Farewell to Waddon

By - Wednesday 29th March, 2017

Why I loved living in Waddon… and why sometimes, numbers don’t tell the whole story

Wandle Park, Waddon.
Photo by Ally McKinlay, used with permission.

A recent outstanding piece by Liz Sheppard-Jones about how flytipping and wider issues have made her consider the unthinkable (to move out of Croydon) led me to musing on my thirteen years of living in Waddon, before I took the decision to move back to Sutton, where I grew up. I shared Liz’s frustrations, not least over a deeply uncivilized political dynamic which feels entrenched and personal, to the detriment of Croydonians as it means less gets done. Despite these reservations, I remain very grateful to Waddon for what it gave me and later my family. Hence – this article.

Sometimes numbers don’t tell the true story… says the man paid to make a narrative out of numbers, who is supposed to find human interest in pounds, dollars and roubles. Perhaps as a PR advisor in the City, I’m trained to see the romance in the spaces between the numbers. I’m sure anyone reading this wouldn’t find anything interesting in the following numerical sequence: 13, 2, 4, 2, 2.

For me, those numbers are deeply meaningful. In between the digits is the story of my time in Waddon, the ward in the west of Croydon where some of the most significant events of my adult life so far took place. Although it’s been a little while now since I left the area, a part of me will always remain Waddonian. When I left it behind, I don’t think that it’s fanciful to say that I took a little part of it with me.

And the story of my time in Waddon is in the gaps between the numbers.

13, 2

I lived in Waddon for thirteen years in two flats. It was always a marriage of convenience. Oddly both flats, fifty odd yards apart, were never places where I particularly wanted to live. I’d never really known where to make a home, but I’d not thought that it would be here, stuck on the dirty, unloved arse end of Croydon, cheek by jowl with the A23 and the railway line. I was next door to a well-known rough boozer, an annoying schlep on foot away from central Croydon, with local buses that I knew were crap because I’d relied on the same buses most of my life.

Those were my negative feelings. Maybe they reflect the times in those years when I wondered what I was doing and where I was going. Maybe I felt that way because I wasn’t sure where I wanted to belong.

That railway was going places: it got me into London Bridge, Victoria or Shoreditch very quickly. It runs early and late. Central Croydon is but a snap of the fingers away, with good shopping and better food that has improved over the years. The A23 is a useful artery to have close by, and Waddon itself is straightforward suburbia, no better or worse than anywhere else. These days there’s a great new Arab restaurant that I reviewed here, as well as the famous and excellent Wing Yip Chinese/Far Eastern centre. There’s also a spanking new leisure centre where my children are now learning how to play rugby.

Waddon has been a base of operations, a bunker where I’ve been safe from the slings and arrows of the outside world. In retrospect, it gave me certainty, continuity… things that for quite a lot of those thirteen years, I didn’t have.


I had four jobs in my time in Waddon. Waddon and its certainty helped to provide the psychological base to build a career which on a sunny day I think that I can be proud of. I moved from my first nervous steps into IR and silly City drinking, to post-Soviet capital markets, nasty oligarchs and cheeky pints, then on to straightforward British old school financial comms, long lunches and a Kazakh sojourn. These days, it’s a very different grown-up job at one of the world’s largest PR firms – and the constant was my base. “Where are you going back to?” was always answered with “Waddon… it’s a small place just outside Croydon before you get to Wallington”. Waddon was safety. Waddon was home.


It became the home of my two children. Waddon will always be the place that Kirsty and I started our family: a safe, nurturing environment with two great parks within walking distance, where we both felt rooted enough to take that most life-changing step and change each others’ lives for good. They won’t remember it, but it was in Waddon where my son Aidan and daughter Hannah took their first steps, rode on their first swings, lit us up with their first smiles and giggles. We will remember these things and they will always make us happy.


I’m on my second marriage. I’ve been in two major relationships in thirteen years. These were big changes, ups and downs, taking me through times of genuine bliss and a bout or two of embarrassingly drunken, self-obsessed post-relationship behaviour. I’m not going to linger here other than to say that I don’t regret anything. Everyone is now where they should be in life, and these experiences have cemented Waddon into my soul.

There are more numbers. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of meals cooked in a couple of kitchens. Hundreds of chicken thighs, roasted in a tray with lemon, herbs, seasoning and served with anything. (I’m a particular fan of carrots, spuds and cabbage.) Curries so hot that I’ve paid for it later. Roast dinners that are never quite cooked at the right time. Risotto with crab, mushroom, chicken or just herbs and lemon. I’ve become a big fan of Sichuan food and I’ve had my first cracks at it in my little Waddon kitchen.

Then there’s the booze, either in company or alone. Craft beer. Real ale. Crap lager. Red wine from the Rhone, Italy, Lebanon and not many other places. Vodka in martinis or just out of the freezer with a twist. Champagne, mostly good but some bad. Booze has always been a passion, and a constant of my life in Waddon. Mostly controlled. Never regretted.

Finally, sometimes you only know that you love something if you lose it. I’ve lived part time on a boat and travelled a lot to some strange parts of the world, which can on occasion be stressful. Waddon welcomed me back and offered me a blissful norm to balance life as a corporate nomad.

It was a wrench to leave, and even in happy days in a new home I sometimes glance fondly back east, over the border. Like a boat borne back on a current in time, I’m there every Saturday for Rugby Tots classes, first for my son and now my daughter. Waddon gave us a lot. A piece of me will always live there.

Thanks, Waddon.

Paddy Blewer

Paddy has lived in the Croydon / Sutton area since 1983 and in Waddon from 2001- 2015. A communications advisor in the City, he loves the variety of Croydon, particularly its options for eating and drinking and its great parks for the kids. A sports nut, supporting Munster, London Irish, Surrey CCC and Spurs, he has a sneaking regard for Palace, despite having a Millwall fan for a dad.

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