Friday, 28 December 2012

An enchanted Charlie Christmas and a Happy Hollywood New Year

I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and enjoyed the festivities of the holidays. I most certainly did, surrounded by my family and friends. Good food, good drink and at times (when I was allowed the remote control) good TV too. Christmas pudding steaming on the hob and Casablanca in the background, it was my kind of afternoon. That is till my brother, the chef of the family, insisted on watching a mad-cap cook. He likes as he cooks giant edible monstrosities out of wacky ingredients and then expects you to do the same...

Thank goodness for my godson. Now anyone who follows the various pages of Charlie's London will know that I speak about Jayden a lot. He is nearly four and the son of my cousin, who in truth is more like my sister. He is my latest Chaplin convert and loves to watch his films with me. He calls him "that naughty Charlie Chaplin" and for Christmas we bought him the Chaplin and Co. DVD which he watched absolutely transfixed. For anyone who does not know this DVD I highly recommend it if you have children, or young adults you want to get into Charlie but may feel silent films at a first glance are too heavy going. It's a French animation produced by the Association Chaplin and Bubbles Inc. in conjunction with Roy Export SAS. It's similar to the Pixar style of animation and for me captures the mannerisms and essence of the little tramp quite well. Jayden watches them so intently and is so familiar with Chaplin films in general that now he can even watch them and make the connection between the children's adaptation and the original shorts they are meant to represent.

Watching him watch any Chaplin brought me to a subject that I know many Chaplin blogger, Tweeter, Facebooker and Tumblrer (is that a word...) has thought long and hard about over the festive period.

Jayden and his DVD
Of course, if you are a Chaplin fan, Christmas is often a strange time of year. Christmas Day, 1977 saw the end of an era with the passing of not only a comedy genius but arguably one of the fathers of contemporary cinema. Writing as much as I do about Charlie made me realise that somehow, on the day when everyone would be relaxing and celebrating, I would have to mark it with something of a sombre nature. So how was I to do it?

Talking one afternoon to one of my close blogging / Facebook friends, Anne  threw up an interesting situation and for me. I am one of the youngest bloggers on the subject that I know.  In a time when so many other great internet contributors have written very touching posts because they remember Charlie's passing, I cannot. I was born 5 years after he died and don't have those memories to draw from. I also try to keep my blog focused on London as much as I can - and of course, he didn't die here.

It was then suggested to me that I should write a post on the Christmas' he had in London such as his sad moment in Hanwell, or waking hungry on Christmas morning because there was not even an ounce of food in the house. For those that don't know, as the story goes Charlie stood in line with the other boys at the Hanwell Workhouse for his present of an orange. Oranges were a rare treat and he was excited to have one. However as he stood there, excited and happy he was told by the warden that because he had soiled himself the night before he wasn't allowed one - a memory that haunted him for the rest of his days.

Charlie in The Gold Rush 1925
I toyed with the idea but then I realised that this probably would not read very well, especially when this time of the year is meant to be a happy one. I reflected again on the fact that I was not alive when he was, as much as this has always saddened me it finally flashed the lightbulb above my head which led me to this post.

Charlie for me has never been dead or alive, he has always been a beautiful enigma wrapped up in a world of make believe and pure resilient genius. I did not have to mourn his passing because for me he never had one. I watch Jayden and his love of Charlie's films and I think of my own childhood, sat in very much the same position with my grandmother watching them in the same way. Laughing at the same parts, crying at others. Charlie has always been in my life and will continue to be whether he physically lives or doesn't.

Hindsight in life is such a great gift. I can appreciate the things he was trying to convey to the world without having to read the scandal and the rubbish that many people reported about him to sell newspapers. His art will continue to speak forever and while we hear the infectious laugh of the children who enjoy him now as much as people did in 1915, I think as Chaplin fans we can all sleep easy, knowing that future generations will make sure he lives forever!

Charlie's films are screened all around the world still, nearly
a century after some of them were made. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

A chat with Kevin Brownlow

This week we sit down with Kevin to look at how important Charlie's London was  to Charlie's Hollywood, and consider the evolution of the Tramp - from London slums to Hollywood lights.

