Everything that happened on your tragic teenage nights in Romford

Pitching a tent in Harold Wood Park


In Romford, there isn’t really anything to do if you are an early teen who’s just been allowed to go out with their friends on their own. So you would often find yourself down the local park or roaming the streets just trying to dig up some form of entertainment. Romford Ice Rink, “Gatherings” or all-nighters (that most of the time didn’t end up happening) were the things we got up to, in a place that doesn’t supply you with the most adventurous outings.

Little white lies epitomised growing up in Romford for most of us. Never really being honest with your parents was essential – most of the things we got up to weren’t something a mother would want to hear.

Romford Ice Rink

What beautiful architecture.

What beautiful architecture

One of the first places you would go when you were allowed out with your friends would be Romford Ice Rink. Young girls would be wearing their fluorescent leg warmers poking out of the chunky blue skates we were given and it was all very tragic.

It seemed all the boys could actually skate and would go around on a pair of hockey boots, using them to spray ice at all the screaming girls in their bright socks. Maybe this was first stage flirting? It all just sounds likes something from a 1980s teen film.

Flocking at Gallows corner McDonald’s

This is something that I look back on and regret. So much time spent sitting in McDonalds causing commotions and throwing chips at each other. This was our entertainment before any of us got good at nicking alcohol from our parents – that’s when the real nights began.

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I was no where near as cool as I thought

Friday nights were often spent there. There is a cleaner who works there – everyone knows him, he has been there for years and its a shame I don’t know his name. I’m sure anyone from Romford will know who I’m talking about.

Park life

We would be there almost every night. Now my personal park of choice would be Harold Wood park. There is one specific spot that everyone prefers. It had the “Shelter” which is a bright blue square metal bench with a roof and this is where we sat. We sat and spoke about shit for hours. Right next to it you have the basketball cage, and next to that the skate ramp. We felt like we owned this area of the park and whenever a new face would enter, things felt different – looking back I can’t believe how many hours I spent sitting in that blue shelter. I’m curious to who has taken our spot now. After school the conversation would always start with: “You coming park?”.

Smoking in the blue shelter

I believe Mayfair cigs were first choice. What’s ridiculous is that no one even liked smoking, but some of us still sat in the blue shelter puffing on a “gruben” as they were called in the area. To get them, Romford Station was your best bet.

Firstly, you try and get someone to do it for you – normally someone passing by. Although they were older than you, they understood your “struggles” and stepped in to help. You would hand them them the £4.45 in the exact change and then hide behind the bus stops in front of the shops out of the owners view and await your victory.

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If all else fails you go at it alone. We all had that friend who looked older than any of us and could maybe get served. This was obviously a rarity. When fags became difficult to get, we aimed for the rollies as some of our parents smoked them instead of cigarettes (its less obvious when some baccy goes missing than five straights). Of course we were young and clueless and rolled them with no filter and when papers were no where to be seen in the “man draw”. We stopped at nothing to use something else in its place: pink tissue paper or a receipt are some of my favourites – I wish never to stoop that low again. Ew.

Congregating outside of The Mercury 

If you are ever there around 9pm you will never fail to see a collection of young “roadmen” hanging around outside Mercury Gardens. If you were one of the more civilised ones you would go out to the cinema for entertainment and then you would exit through the big doors to the bus stop. If you were lucky enough, your mum would pull up to the bus stop in front and you could jump in and avoid all the different ages and attitudes of the people sitting there.

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If you weren’t lucky enough you have to wait around for your 294, 174 or 496 bus home. It seemed like you were always waiting a life time for you’re bus to arrive and getting on it wasn’t much better.

All-nighters

These were mostly done in Harold Wood Park, the usual place – other parks include Central Park and Cottons but they aren’t as big and are a bit shit. You had to stay in the park until the Cricket Club bar had shut and the gates were locked. That’s when were left alone.

Sometimes the nights were simply spent sitting in a circle shotting vodka other than that it would just be people attempting to scare each other into thinking the Grounds Keeper was there to remove us. Sometimes we took tents, sometimes we didn’t. The best place to go in HW park would be over the bridge onto the old golf course. Thats where we would pitch camp. I remember leaving tents there and just wondering what the dogs walkers would think of them in the morning. Sometimes you wanted to leave early and so had to tackle the gates covered in anti-climbing paint.

Glenn’s Vodka or Apple sourz

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The drinks of choice. Often aiming for shops like News and Wine, Bargain Booze, or if you were brave enough you would attempt to stand outside of the Co-op. If you were able to get someone to get it for you it was all yours, and oh my god did it taste like arse. Apple Sourz (or Cactus Jack, depending on what shade of green you prefer) is like melting down all the sweet stuff you were allowed as a kid and reducing it into a thick alcoholic goop to pour down your pre-pubescent throat. Glenn’s vodka? That was just the cheapest option.

Gatherings

These are some of the first parties we went too. There was always that one friend with the cool mum who let us all round whilst she sat in her bedroom catching up on Emmerdale, or the kid with the “summer house”. This is where all the “first kisses” would happen. It was kind of incestuous, everyone would kiss everyone and it was all just… fine? Young people drinking WKD they had snuck in and boys all parading around in the same Ralph Lauren polo shirt. We all thought that these were some of the best nights we had as there was nothing better to do – in reality it was all shit.