Chislehurst, Orpington and Petts Wood … at different times in my life I have owned houses in all of them and always, when writing my address, I would insert the word ‘Kent’ as part of it. As I’m sure you know, they can all be found in the Borough of Bromley but, for increased accuracy, I should, of course, say the London Borough of Bromley.
Does it really matter, you might ask? Well, for me, I would give the Paul Daniels answer: “Not a lot!” Provided the letter reached the right address, ‘who cares’ would be my attitude.
For a while, I didn’t just live in the borough, I also worked there based in Chislehurst Road, Orpington, in the employ of the News Shopper group of free distribution newspapers. At the time I was living down the Old Kent Road not far from the Bricklayers’ Arms in south-east London. There’s that Kent word again! If you are raised in the Old Kent Road, trust me, working in Orpington was like visiting the countryside. I regarded our Orpington office as being in Kent even though Bromley had been declared a London borough just a few years earlier on April 1, 1965.
I was steadfastly of the opinion that Orpington was in Kent. And it was only the prospect of earning some money that got me to change my mind. You see, the London Evening Standard newspaper was looking for correspondents to send them stories from Bromley Borough and my then editor, one Ian Mackenzie (dad of former Sun editor, Kelvin) helped me to get on their radar. When I phoned copy into the paper my correspondent’s name (a sort of call sign and a way of ensuring the right guy got paid) was “Buckley of Chislehurst”. Friends use to rag me endlessly that I should have signed up as Buckley of Bickley (which is nearby), but I didn’t see the funny side of it. I was very serious in my journalistic youth.
Anyhow, I digress. Is it Bromley, Kent, or Bromley, London? The latter still doesn’t sound right to me. I made the mistake of saying as much to a good friend who still resides in the borough. He set me straight saying words along the lines of “it might not matter to you, matey, but being a ratepayer in a London borough makes a big difference to me”.
Why? I had the temerity to ask. “Thanks to BoJo (then Mayor of London, but now attempting to run the country) I can travel anywhere in the city for free.”
Yes, good old PM Johnson was instrumental in over-60s living in Greater London getting Oyster cards for free. And that’s not just for travel on the buses. My mate can also travel without paying on Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and most National Rail services in the city. Used properly and regularly, that can equal a significant saving for the capital’s old foggies. What makes you think I’m jealous?
Me? I’ll carry on saying that every place name in Bromley borough is in Kent. I think the names trip off the tongue better that way and it’s my preference.
By the way, I should add that my comments about Bromley borough also apply to areas in the (London) Borough of Bexley such as Bexleyheath and Sidcup.