The 80s seems to be incredibly popular at the moment. The music, the fashion, the films - even the shoulder pads seem to be creeping back into the shops. This aside, I can safely say that the 80s were defined for me by two major breakthroughs in Chaplin research: the unsurpassed biography by David Robinson, and thebreathtaking documentary by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill - Unknown Chaplin

Now, for anyone that doesn't know, I was born in 1982. So unfortunately I missed the original broadcast in 1983, and was only three years of age when the original publication of His Life and Art hit the shelves also. But I do know that both my mother and grandmother watched it. In fact, they recorded it onto VHS and kept the copy for many years - the same copy I would later watch in amazement as I sat tucked up under my blanket on the sofa one cold Saturday afternoon at just seven years old.

Myself and Kevin at the Giornate, 2012
Fast forward twenty years and that very moment is ringing around in my ears with anticipation and increased excitement. Yet this time, there is no bed blanket or wet rainy afternoon! Now I am sat in beautiful Pordenone during the 31st LeGiornate Del Cinema Muto and sharing a coffee and chat with Kevin himself; a surreal moment I have no doubt my grandmother would have been very proud of.

In the editing room, circa 1918
I first met Kevin in January 2012 at the annual Bristol Silents Slapstick festival, an event that still holds a special place in my heart. He presented a fantastic talk about another great silent star, Buster Keaton and I was lucky enough to speak to him afterwards. It was very brief and there was so much more that wanted to say. Now, sat across the table I had every opportunity. I was thrilled when Kevin agreed to talk to me about The Unknown Chaplin - I had always wanted to know so much more about the sections used from How To Make Movies.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Partying with the stars: The Lambeth Workhouse sees happier times with the relatives of little William Goodman!

Hello Everyone!

Well, what can I say?.......

It is not everyday you get a phone call from America and your favourite historian at your party in the same day, but on the 17th November it was a reality for one very happy birthday girl, me :) ! This post will be a little bit different to my normal blog rambles, purely because I feel I have to mention some people and some things in order to thank those who really deserve it.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

In Memory of PTE James Raper, Royal Fusilier and good South London Boy!

Hello Everyone!

Now normally as you know I do not do more than one post a day! In fact i have been pretty bad at posting lately, all that will change I promise.

Well as you may be aware it is Remembrance today, officially the end of the Great War in 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. At first this may seem a strange post to add onto Charlie's London, but as you all know I do try to keep this blog as personal as possible and what better way to do it than talk to you all about another South Londoner and one who's story remained untold for nearly a century.

From East Street to Easy Street : The History of a South London Market.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Charlie's London!

Today I am going to walk you through the fantastic area that is East Street Market.

East Street Market, also known locally as ‘The Lane’ (or ‘East Lane’) is a busy street market in Walworth, South London. It's open every day - except Monday. Sunday is the busiest day as the market consists of over 250 stalls, including the weekly plant market. It's large and vibrant, and great for African and Caribbean fruit and vegetables and household goods. The market also sells clothing, jewellery, cosmetics, confectionary, CDs and DVDs.

East Street Market now
There has been street trading in the Walworth area since the 16th Century, when farmers rested their livestock on Walworth Common before continuing to the city. During the Industrial Revolution, stalls lined the whole of the Walworth Road. However, the Market itself has only been officially running since 1880. The Market runs down East Street from the junction with Walworth Road to Dawes Street. The main entrance to the market is from Walworth Road. A bus stop on Walworth road serves the market, with a large number of buses arriving from Elephant and Castle or Camberwell Green. In the earlier days, Charlie Chaplin was a regular visitor to East Street Market during his youth in South London

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has visited the market and is familiar with Chaplin films, that his 1917 classic Easy Street is very much based upon the market. In fact, David Robinson's introduction in the most recent edition of My Autobiography clearly highlights that to call it East Lane as Charlie did was a very South London thing to do! Only the locals referred to it in such a way, often to the frustration of an outsider who tried to find its location.

A large number of visitors to London find their way to Borough Market and consume the tasty fare until it’s time to be rolled home. But East Street Market is a different experience. Hidden away behind Elephant and Castle, this is the place for bargain hunters and anyone desperate to get away from the oh-so-trendy vibe of Borough and the like.

