It was no picture postcard; the lower storey was brick and the upper shingle with some mock wooden beams. But it was large. It had three reception rooms, six bedrooms (two in the attic), a bathroom and a kitchen (but no fridge). The bath had a gas geyser. It was built some time just before the First World War.
The decor was rather conventional and quite subdued. I don't think my parents were greatly interested in decor and they certainly weren't fashionable. The general effect was comfortable and harmonious with some nice furniture and pictures given to the family by a Scottish uncle.
The house stood in about an acre of garden. This was my father's pride and joy and he worked in it every evening after he came back from work. We had several herbaceous borders, a big productive vegetable garden and fruit trees. My brother and I each had a patch of our own.
Being Cambridgeshire, the surrounding countryside was pretty flat. My brother and I spent hours riding about on our bikes, sometimes as far as Newmarket. The neighbours opposite gave us free range of their garden which led down through a wood to a tributary of the Cam. And they had a punt!
Dad maintained a wonderful loving stability throughout my childhood, though there was a fair amount of illness - mine for about three years as a child and my mother much longer term. Once I became normally fit after illness I became obsessed with my bicycle. I would spend literally hours riding round the house on it by a narrow path and the drive which had plenty of sharp corners, sharper ground and small hedge borders. It required skill to negotiate and resulted in many bloody knees.
My first conscious memory is of the upstairs right front bedroom, then the "day nursery" - just looking out of the window on a sunny morning in May. We had honey for breakfast and Dad came in with a canary in a cage - my birthday present. But the study was the focal point of our lives. It was very much his room, where his desk was and the wireless - we all crouched round in the evenings through 1939-45. It had a very heavy battery which had to be recharged weekly in the local garage.
I don't know the history of the house and my family was the first generation to live there. But I believe when my father bought it in 1925 he was able to do so outright, without a mortgage. He wasn't rich but he'd spent three- and-a-half years in the trenches where there was no opportunity to spend his pay.
I left the house in 1951, when I was 23, to get married and to start my life as an actor.
I now live in a tiny mews flat in London SW1 which I've had for over 30 years, plus a converted barn in Gloucestershire. Neither has much in common with Lavender Close, but I still have some things from there which I can recognise from my very earliest memories.Reuse content