I am particularly pleased to see the publication of this book as I had the idea of writing the story in the first place. First thanks for their help in this project got Austrian Airlines. JTO and I were due to go to Sofia for a meeting of the Economic Affairs and Development Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. JTO had to present a report to the Committee on the work of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in the previous year. The committee didn’t normally meet in Bulgaria, it was usually Paris or Strasbourg, but it had gone to Bulgaria at the behest and invitation of its new Chair, who was Bulgarian. Anyway, there was a delay to the RailAir coach to Heathrow but we arrived at Heathrow with enough time to check-in for the flight. Or so we thought. We got to the right check-in desk to find a massive long queue and whilst a number of us were still waiting to check-in the airline closed it. We went over to their desk to complain and find out what they would do to get us on the flight to be treated very rudely and told we did not get to the check-in in time so it was our fault. Something they continued to keep up when we complained in writing. We have never flown with that airline since and have no intention of doing so again. There was nothing to do we had to wait for the next flight at the same time the next day.
We didn’t want to go home to Reading and face the same problem with traffic the next day so we decided to book into a hotel in Paddington so we could get an early train the next morning to make our flight. We popped into the office but as we were supposed to be in Bulgaria there was nothing for us to do. So we headed back to Paddington. In the middle of Spring Street, across Praed Street from the station was an Italian restaurant which we had been to before and enjoyed eating at.(Though I notice it has recently closed. The photo is of the view across the road from the restaurant.) During the meal we got round to talking about JTO being from West London, it being on the Central Line and, having nothing to do for the afternoon, I suggest that we go and visit South Ruislip. In parenthesis I think I should add that around this time we had visited Leighton Buzzard where JTO grew up, Durham, where she went to university, and Liverpool, where I went to university.
After finishing eating we walked to Lancaster Gate tube station and took the Central Line out to South Ruislip tube station. Coming out of the station and crossing the West End Road brings you to Great Central Avenue. The fourth turning on the right is Priors Gardens, our destination. This was the first home Jane’s Parent’s had and where she spent most of the first seven years of her life, attending the Bourne Primary School which was just at the end of the road. At 12 Priors Gardens was the house and the people who lived there then were kind enough to let us have a look round the garden which brought a lot of memories back for JTO.(The picture shows the side of the house behind JTO.)
The houses in the estate between the railway lines and West End Road, along with the school, were built after the end of the Second World war, in the middle of the 1950’s, as part of the then Conservative government’s housebuilding programme. As a result the first tennants for these new family houses were from the local council waiting list and were in a similar situation. JTO told me about the two houses next to hers which both had a family which both had a girl the same age as JTO. Whilst walking around the area, trying to find the place where other family members had lived we talked more about what happened to the two other girls, the one next door who was the daughter of a Polish fighter pilot (and here) in the war, who went into the police and became known in the 1980’s, and the girl who lived on the other side of her. Three girls born in the 1950’s in the middle of the boomer generation, who later went on to do things. A story of women in the second half of the twentieth century. I said it just had to be a book as it was a terrific story. That was the start for the book. To find out more about the story buy the book.