Easy Street

So how did the market come to be here in the first place? The first official mention of the area comes in the 10th Century, when Anglo-Saxon King Edmund Ironside granted the manor of Walcorde, which was later to become Walworth, to his court jester, who in turn signed it over to the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury. To this day certain parts of Walworth are still owned by the church.

In those days Walworth was a marshy area, dissected by tidal creeks. It was given over to commons and rough grazing and little regarded by record keepers, officials or taxmen. The few dwellings that were to be found there were mainly built on higher ground and relied on the tidal streams for waste disposal.

Walworth retained the character of a scattered village right up to the earlier part of the 18th Century, when the common still extended from the Camberwell border nearly all the way to where the New Kent Road now runs. But with the advent of the industrial revolution London needed to expand in all directions.  

A typical South London Street now.

The construction of new bridges over the Thames eased access to the centre of London from south of the river and around the 1770s squatters began to encroach on the Walworth common, living in poor improvised hovels and supplying labour to rapidly expanding industries and docks. There also appeared a new class of commuter: professionals who traveled from the suburban terraces around the Walworth Road and beyond to work in central London.

From these early days, market trading was an integral part of life for the area. Costermongers, so called after the large 'costard apples' many sold out of wheelbarrows, spread out across the whole district. Not just East Street, but Walworth Road and Newington Butts were all lined with market traders. Unlike Borough Market, which was established under a royal charter, the market in Walworth evolved naturally as demand from the new arrivals to the area was met with supply from the multitude of market gardens and small traders in the area.

Over the next 100 years, Walworth changed from a village-like small community to one of the most built up areas in London. In 1801 there had been 14,800 people in Walworth, by 1901 that figure had jumped to 122,200. The market evolved to meet the demands of the community.

The Market during the time when Charlie was a small boy!

From 1871, when the first tramlines were laid down the Walworth Road and the first signs of modern traffic began, the St Mary Newington Vestry began to try to restrict the market traders to side roads because they caused too much congestion. The Walworth area was now a shopping district to rival the West End, with many shops and department stores lining the Walworth Road, the Elephant and Castle, and what is now the New Kent Road. By 1902 the advent of the electric trams forced stallholders to the back streets for good and the market began to take shape in the form it is known today.

At first traders in East Street had no regular pitches. In the mornings, no trader could take his or her place in the market until a policeman blew a whistle, and then there would be an almighty rush to get the best spots. Those unable to get a place in time would simply have to pitch as best they could on the periphery and hope that no passing policeman or market inspector would tell them to shut up shop.

Even from its earliest days East Street attracted its fair share of characters. A sketch in the South London Chronicle, dated August 10th 1889, tells of Lord Poofum, an early black immigrant to the area. Lord Poofum wandered the streets of the market selling boxes of 'African Herb Snuff' allegedly endowed with miraculous properties. No matter what your ailment - laziness and sleepiness, rheumatism, neuralgia or even simply fecklessness - Lord Poofum's African Herb Snuff was the cure-all. 

In these days, the market was the lifeline of the local community. It was the only place to buy fresh produce, and for many the principal source of livelihood. As such, the market itself opened every day of the year - even Christmas day - and was always well attended. There were stalls selling day old chicks and laying hens, from when local residents lived in small houses, instead of flats, and kept chickens in their back gardens. The street echoed to the cries of numerous 'quacks', like Lord Poofum, whose concoctions were guaranteed to cure whatever ailments you might suffer from.

East Street, WalworthDuring the war many of the original buildings in the area were destroyed or badly damaged by German bombers. After 1945 the government started a massive regeneration project in the area, clearing the old slums and building many of the estates that still stand today. This regeneration had a serious impact on the local community, with thousands rehoused in to council run social housing.

The other significant change after the war was the influx of migrants to the Southwark area that began with troops drafted from across the Empire to fight the Germans and continues to this day. The impact has been a dramatic change of personnel in the market, where a large number of traders are now drawn from ethnic minorities.

In 1980, East Street Market celebrated its centenary with a massive street party. The term centenary was rather misleading - as the market had never been officially inaugurated and the date was simply plucked out of the air. 

