Monday, 11 January 2016

Meeting David Jones in Bromley, a long time ago.

My wife's uncle Jonathan has a David Bowie reminiscence. He once shared it with me over lunch...

Bromley, the summer holidays of 1958. Jonathan was twelve. He was told by his parents to stop knocking around the house, so he wandered down to the local park, King's Meadow, off Burnt Ash Lane, to play on the swing.

The swing was a big one ("what they used to call a 'Long Lizzie'") which could accommodate several children.

The park was deserted save for a younger boy already sitting on the swing. Jonathan joined him and they got talking.

"He asked me which school I went to and I said Bromley Tech. He became quite animated and said 'I'm starting there this September.'"

Jonathan doesn't remember much more about what they said or did, other than sit idly and chat, watching the trains go past.

"We finished our conversation and I thought no more about it until the first day of school in September. This boy came bouncing up and said, 'Hello do you remember me? I'm David Jones... you know, we met...' And I vaguely remembered, so I said 'Oh yes. Hello.'"

"And that was it, really. It wasn't particularly politic to mix with the first years, so I didn't."

Jonathan kept tabs on David because they had a mutual friend in George Underwood, who Jonathan knew from primary school. George was responsible for giving David his famous eye condition whilst at Bromley Tech when they fell out over a girl.

Jonathan remembers David chose to make a guitar in his woodwork class, which he played in the school band he formed with George.

I don't know why I found this story so affecting when I first heard it, and I don't know why I find it affecting now. Perhaps it's in the moment of humiliation for the guileless young Jones, bursting with enthusiasm on his first day at school, being snubbed by someone he thought might be a friend.

Or it could be the image of that 1950s child, sitting alone in the park on the swing, passing time like any young schoolboy, unable even to conceive of the life he'd one day live.


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