I first became acquainted with this secret haven that provided me with basic learning along with the need for having a quiet haven where one could think when we moved to a newly-built council estate when I was aged 9 years. Our new council house was heaven itself. Not only did we have the space to sleep two parents and seven children in three bedrooms instead of one, but we no longer needed to bath in a tin tub and had our own bathroom. We also had our own loo that we didn’t need to share with neighbours, and just in case two of us needed to take our ablutions at the same time, we had an outside toilet as well as an inside one.
A very important part of my childhood development that I obtained from our council house on Windybank Estate was the outside shed that was like a brick annex building to the house. In this place was stored all my father’s tools and items such as family bicycles etc that would not be allowed to live inside the house. The shed was a very important place in my development; particularly ‘the roof of the shed’, where I would often go whenever I wanted to lose myself from the prying eyes of a strict father who would wallop me if he caught me puffing a Woodbine or a mother who loved me so much that she forever wanted to find me instantly whenever she required her oldest child to run a family errand.
Often when I arrived home from school, weather permitting, I would furtively absent myself and climb up on the shed roof for a half hour of peace and quiet. ‘On the roof’ provided me with the very first quiet space I discovered. As the verse of the song says:
‘When this old world starts getting me down,
And people are just too much for me to face--
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space ...’
Sometimes, I would get my small gang together and we would climb up onto the shed roof and make our ‘war plans’ or exchange stories both clean and dirty, tall and small talk. We were even known to compare different parts of our anatomy, not only between one male friend and another but occasionally between ourselves and one of the honorary female followers of the gang that we occasionally allowed to tag along, so long as she complied with the rules. I recall that it was ‘up on the roof’ that our next-door neighbour, Silvia Hinchcliffe (who was three years older than me), taught me how to kiss properly. These lessons were some of my favourite learning stages of the day and they formed a vital part in my growing up curriculum. It was like learning a new language; the language of love, but instead of learning to ‘speak in tongues’, Silvia taught this then ten-year-old boy how to ‘kiss in tongues. No way could I ever imagine before moving into a new council house in West Yorkshire, would this Irish boy discover the adult secret of ‘French kissing’ on top of an English shed roof-top!
Years later, between the ages of 21-23 years, whilst living and working in Canada and America, I also learned how important the rooftops of city apartment holders were. They would often go up on the roof to relax, to court, to look out at the city below or to feed the pigeons, or even hide guns or other items inside roof chimney stacks! I guess that every country in the world has its equivalent to our British shed roofs?
My song today is, ‘Up on the Roof’. I first heard this song in 1962 being sung by Kenny Lynch and ‘The Drifters’. By 1963, the song had also become a big hit in the U.S.A. I dedicate this morning’s song to Silvia Hinchcliffe; the girl next door.
Love and peace Bill. xxx