Thank you everyone for reading! Hope to see you all soon x

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Hannah Chaplin: Part Two

What more can be said about Hannah that has not been by Historians and enthusiasts alike? Probably not much! Yet in amongst my own admiration of Charlie I seem to always find myself drawn to her. Now of course we all know of Hannah's sad and tragic demise to the unforgiving master that is mental illness. It has been argued that the female line of Charlie's family were prone to this terrible condition. Yet certain enthusiasts and individuals alike have contributed Hannah's to Neurosyphillis which I personally do not subscribe too, I will however say one thing about Hannah on this matter however. If she ever had to do anything for the love of her children to put food in their already starving bellies, what mother wouldn't? 
Hannah in her Californian home. 

After many years of failed attempts Hannah was finally reunited with her sons in 1921 when she was allowed entry into America and taken out of the mental institutions she had spent so many years of her life. I think here is one of the saddest irony's of Charlie's success! One of the most famous men in the world who often hailed his mother as the origins of his gift, Charlie could not share his joy of his art with his own mother who's mental health left her a shadow of her former self. Hannah often had good days and bad ones, her lowest moments often causing despair for her two devoted sons. How sad also that Hannah probably never knew the level of her own son's success to enjoy it! How ironic that only months later, Charlie would sail to England for a triumphant return to his homeland after nearly ten years away, the very place that both saddened and moulded him. 

The Cinema Museum, the old Lambeth Workhouse
Where Charlie, Sydney and Hannah spent some time.

Hannah would spend the rest of her life in the comfort of California, away from the heartache of her youth and the streets of South London. She had her own home and spent many days sewing and playing cards, her death on the 28th August 1928 added more strife to an already sad year for Charlie. Following the divorce from his second wife Lita and the constant complications and problems caused while making The Circus. 

It has often been suggested that Charlie based so many of his female characters upon his mother; I do believe this is indeed true! I think he saw her as the main female figure in his life and felt her struggle, her character and her tragedy spoke for so many women who had found themselves at the mercy of fate for much of their lives. Victorian life was brutal! Many man, woman and child found themselves the victims of the system and ended their days in the harsh realities of workhouse, poorhouse or worse still,  death house, just like something from the pages of Oliver Twist!

Thank God Hannah was able to save her son's from that! The world would never have known the joy and laughter that its most famous son had to offer. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Hannah Chaplin, Part I: The tragic life of an unsung Chaplin hero

Hannah, look up Hannah! A portrait of Hannah Chaplin
Hi everyone, welcome to another instalment of Charlie's London.

As promised, I'm going to look at the life of Charlie's mother Hannah in more detail. Every time I think of Hannah, I have this very romantic image of her - I think this has a lot to do with the way Charlie describes her in his autobiography. I imagine this beautiful young woman singing, always singing, in as she twirls around the room of her run-down old lodgings. The only ray of sunshine that her sons have as they look on with love and amazement. But then I think of her laying upon the bed in those same rooms, staring aimlessly at the corner of the same room, constantly the same corner, with Charlie and Syd watching her despair as she descends further into madness. These were images that would haunt them in incredibly different ways for the rest of their days.

For me, it's this factor that helps us to understand the very essence of the brothers in relation to their different outlooks to both their lives and careers. Charlie would work until he could work no more! He would delve so deep into his pictures that sometimes the editing process alone took longer than the initial shoot. He creating masterpieces day and night until he reached perfection - but by working in such a way his private life suffered terribly on many occasions. However, Charlie would use his roots as the inspiration for some of his greatest works - this is without a doubt the part of Charlie's London I feel the closest too.

Sydney, on the other hand had a much more laid back approach. He enjoyed the fruits of his labour because he had worked so hard to earn them, and who could blame him. Maybe Charlie feared his background and poverty, feared he would find himself back there and used the thought of it as a way to remind himself to be humble. Charlie was often accused of being tight, penny-pinching and even miserly. Rollie Totheroh, Charlie's leading cameraman, once commented that although Charlie often filmed reels and reels of unnecessary footage and treated the process as if money was not an issue, he would watch the purse strings on other issues like a hawk. In my opinion, this was not miserly behaviour. It was the behaviour of a financially conscientious man who had stared poverty in the face, the results scarring him beyond repair. Even if the approach became a hypocritical one, with regards to his filming techniques he could argue that the ends justified the means when they resulted in successful Chaplin films!

