MUSWELL HILL PEOPLE
Educationalists have had a difficult time in recent years. Schools have hit the headlines nationally and locally, with teachers feeling beleaguered and blamed. As Emeritus Professor in the Department of English and Media Studies at the Institute of Education, Harold Rosen was responsible for overseeing the teaching of teachers of English. He is also the author of an influential study, Dialects of London School Children, which changed the views of many about teaching children whose first language is not English.
Now retired, he is the author of a number of influential books which look at how children use language. "Our job was supposed to be creating teachers of English. Students came to us and said, 'make me a teacher'. Teachers, I'm ashamed to say, were saying, 'here are all these children who don't speak English, help us with this problem'. And we'd be saying, it's not a problem, it's an important resource. In Dialects of London School Children, we were saying bi-lingualism is a good thing. It was well overdue."
Harry and his wife Betty, ex-headteacher of the old Somerset School and herself an author, moved to Muswell Hill in 1962.
They took a systematic approach to their move to Haringey. "We lived near Rickmansworth and decided to move into London, but we couldn't decide where to go," said Harry. "So we stuck coloured pins on the map, wherever we had good friends, to see where they were clustered.
"There were two places - Dulwich and Haringey. We came here and liked it straight away. What gave me real joy, and it's increased over the years, is the variety of people, and it's not just an ethnic mix. There's an age mix and a class mix."
Harold's fascination with people's lives, language and culture is fed by trips to the high road. "I'm always finding excuses to go up there just to talk to people, to listen to whatever it is they want to tell me. You can go into Martyn's grocer's shop and enter a place frozen in time, where the smell of coffee draws you in."
Harold's latest book will be published in July. Speaking from Memory looks at how we all use autobiographical language in the way we talk about the past.
"Most people think of autobiography as books on shelves. My interest is why and how we talk about our past. I'm interested in everything from books to this interview.
"When you write a CV for a job, that's autobiographical. The roots of my interest are not just that I like talking autobiographically, but I've always been interested in working-class language. I've noticed that working-class people use autobiographical language to do a lot of things.
"We're all autobiographers. As soon as a child can refer to the past, in other words use the past tense of a verb, they are being autobiographical. It's a way of constructing themselves and it's very important. I remember a two-year-old starting a sentence 'when I was little' - that too, is autobiographical."
Retirement has brought Harold more time to read autobiographies and to write. He also has the opportunity to take regular walks in all of Haringey's open spaces.
"I had a heart attack on holiday, half-way up a mountain, and was told that I needed regular exercise as part of my recovery programme. So we started walking in all the open spaces we could find - and there were lots of them - including the 'hidden' golf course round the corner, completely surrounded by houses."
The Crocodile cafe for coffee and the Shandang Chinese restaurant are favourite local eating spots but, to the Rosens, Tottenham is just as familiar as Muswell Hill. They use the recycling depot in Tottenham Hale regularly and are impressed by the efficient facilities.
"We're very conscious of where we are in Haringey. We live in Muswell Hill and we love it. Crouch End is better for shopping but life is not shopping. I like my surroundings to be interesting. "You have to bear in mind that the borough is lopsided, the poverty is concentrated in and around Tottenham, so we have a privileged view. There is deprivation, just because we don't see it every day, doesn't mean it's not there."
Speaking from Memory: The study of Autobiographical Discourse published by Trentham Books