The 86 bus had two stops on Sydenham Road. One of them was situated outside our next door neighbours, the O’Connors. Rosemary and Patricia were my best friends when we were all around seven years old. Along with my brother, Mark, we were inseparable. There was a five foot wall at the end of the garden and a metal trellis on the top to prevent people sitting on it. Occasionally a brave youth would perch precariously on the top of the metalwork whilst waiting for the bus. This drove Mr O’Connor absolutely crazy and he regularly shouted at miscreants to move themselves. Whilst he was at work, we regarded it as our duty to patrol the boundary and keep the trellis free of intruders.
One morning during the school holidays, Patricia hammered on our back door looking for backup. She and Rosemary had shouted at a boy who was hanging off the top of the trellis. He didn’t take any notice of them so they threw a few stones at him to dislodge him from his perch. He jumped into their garden and came after them just as I appeared on the scene. The showdown took place outside their garage door on the driveway. There was lots of shouting and he pushed me in the chest. I pushed him back. Then he clinched his fist tightly, swung his arm and whacked me squarely on the ear. I had never been hit by anyone in my life, and this came as a complete shock. Instead of fighting back, I exploded into tears and ran for our Nanny. With my ear red and ringing,
I blurted out between indignant sobs what had happened, begging for swift adult retaliation.
She laughed in my face.
I grew up a tiny bit that day.