Charlie in his editing room at the Chaplin Studios
For me this all goes back to one thing. Hannah. 

Born Hannah Harriet Pedlingham Hill on August 11th 1865 in Camden Street, Walworth, Hannah was a true South London girl. She seems to have spent much of her life in and around the area (contrary to popular belief that she gave birth to Charlie in a Birmingham Gypsy camp). A music hall artist herself, Hannah developed the stage persona of Lily Harley and seems to have had quite a modest career. Charlie often credited his mother with nurturing his own gift, commenting on her remarkable ability to mimic those around her. For me this is a very interesting element of Charlie's life, and one that I strongly believe ties his most famous character of the Little Tramp to his South London upbringing. 

One of the most famous acts performed by women upon the stage during the height of the English music halls was the popular character of "Burlington Bertie from Bow." Male impersonators would take on the role with much hilarity. Although no record exists of Hannah playing such a role, it's certainly one she would be familiar with. Perhaps familiar enough to put on her own rendition in her home for her small sons at any time. Charlie often remarked of such cold and damp days in Pownall Terrace when his mother would do just this for their entertainment, even keeping a box of her old music hall clothes for dress up. For me, this is where we see another interesting prelude to the tramp character. Burlington Bertie was a gentleman tramp, a man who slept under the stars and yet retained this never-say-die attitude and the stance of an aristocrat.....

Sound like anyone we know?

Charlie as the Little Tramp
Hannah's career, as previously stated, was a modest one - but it was while performing herself she met and married Charles Chaplin Snr. By this point, Hannah had one son from a previously relationship born on the 16th March, 1885 - Sydney John Hill. Sydney would later become Sydney Chaplin through the marriage of his mother and stepfather when he was just one year old. The identity of Syd's father remains a bit of a mystery. Four years later Sydney would find himself with a baby brother, born on the 16th April, 1889, and named after his father - our very own Charles Chaplin.
Charlie and Sydney Chaplin
At this stage, her husband  had acquired a certain amount of success on the English Music Hall circuit and the s lived in comfortable, plush housing - at No.39 West Square, Kennington, one of the Chaplin houses you can still see today. It's in a beautiful Georgian square, with a small park situated in the middle. It was at this home that Charlie remembered finding sweets, cakes and other such treats from his mother after her own performances on the stage. His childhood seems to have been a happy one here.

West Square today
Yet all that was to change, a dramatic twist of fate would see his father leave England for the United States on a tour of the Vaudeville circuit and return home to find his family had changed, and little Charlie's home life broken beyond repair.

Join us next time for Part II!

Monday, 17 September 2012

You sure you know where we are going?!

"You sure you know where you're going?!"

Hello everyone, welcome back to Charlie's London. Firstly, I would like to say a big, big thank you to everyone that has supported the Twitter and Facebook pages! Together we can keep it going from strength to strength, showing that Charlie is as loved today in his own neighbourhood as he always was.

Stan Laurel
In this edition, I want to talk to you briefly about the places, works and people I am going to be focusing on in much more detail as the blog continues. People such as Hannah and Sydney Chaplin, Fred Karno, Hetty Kelly, Charles Snr, Stan Laurel and even Albert Austin. They all add another dimension to Charlie and the London he held so dear. I will be looking at his homes that still survive and the ones that do not; at the places he mentioned such as The Cut, Lambeth Walk and the site of the old Canterbury Music Hall. Then I will, hopefully, track down as many points of interest such as schools, even the asylums Hannah was a patient of before her sons took her to America in the 1920s. All to help expand the view Charlie's world a little bit more.

Fred Karno
Please stay with us, as next Monday I will be doing a study of Hannah Chaplin, Charlie's beloved mother, and (some may argue) his main inspiration for the female roles in his movies - and even his own classic character of The Tramp. Hannah fascinates me! The first time I read her story, I thought of all the women in my life I had known, and how their own plights had made them so much stronger for it. The grit and bravery of a London woman is truly something I will always be in awe of, and something that I have witnessed all my life - for good and bad. Hannah had a sad life, one plagued with mental and financial anguish. Hopefully next week will do her justice.

