ROOMS I HAVE KNOWN: CROYDON 1974

The road in East Croydon where I lived from 1968 to ’72 (and 1973-74).
In 1968, my family moved from Exeter, where I grew up, to Croydon, where I would be spending most of my teenage years. My brother got the small bedroom, even though he was away at university and spent hardly any time at home; I had to share a bedroom with my sister, who was finishing her A-levels in Exeter and who would also soon be going away to college. So I mostly had the bedroom to myself, though it never truly felt like mine. I always wanted a room I didn’t have to share.
The house where I spent my teenage years. My bedroom is at the back.
View from my bedroom window. I didn’t drink the contents of these bottles.
The bed. You can also see part of my beermat collection.

When I was little I liked collecting things: stamps, jewels, cigarette cards, empty mini-cigar tins, trolls. In these pictures you can see parts of my beermat and miniature liqueur bottle collections. My dad started bringing the empty bottles home from business trips when I was about eight, so naturally I started collecting them. Names like Drambuie, Chartreuse and Marie Brizard exercised an exotic fascination over me from the very beginning. I also collected pictures that caught my attention, and started Sellotaping them to my wall. That was how it began.

The wardrobe doors.

These photos were taken in about 1974, after I’d left home and begun living in rented rooms around London. My father had started using the mostly unoccupied bedroom as storage for his cricket magazines and other papers (much to my mother’s frustration he’d already turned the dining-room into an office-cum-library-cum-jazz-record-depository – I wish I had photos – that made my own clutter look like the work of an amateur) and my mother was itching to get the back bedroom decorated so she could invite normal people to stay in it. I snapped off a couple of rolls of film just before all the pictures were torn down.

Some of my father’s cricket magazines.
The washbasin in the corner.
The two beds (and an extra chair).
Holman Hunt, crumpets, fashion & illumination.
I drew eyes, Frankenstein’s monster & mushrooms.
I think this started off as a drawing of a face.
The Sundance Kid, henna and the Lone Ranger.

In 1972 I did a year’s Foundation Course in Art & Design at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. I chose Wolverhampton more or less at random, mostly because I wanted to leave home, but spent most of that year pining for London. One year later, in 1973, I was accepted by a degree course in Graphic Design at Central School of Art & Design; the downside was that I had to move back in with my parents because Croydon wasn’t considered far enough away from London to get me a student grant. I hated living at home so much that towards the end of my first year I sunk into a semi-faked fit of depression to persuade parents, tutors, student grant authorities that I NEEDED to leave home for my personal and artistic development. Several hysterical weeping fits later, I left home for good and rented a tiny room in Camden Town. In the end, the grant worked out at something like £25 per term, so I worked in shoeshops, bookshops, cakeshops, the office of the Croydon Inland Revenue (where my mum worked) every weekend and holidays. I was always skint, but I didn’t mind too much because at last I had a ROOM OF MY OWN.

I liked pictures of old, cluttered rooms.
Frankenstein’s monster – a recurring motif of my adolescence.
The bedhead; cheese packaging and the picture of  another old room.

In these pictures we can see an early example of the Cluttered Collage Approach to Interior Decor that has been a characteristic of all the rooms I have lived in throughout my life; recently I have tried to tone it down a bit, not entirely successfully, though I have learnt to preserve the occasional bare white wall. In the late 1960s I became addicted to the (then) exciting new phenomenon of the Sunday colour supplement – principally that of the Sunday Times – which for the adolescent me was a treasure trove of thrilling fashion photography, publicity film stills, witty adverts for Benson & Hedges or Smirnoff (“Accountancy was my life until I discovered Smirnoff” – no wonder they banned alcohol and tobacco advertising) and aspirational imagery of Camembert and croissants, the sort of lifestyle I wanted to lead even though I had never even tasted Camembert or croissants. Little did I know that, one day, I would have all the Camembert and croissants I could eat.

My sister’s pictures. The miniature liqueur bottle collection is all mine.
From the days when I found fashion photography exciting.
A chest of drawers.

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8 thoughts on “ROOMS I HAVE KNOWN: CROYDON 1974

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