Actually, I’m not. From Tooting that is. But it’s where I’ve lived for the past 10 years and hope to carry on living for many years to come. Like many a Londoner, I have a slightly mongrel accommodation history. Born near Victoria coach station, brought up mainly in Lower Morden, now resident in Tooting. And in between an assortment of sarf London addresses that include (but are not limited to) Battersea, Camberwell, Wimbledon Chase and Wandsworth Road. But fate, and cheaper house prices, brought me & Mrs Cabbie to Tooting, somewhere that I have since found out holds a few Cudlip connections.
My great Uncle Fred lived here for well over 50 years after his medical discharge from the war. It’s possible (but not confirmed) that he was born in Tooting as well, it certainly seems that his dad lived here at some point. Fred was a typically (for his generation) enigmatic figure who always seemed to pop up at family get togethers but generally kept himself to himself. When he died a couple of years ago, I found out all about his war record, something (of course) he never spoke about. I can’t remember which unit he was originally in but he ended up in the paras after an incident with a stolen tank. Apparently, after a few jars, he’d persuaded his sergeant to have a bit of a spin in a tank that, strictly speaking, wasn’t theirs to play with. He’d then been given the choice of a bit of choky time or transfer to the paras. He chose the latter. He’d only been in the paras for about 3 weeks when he parachuted into Arnhem, got cut off from his mates and then literally, walked into a landmine. Left for dead, he was rescued by the Germans and eventually ended up in the Western Eye Hospital (leave on the L, L Seymour Place, for all you cabbies). It was from there that he moved to Tooting, after being encouraged to discharge himself due to his continual trips to local boozers with fellow patients. I’m not saying that Fred liked a drink, but the only times I saw him in Tooting he was always on his way IN to the Tooting Progressive Working Men’s Club, never on the way out. I hope he’s found a decent watering hole now.
Grandma Cabbie also lived in Tooting for a while, although the exact details seem a little hazy. It’s one of those bits of family history that parents like to drop into the conversation in a casual manner every now and then.
Just a quick word about the title of this piece before I go. I happened to be at home watching daytime TV some years ago (must have been very ill) and got drawn into watching some sort of debate about multiculturalism. I don’t remember the show, or who was host, but I do remember one Rastafarian guy. Questioned, in the style of Paxman v Dizzee Rascal, about his heritage and roots his reply was simple and somehow perfect, “I’m from Tooting!”. To him, and we can all learn a lesson here I think, nothing else mattered. Not where he originally came from, or where his parents came from, but where he is right now. Wise words indeed, and all in all, I’m delighted to say I’m from Tooting too.