Hannah Chaplin

Throughout our journey together we will build a map of Charlie's haunts throughout London, some well-known and some perhaps not so familiar.  I will also be adding that personal touch along the way, sharing some heart warming and loveable stories with you as I go. People often forget that comedy can be both truthful and tragic all at the same time. Charlie showed us, as did Shakespeare before him, that comedy and tragedy sit upon the same side of the coin. Sat upon the other is realism and observation. This is something that I believe Charlie used incredibly well, especially when observing those around him as he grew up in and around the Borough of Southwark.

Along the way, I want you all to see South London not only as Charlie would have, but also the history and the humanity of it - its people and places. Then, if i have done my job properly, you will never look at a Chaplin film in the same way again! With every roll of the eyes, kick up the arse and sarcastic facial expression, you will quietly laugh to yourself as you shake your head, smile and say under your breath "Ayse was right, that's so South London!"

Cheerio, Charlie!

See you all soon everyone!

Ayse x

Friday, 14 September 2012

Hello Charlie!

Charlie the man! Perfectly turned out in his studio.

Hey there everyone! Thanks for coming back for another instalment of Charlie's London. As you may already be aware, my interest in Charlie comes from a background of love and admiration that travels through two generations of my family. It is very hard at times to separate Charlie from my own childhood memories, he has always been around: on the TV, in books, pictures - the list goes on...

Charlie and a toy of his alter ego, the Tramp.

A lot has been written about him over the years. Some works are ground-breaking, innovative and truly amazing. Some are, shall we say ... interesting. Let's leave it that for now. Charlie is a point of fascination for many people. As I often say, many people look at Charlie, but they don't see Charlie. Growing up in the 70s, 80s and 90s was hard for many Chaplin fans - TV nearly killed the silent movie star. When the films wwere shown, the prints were often so damaged an and faded that they were virtually impossible to watch. If this wasn't bad enough, they were usually played sped up, with soundtracks of cheap, second-rate stock music. They were also shown in poor time slots and got lost in the listings. In short, it was made very hard work to watch. 

I was lucky enough to have someone who almost gave me a running commentary, my own DVD extra before DVDs were even invented - my Grandmother. "Now Ayse, you see this set of ladders, watch what he does with the other man, he lands the ladder on him and uses it to hold him, look! Isn't that funny!" Her voice almost as clear in my head now as it was 26 years ago. I was sat on the floor, the palms of my hands resting on my chin and my elbows rested on my knees as I sat cross legged on the floor. I remember laughing so much I almost hyperventilated!

This was back in the days before the Internet as we know it (not that long ago - anyone under the age of 20!). All I had was her, anyone else that liked Charlie, and of course the Library. I remember looking at a book at home, a small book with less than 30 pages, almost a picture book and being completely fascinated. I was fascinated because in my young mind (I was about 6 or 7 by this time) Charlie and Chaplin were two separate people.

Charlie was the smart man who smiled as he departed the Olympic in 1921, before getting a train to Waterloo and seeing the Lambeth he loved so dear.

Chaplin was the film star who put on a little toothbrush moustache, a bowler hat, cane and baggy trousers, and embarked on a funny little walk - with silly, but often near-genius, consequences. The most recognisable man in the world, the biggest celebrity of his day and the highest paid (at one time) star of the screen was omce also a complete unknown to many who wished to write about him. He was a grey area in a world that saw its stars in black and white. He was a figure of honesty and hate, all wrapped up into one big bundle of comedy perfection.

But I didn't see him that way. I saw him as a man with monkeys crawling all over him, I saw him climb over buildings to retrieve his son, and I saw him flit through cogs of a massive industrialised and cruel world.

I have been asked many time before if my love for Chaplin would be so great if I wasn't a South Londoner? I can't answer that really, because I am a South Londoner. And a very proud one! My grandmother was the same. I think her love for Charlie came from being alive when he was at his height, something I wish I had experienced - sadly, he died five years before I was born. Yet through everything she told me, I got to feel just what she meant.

Charlie in 1921!

