I have been doing a lot of thinking about childhood, obviously many, many memories of childhood have come flooding back to me with all this sorting I am doing. It got me thinking about how strange a child's perspective of events and even their visual images of events can be.
Three memories in particular made me start to consider this. [Explanations of the photographs are given directly underneath them in different colour and font.]
A very disgruntled and fat faced me with her ever faithful Jacko the monkey [ I still have the sad remains of him, motheaten hands filling missing out of arms bare patches] sitting in her pram in the park.
I have said before about my first memories and how I can just remember being in a carriage built pram, I have now found a photo of me in this pram, but a memory I didn't mention was one that even now I cannot get a true perspective on what I was doing, and the images from the child's eyes do not really help. I know I was in my Grandfather's garden, right down at the bottom of it. beyond the lawn and flowerbeds, past the vegetable patch, the raspberry canes and the blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes, into the the wild part where the compost was made and spare pieces of wood and out of use glass cloches were kept. The grass was very very high [so it was probably about knee height on an adult]. I am wearing blue play dungarees, these were cotton dungarees that children who were toddlers wore over their day clothes to play out in, the idea being it would keep their clothes clean. I am walking about but not steadily, slightly drunkenly, and in front of me is a vast machine, I search the ground for tiny little stones which I gather and push down a sort of spout or funnel on the side of the machine, then I wait until I hear a really satisfying plop noise, and start the process all over again. There seems to be a lot of grass and wood around me. and I have a feeling a slightly older child was with me.
In the front garden, when I was about eighteen months old. I hope you like my terrible twinkie curl, you know you could buy a preparation to make the hair stand up like that, very punk.
I have often asked about what there was there, in that part of the garden and have been told again and again there was an old zinc or tin boiler, the sort that is kept in a outdoor washhouse, and my Grandfather used it for steeping various plants and leaves in to make liquid fertiliser. What I see in my mind's eye bears no relation to this, but I think I must have been pushing stones into a part of it that let them fall into the liquid inside, hence the 'plop'. The glass and wood was apparently part of a dismantled greenhouse that was secured to the fence. Apparently, there was an older girl of about four that lived next door that used to play with me. This explanation never satisfies me as I always see the much more wonderous picture of a magical world with strange glass houses and machines.
It's old one eye closed again on a donkey when on holiday at Scarborough. Was this the one that ran off with me on it?
The second memory is a rather whimsical one, I must be about five or six years old and am besotted with fairy tales. My favourite fairy tale is The Twelve Dancing Princesses and I am convinced that I am one and must search for my eleven missing sisters. The time is the summer and when I am put to bed with the curtains drawn and the night still light outside, I wait a while and creep out of bed on to the ottoman beneath my window and stick my head through the curtains. In front of me are the front gardens, the road, the front gardens of the houses on the other side of the road, then behind them two more rows of houses, but if I look up into the distance over the three green fields, I can see the late evening sun shining on tiny little men in brilliant whites playing cricket. Behind the men are many trees and poking out through the trees are two round towers like in a fairy tale, and there seems to be a large brick building between them. I am convinced that this is my castle. I often dream there is a door in the wall of our living room that will take me to the castle, the door is invisible you have to know where to find it. The best time to find it is when the morning sun shines in the room, and you can see a faint oblong outline on the wall, that is when to run your hands over the wall whispering magic words. No, the door never opened for me, but I was told off for dirty handprints on the wall. The outline was a reflection from the sun of one of the living room windows, oh, and the magic castle across the fields, I wasn't much older when I found out it actually was, as they were called in those unlightened days the local mental hospital and lunatic asylum. I am still looking for my eleven sisters though so we can wear our shoes out dancing all night, are you there anywhere?
The third memory, is actually a sequence of memories. Every family has instances over the years that a veil is drawn over, and are never mentioned in public. I know every one of these family crisises in parts. Just a few months ago my Mother was telling me about my Father's brother and how his wife left him for a while in the 1950's. My Father's family lived in a large village that had a majority of Irish Catholic families and this would be a great scandal in those days. I told my Mother I knew about it, she told me I couldn't have, I was only four years old, I then went on to tell her where my Grandmother, Mother and Father were when they were talking about it. She was astounded that I was right, and I went on to repeat other small nuggets of information about the whole family I had collected in my childhood when adults thought I was otherwise occupied. I never had the whole story of these different incidents when I was small, but I am well aware of when different family crisis occured. I must have just had the knack of looking as though I wasn't listening, in fact, I would go as far to say that I wan't intentionally listening, I just absorbed it. I only remember once my other Grandmother saying 'careful ears are flapping' her signal that they were being listened too. Was anyone else as a child aware of undercurrents and crisis?
I always loved hats, gosh it's actually sunny in this photograph, Scarborough again.
I just want to finish off by talking about the naming of objects. Have you ever as a family given a familiar object a family name for it, so that if you mentioned it to anyone else they would have no idea what you meant. One of ours is 'you better go and fetch the boozy'. No, it is not an aged drunken relation, but a high kitchen stool. It was my son at four years old that named it boozy. Why boozy? who knows it is lost in the passage of time, it was a stool he loved sitting on at his Grandma's table, it gave him extra height when he was little. Then my daughter used boozy, and it finally ended up as a spare seat if there were too many at the table. It is never called the stool always just boozy and I am proud to say I have now taken charge of boozy and he shall reside in splendour in my cottage.
A Summer holiday in Scarborough, Mum, me, Grandma and Auntie, yes it is summer, even thought people seemed to be dressed for winter, and look how formally dressed everyone is, you think they were visiting the Queen not enjoying a holiday.
Well this has been a long rambling posting about memories and childhood but I am pleased to write them down so that I will always remember them and I look forward to knowing if anyone else has rather peculiar memories such as these or was I just a rather odd whimsical child. Also hope you have not been bored by this, but if you are you won't have read this far!