Life in the early days of Billericay – Part 1

It was a slowly arising situation that we found ourselves in during those first couple of years in Billericay. We moved in with a lot of borrowed furniture, some nice hi-fi and one child – Samantha. Within a short space of time, we had some new furniture, even better hi-fi and two children!

The addition of a Deutsche Mark desk to the company had a very good effect. Commission on DM trades was very good and it didn’t take too long for this to work its way through. I was on 1.1|% of the companies net income so I felt any change in the company’s fortunes quite quickly. Mind you, it was difficult to cope with the quarterly nature of the salary. I got a mid term advance but,as you didn’t know what the final figure was going to be, you had to be a bit careful. Then, when the final result came through, it was always with a sense of relief and excitement. Over those for two years from mid-1971 to mid-1973 saw a lot of changes.

We went from some Rogers hi-fi to a very nice Bang and Olufson set up. Furniture changed from those cast offs to a nice three piece suite (well 2 piece as we only needed one armchair). We had the pine stuff in the dining room that my parents bought for our wedding present – Habitat, how cool was that? We found ourselves getting some nice aluminium patio doors, quite a new thing then. Then there was the situation about cars.

Cars – my favourite subject. I can change cars like some people change underwear! We started off with a grotty Ford Anglia van conversion that I was talked into but, actually, never really worked whilst we had it. Brian, our next door neighbour, put me in touch with friend of his and we ended up with a little pale blue Hillman Imp.

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Here we are in glorious black and white with me at my hirsute best and Sam in her little Vyella coat! This wasn’t a bad car but a bit unreliable. Unfortunately, I may be very good at some things but fixing cars is not one of them. I have often been heard to say that if I fix one thing on a car then I break another! As the salary rose, it became obvious that we could afford better so we went off to Allen’s of Romford, the big Ford dealer, and bought a 2nd hand Ford Escort 1300GT – an H registration, so 1970. Not too shabby.

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(Not my car but similar)

This car was fine and great fun. It seems a bit slow now but it had good performance for the time. Again, as the year progressed, we started to think about a new car (I say we but…). Comes Christmas and I am in full new car mode. I went along to the annual Motor Show at Earls Court fully expecting to go looking for the hot-shot Escort Mexico. I found out two things at that show. One was to stay with me for ever! Firstly, the insurance on a Mexico was horrendous – as mostly they were used for rallying. Secondly, it only came as a two-door car. Can you image selling that idea to Valerie, now we had two children! I phoned around and ended up buying a new Escort  1300GT from a showroom down in Tooting, close to Streatham, my home town.  This takes us up to early/mid-1973. More in the next episode, just so that this doesn’t become a car review  blog.

The hi-fi that we had at the time was a Rogers Ravensbrook amplifier, a Garrard SP25 record deck and some speakers that I had made from plans in Hi-Fi News.

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Time for new stuff. John Lewis sold B&O so that was it.

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We had held a house warming party for family and neighbours and two things came out of this. One was that we should get into Neil Diamond – Judith and Brian brought along one of his albums and it was a bit hit – Porcupine Pie and Sweet Caroline did it for us. The second also came from that couple who questioned why we didn’t have a colour TV as the snooker on BBC2 didn’t make much sense in black and white! Somehow, we not only acquired a B&O hi-fi set but also a B&O TV (which caused me some grief a couple of years later!). I am horrified to find out that the £700 that we paid for that TV is £8,800 in today’s deflated money!

One other thing, that I touched on in an earlier post, was changes to the kitchen arrangement. I had absolutely no idea how to go about knocking a doorway through a supporting breeze block wall. I didn’t have long to find out as, once requested, Valerie isn’t one to let up! As you can see from this – current – floor plan, the door is still there so I must have made a good job.

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I remember renting some Acrow props, buying a sledge hammer and going for it. Three days or so of hard dusty work and the doorway was there. I then blocked up the other door with wooden panelling – I couldn’t plaster then and still can’t. We also tore out the old kitchen which was a cheap and nasty one put in by the builders and replaced it with a nice, deep maroon, Candy set. We also redecorated the living and dining areas. The living room got one wall of Valerie’s favourite wallpaper as I put up in Norbury and the dining room got a coating of tongue and grooved pine. I have lost count over the years of how many walls that I have coated with pine!

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