In writing this blog, I always promised myself that I would be true to my roots and I would bring something very personal to the "Chaplin table." Charlie means something very different to everyone - and this is what he means to me:

"Hello Charlie, and welcome back! The world may have been a very different one to the one you brightened! But your star still shines on! They once sung The Moon Shines Bright On Charlie Chaplin. Well, I beg to differ - London shines bright on Charlie Chaplin, especially when it comes to a little girl, her Grandmother and a bunch of beautiful childhood memories."

See you next time everyone!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Where it all began...

Hello everyone, and welcome to another segment of Charlie's London! I hope you are enjoying the new site! We are settling in to our new home nicely and have paid the rent man, no moonlight flits for this South Londoner! By the way for those of you who do not know the meaning of a moonlight flit I will explain. In the times when our very own Charlie was a small street urchin this method of 'moving' was very common amongst the poor working classes in the London area. It literally meant what was said on the tin. You would gather all your belongings in the dead of night and leave! The next morning when your rent was due, the landlord would come to get his money and you would not be there; gone! You had flitted! Charlie moved several times as a small boy, Pownall Terrace the home he comments on the most in My Autobiography but I don't think, even in desperation his mother chose this method!

Anyone who has read my previous blog on Silent London will know that my Chaplin journey is a very personal one. Of course everyone has their own connection to Charlie and this is what makes him so unique. When he looks into the camera, big eyes staring back at you we are all made to feel its incredibly personal. Yet I feel both honoured and humble to be a South Londoner, just as he was! In My trip Abroad he mentions areas such as The Cut and speaks about the places of his childhood with such love and affection! I walk these everyday and have so many family stories connected to those exact same places he loved so dear! My uncle William Goodman (Harris)  was in the workhouse with Charlie, to this day we do not know how he ended up there! We also do not know why on some documents he is listed as Goodman (His mother's maiden name) and on others Harris (married name). This is the only photo that exists of him as a child, and we only have one as an adult.

                                   Charlie circled at the age of 7 in Hanwell Children's home. Above him, top row on the far left is little William Goodman (Harris) my great great uncle

Thank goodness the involvement of the London Workhouse was a distant family memory by the time I was born in 1982 in Guys Hospital Southwark. Guys Hospital sits just  beyond Borough Market and, according to the old maps and previous road situations of the area it is the beginning of the long road that would be famously known as The Walworth Road, a Chaplin haunt without a doubt! So to put it bluntly, I was born at one end and he was born at another!

Walworth Road in the 1920's

Charlie in 1921 returning home for the first time
since his success in America! His smile says it all to me!

Me at 3! The age I first fell in love with Charlie!
A love affair that would last my entire life!

This blog will look at Charlie from an angle like no other! It will look at his upbringing, his influences and his love of his homeland that never left him! It will look at my journey along the road of one of my favourite Londoners and my pursuit to remind everyone that even though the world claimed him as its own, he was a London boy first and foremost! His London is still very much alive! So ladies and gentleman please put your best walking shoes on, pull up your socks and join me for a walk around Charlie's London!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Welcome to Charlie's London

Hi everyone!

Thank you for following and reading Charlie's London!

As some of you are probably aware, Charlie's London started its internet life on the fantastic website Silent London. Since then it has taken on a life of its own! With the Twitter and Facebook pages now active and spreading the London love, I decided to venture back into the blogging world for some more insights into the part of London I hold so dear.

Charlie Chaplin is a world icon and his popularity has spanned more than a century! His appeal today is in many ways as strong as it always was, his message too speaks to a world in many ways unchanged from the one he knew! With new modern technologies and ways to communicate, it is no surprise that we find ourselves speaking to people everyday, all over the world about subjects we love so dear, Charlie happens to be one of them.

I began my Chaplin journey from the age of three, but little did I know I was already on it beforehand! His films and art have run in my family for many years before I was even born. My Grandmother and Mother both adore his work! But more than this, he was a home grown boy they were immensely proud of! A South London, born only a stone's throw from where we all called home.

This blog aims to explore those roots, the origins of the world's funniest comedian by a very proud South Londoner. I hope I can bring something different to the Chaplin table with my insights, and hopefully show how his hometown never left him, no matter where he was in the world!