While I was tidying earlier I came across this, which I wrote in 2003 for an English course I was doing…
I was born in 1981. The year Bobby Sands died, and Ronald Reagan became President of the USA. Adam and the Ants‘ Stand and Deliver was Number One and Gregory’s Girl was in the cinemas.
My earliest memories are like flim clips. I don’t know exactly when they happened, or what came before or afterwards. I remember sitting on a seat on top of a big old-fashioned blue pram. My brother was in the pram. I don’t recall where my sister was. We were coming out of the newsagents across the road from where we lived and my mum was crying. Our cat, Mr Sandy, had just been run over in the street. My mum still has a photo of Mr Sandy on the wall at home. She reminisces about him as if he were an old relative instead of a ginger tomcat.
I remember our house, in a small row of terraces down a lane in a small town where everyone knew everyone else. All I remember of the house is that it had a staircase that went round a corner – tricky for young legs – and a kitchen table with a plastic yellow top. My mum tells me that when I was very small, I would stand at the foot of those stairs, with my favourite cuddly rabbit under my arm (he was taller than me and had to be carried like this) and a furry blanket in my hand. I would stand there, usually in the middle of the day, and tell her: “I want to go to bed!”
Once, coming home from nursery school, it began to rain. When we got home my mum sat me on our yellow kitchen table and blew my nose before making me scrambled egg sandwiches for lunch. I was wearing a pink jumper my nan had knitted for me; it had a brown elephant on it and was my favourite.
When I was still very young we moved to a house in Quidhampton with a big garden. I remember going to see the house and being very excited because there was a swing in the garden. I don’t remember the garden at our old house, but I don’t think it had a swing. We moved into the house and I shared a room with my older sister. We had a purple carpet and a set of two red telephones which magically worked with one of us upstairs and one downstairs. We loved them but for reasons I don’t remember we were not allowed to play with them often.
I’m told we didn’t live in Quidhampton for long – perhaps 18 months, but I have several memories of this time. I remember my dad painting the hall way green, dripping paint onto the radio and cursing loudly… I remember the coat hooks we had at the foot of our stairs, each with a different coloured plastic ball on the end… I remember getting two new kittens and our whole extended family sitting in the dining room one day, deliberating over names (they finally decided on Bubble and Squeak)… I remember our fish pond, outside the dining room window. It had several layers of netting over it but my mum was still forever rushing outside to rescue my brother from it – he was always “going fishing” in it… There was a seemingly huge step down from our back door onto the concrete, and one day we woke up and the snow was so deep it came upto the door. When my sister and I went out to play the snow was up to our waists and we thought it was great.
I also remember our living room, which had a big window which opened, oddly, at the bottom. We would often climb up over the back of the sofa and out of the window, into the forbidden front garden, which had a beautiful blossom tree in the centre. Our front door was painted green with two large pieces of frosted glass. One day my cousins took me to the beach on the bus and on the way back we clambered through several fields, stopping at a park on the way before knocking on this front door. My mum answered the door, and my sister poked her head round excitedly and told us Granddad had gone to Heaven.
I don’t remember much about my Granddad. He lived with my Nan in the terraced house in Wilton my mum had spent her teenage years in, and always had a big jar of mint toffees next to his chair. He had something wrong with his leg, caused by a motorcycle accident long before I was born. My Nan always told me he was riding along with his legs out and a double decker bus came past and knocked one of his legs off. I never questioned this story until I was much older, despite the fact he always seemed to have two legs – one of them was fake, but I didn’t know that until long after he’d died.
My baby brother was born when I was four. I remember going to stay at an aunt’s house and being woken up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet and being told my mum had had “a tiddler.” When he was born he was jaundiced, so my Uncle Steptoe, of whom we were all very scared, christened him Fish Finger – a fitting title, since his name was Ross. He and my mum seemed to be in hospital forever, and the three of us had to survive on our dad’s cooking. While they were in hospital it was Easter, and my mum won what she still claims is the only prize she’s ever won. it was the biggest chocolate egg I’d ever seen in my life, in a basket, possibly even with smaller eggs around the side. Needless to say, by the time my mum arrived home there was little left of it for her to enjoy – something I feel guilty about to this day. After all, it was the only thing she’d ever won!
The day we went to collect our mum and new baby brother from the hospital my dad had bought a box of Black Magic chocolates for the nurses and made my sister and I go to a nurse and tell her “thank you for looking after our mum.” We were not amused by this. The nurse, however, was.
My dad was a long-distance lorry driver and was for the most part absent from my childhood, appearing only at weekends to walk us around the market and eat a Sunday roast. If he was home in the week, he arrived when we were all long since tucked up in bed, and left for work hours before any of us woke up.
For a while my mum worked at a cafe called the Copper Kettle on a Sunday, and then my dad looked after us while we watched Sunday afternoon TV and played in the garden. At teatime we would all pile into the car to pick my mum up from work,and then have roast lamb for dinner, with lemon meringue pie for tea. One thing that definitely sticks in my memory is my mother’s home-made pies and cakes, which were second to none.
My last memory of living in Quidhampton is of Ross’s first birthday. As far as I know, we moved to the house I spent the rest of my childhood in shortly after this. We had gotten Ross a fine present – a Fisher Price dog on a lead, who went along on bright orange wheels which were on a bend axis, causing the dog to bounce up and down as he went along – and somehow to make a noise that sounded like a yapping puppy. We all thought it was great, but Ross had just been woken up (by us, excited at the thought of a birthday in the house), and was hungry and grumpy. I remember showing him how it made this great noise, while he stuck his lip out and looked miserable.