukebox - it's just that we never asked.

They say that Orpington High Street has changed. Well, places like people do over time. The halfway house in Tubbenden Lane has gone; so, too, has Central Electrics in the High Street where I bought records; Woolworths too but I can still hear the flower seller telling me his wares are nice and fresh; Divs has gone and the old, dark comic exchange shop opposite Chislehurst Road. And the Commodore Cinema now replaced by a burger bar - most photos of that cinema say that it was showing 'The Creatures That Time Forgot' - except that we have not forgotten those times.

People and places change - that's life and that is what I enjoy - age has nothing to do with it.