Article type Event
Published 8th May 2014
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Food writer and TV chef Tamasin Day-Lewis is the daughter of late poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis and sister of Daniel Day-Lewis. She recalls what it was like growing up in her family home at 6 Crooms Hill
“I lived in Greenwich from the age of four until my father died when I was 18 – all my childhood really. We were living in Kensington when my brother (Daniel Day-Lewis) was born but the house wasn’t big enough as we also had a full-time live-in nanny.
In those days you could buy a very big house in Greenwich for not much money. Also, my father, being a poet, wanted to have somewhere he could walk – and in Greenwich you could walk by the river or in the park, which he did every afternoon and we did with him when we were at home.
My memories of Greenwich are also roller-skating in the park and going for massive walks along the river. Then I would roller-skate under the tunnel – I’d go in that weird lift and then eject myself from it and hurtle under the river to the other side to the Isle of Dogs until I was quite frightened that I was so far from home and I’d gone under the water.
I was lucky enough to have some good food when I was growing up. My mum was a simple cook. She’d been brought up with cooks so it must have been quite a shock when she had to cook for my father. All my family loved good food and had the best of simple things. There was a lovely butcher on the high street and Mrs Meade in Royal Hill was the little grocer’s shop. She would get anything you wanted – even Fortnum & Mason’s biscuits. She would have really good cheeses and hams, sliced properly. She was an old-fashioned grocer. And then there was Mr Harris, the sweetshop up Royal Hill, with all those old-fashioned sweets.
There are three and a half years between me and my brother Daniel. We hung out together – you do with your brother because you haven’t got anybody else to hang out with most of the time.
Sunday lunch was a big part of our lives. Nobody ate out in restaurants – there was no restaurant culture then. We went to the fish and chip shop with my father and I’d look at the eels wriggling around, and I went to the baker on a Saturday morning to get the bread. I went to the bakery at the back and the baker would give me a doughnut or a hot meat pie. That was my childhood.
There was a pub round the corner I went to – the one where Spread Eagle Antiques was, a bit beyond that. The Rose and Crown was opposite but we would never have gone into that. I suppose we were quite frightened of going to the pub. But I did work in a pub off Royal Hill down where the police station was. I was a bar maid there. I was below the legal age of being in a pub but I was serving drinks to policemen.
My younger daughter Clarissa, who recently left Goldsmiths College, had the lead role in a play at Greenwich Theatre in her first year. She’d never been to my family home but she knocked on the door quite recently. I think she was looking through the gate off the street and saw the plaque to my father, her grandfather, whom she never met. She told the people living there that she wasn’t a weirdo and that it was her grandfather who had lived there. They invited her in very sweetly and showed her all over the house and said, ‘We haven’t changed your grandfather’s study.’
I do feel proud of my father’s plaque but I suppose I don’t really think about it. I mean, your parents are just your parents. I’m jolly glad they did it, like with my grandfather on his house, but it’s kind of an odd thing, really, because the person is a living person to you – they’re not somebody up on a wall.
I visited Greenwich when Clarissa was in her play. I’ve started my three marathons from Greenwich – the last one was probably about seven years ago.
It’s quite an odd feeling seeing the cherry tree that was put up in my father’s name in the corner of the garden, because when your father dies when you’re young, you’re sort of leaving behind your childhood.”