When I think of my younger years I think of Peckham. I think of playing outside with my cousin and her friends until the midnight hours. I was about 12 at the time. I could have been 10. My memory seems to be fading me now. But let’s presume this story began before my secondary school years and after year 5 so that suggests I could have been any age between 10 -12. We’ll stick with that one. I would play with my cousin and her friends until our lips were dry like shrivelled prunes. At that age playtime was all we knew so that’s what we would do until my Aunt’s cooking enticed us back indoors and gently reminded us that we too had homes to go to at night.
I would watch my Aunty frying plantain and mixing up the Jellof rice for us to eat for dinner. After she’d come out of the kitchen with custard vigorously mixed and drizzled over a generous serving of apple crumble or Victoria sponge cake. Having a traditionally West African inspired dish shortly followed by a British dessert reminded us of what an African home looked like fused with sprinkles and drops of British inspiration. It’s a home where you get served plantain with chicken and Jellof rice only to have a traditional British dessert to wash it all down. Those were the golden days.
Peckham for me as a young kid had a real sense of community spirit. It was the people who made Peckham a vibrant place to be in. I would hear Nigerian music blasting through the speakers as the shopkeepers used every muscle in their being to persuade you, using all types of English verbiage to get you to buy more Nigerian DVD’s. From a young age I learnt how to avoid looking at their direction and continue on heading towards my destination with little disturbance. It’s called the mean face. Do that and you’ll be fine but if you walk along the SE15 streets with a big old smile on your face then every shopkeeper will be on your tail thinking you’ll hopefully help their business grow by buying something.
I would walk past fish markets, chicken markets, and all sorts of markets as I walked down Peckham high street. It’s a place where you can find all manner of colours for expression hair extensions and find all sorts of wigs on display. I would see sleek straight Kelly Rowland type bangs, blonde fierce Tamar Braxton and all manner of wild and creative colours on display.
To this day I associate Peckham with a sense of freedom. Maybe it was the fact that I was walking through London city which gave me a thrill. My cousin and I would walk every where and I guess it gave us a sheer sense of what Peckham was about. Exploring the street corners, getting lost and navigating our way through the streets gave us a newfound appreciation for life in Peckham in those days.
I associate a lot of my childhood days to that place because I spent a lot of time with my cousin being sent on grocery errands by our parents. One day it was Lidl for a tin of baked beans, sardines or boxes of Apple Juice. Other days it was a nearby store for a telephone card to use to call family back in Sierra Leone or other days it was Cracker Jack for a crate of Supermalt (which seems to be West Africa’s crazed beverage). How we ever carried that crate home is still a great mystery to us all.
Spending our afternoons in the park, marking my cousins bedroom of how tall we had grown from the last summer we saw each other and reading Mary Kate and Ashley books seemed to be all our minds would think of. That’s why to this day I think of Peckham as a second home. It’s a place that somehow nurtured me. It allowed me to walk through its streets, wander at the events taking place around me watch people going about their day to day errands. I would see young kids crammed in the chicken shop spending away their weekly allowance only to have to beg their parents for more a week later.
These days Peckham seems to be attracting a great deal of creatives, artists and photographers into its humble abode. We’re seeing a whole lot of creativity and artistic inspiration fizzling across the horizon.
Well here’s my snapshot of Peckham. Moments all safely catalogued and archived away in my memory book, a thing I’ll have to refer back to when it’s time to write my own memoir. Will I ever write a memoir? Who knows. One can never say never.
All in all I’m excited to see the type of place Peckham will become in a few years time. Consider this an ode to Peckham, the sweet little place that made a keen impression on my young mind.