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To remember times past, I took a trip down memory lane – literally

When Mark Piggott realised how many events and places that were important to his family lay on a 20-mile trail from the outskirts of London to Soho, he decided to walk the whole route in a single day…

Monday 03 December 2018 10:16 GMT
Nan holding my father (top left) at a Unity Estate VE tea party in 1945
Nan holding my father (top left) at a Unity Estate VE tea party in 1945

3 November 2018. At six I wake in the box room bedroom at my grandparents that I’ve claimed as my own since coming to Cheshunt as a baby. Suddenly I’m 51: this is the last time I’ll ever sleep in this three-bed former council house on an estate on London’s northern edge. My paternal granddad Leslie died in 2014 and for over a year my nan Eileen has languished in a care home with worsening dementia, which means never again will she return to the house that for all those decades was the family home.

After my grandfather returned from war, he, Nan and my infant father moved into a two-bed semi on a large estate being built for heroes called Bury Green: one of Nan’s ways to make ends meet was to clean the newly completed houses after the workmen had finished, walking the plank across muddy foundations, my father in her arms. When a larger, three-bed place came up further in they moved, the neighbours mucking in with hand carts.

Empty houses are depressing, and this house has lain empty for more than a year; it smells dank, there are cobwebs, and half the family photographs have been removed from the wall leaving a patchwork of anachronistic memories. Soon, when Nan dies, or her savings run out, this house, the sole childhood home of my dad, uncle and auntie – which my grandparents agonised over buying due to their socialist principles – will be sold. After half a century, I look round for a final time, and close the door.

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