- Reuben Miller, Branch Manager of Alexanders West Hampstead: Sponsors of the Jester Festival and Love Parks Week, and generous supporters of Friends of Fortune Green
Years and years ago …
I grew up in West Hampstead in the 70s and 80s, and now I’m back working on West End Lane. Here are a few snapshots from my childhood, teenage and adult years on the Green.
From 7 years old, I remember cycling with abandon through, along and around the Green on my Grifter bike with my brother, sister, step-brothers and step-sister and Gordon-setter dog, Bennett. And I still cycle to this day: in fact I recently cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End over 15 days which was delightful and very challenging as it rained most days.
I would always look forward to going to JA Loader’s newsagent on Fortune Green Road and spend my pocket money and fill up a small white paper bag with old classic penny sweets – cola bottles, fruit salads, black jacks, milk bottles …Then go to Fortune Green and run around on a sugar rush with siblings and neighbours!
I played football occasionally and fairly badly with family and friends. We played on what was a muddy area but isn’t anymore. Thanks to the hard work of Friends of Fortune Green removing the buried air raid shelter, the long-standing drainage problem has been solved. I’d love to see more sports on the Green for kids and adults.
I used to ‘commute’ to secondary school in High Barnet. My journey started in the early morning, looking out for the bus on the corner of Achilles Rd and Fortune Green Road. When I saw it, I would run through the Green to the bus stop.
At around 12 years old, as an up-and-coming slightly boundary less adolescent, I remember the excitement smoking cigarettes in the late afternoon near to the swings with some school friends! I got told off when my parents found out. I smoked off and on up to my early 20s when my daughter was born.
More innocently, when I was about 13, I remember going to the Jester Festival and being delighted to win a bar of chocolate for apple bobbing – I put my face in the bucket of cold water and successfully captured the apple with my teeth!
A couple of years later, we moved a mile down the road to what was then the other side of West Hampstead, now known as South Hampstead. Sadly, Fortune Green was’t my local park anymore.
I moved away (even further this time) to live and work in South West London. Clapham and Tooting Common were now my local parks
Twelve years ago, when I was 30, I came back to the area to work on West End Lane at Alexanders estate agents. We believe in improving and being part of the life of the local community. We’re convinced that it’s only right to support the area, local businesses and the residents that have helped our business thrive over the years, and that’s why we sponsor the Jester Festival and Love Parks Week, along with our friends at David’s Deli. (And thanks to the dynamic, selfless Jody Graham and the team for all their hard work to make Jester gig happen.) We also assist the West Hampstead Business Association committee (WHBA) and help to run the Christmas Community Market. Mark your diaries: Alexanders will be serving free homemade juicy mulled wine with a kick outside our office on 6th December at the Christmas Market. Until it’s all finished!
I’m very glad to be back in the area, and I am lucky that I am able to bring my dog to the office with me. I enjoy taking her for a walk on the Green, and sometimes I run with her before work. Ella is a loveable, lean ginger Golden Retriever, now 7 years old. She has a very calm nature. She relishes running at full sprint around the park with her nose 1 millimetre from the grass, on a mission to tidy the park of any scraps of food: she chases off any flocks of pigeons because she knows that when they flock together it’s probably a sign that they have found some food! She also loves playing with some of the other local dogs. After a run on the Green, we walk through to the cemetery for a lap and then go back to work.
I love growing fruit and vegetables at home in my garden – it is therapeutic and provides delicious food too. This year the garden at home has given a range of food to feed my family; my wife Kathy who is a family therapist and 19-year-old daughter Jemima who is training to be a water sports instructor. We’ve had a healthy trolley full of raspberries, blueberries strawberries, pears, apples, peaches, golden courgettes, tomatoes, runner beans, leaks and butternut squash. The season has ended for most of the fruit, but we’re waiting for the end of the tomatoes to hopefully change from green to red and the butternut squash to ripen for picking in October. One day, I’d love to see some fruit trees and bushes grown on Fortune Green, and possibly some raised vegetable beds or large pots for the community to enjoy. A wildflower meadow to attract butterflies and bees would be a great fit too. Growing food in urban spaces at home or in public is an ancient tradition. Successful, empowering neighbourhood groups like Transition Town, Incredible Edibles and Capital Growth bring local people together and are rich for children too and the community would enjoy the food growing process and especially, of course, the harvesting. So what do you say, FoFG Committee?
- Reuben Miller (Guest Blogger)
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