As you know, I like to post about wonderful published poets and also write my own pieces occasionally. Recently I have been working on my own poem inspired by the Little Red Riding Hood story. I have done a fair amount of research to find out how the tale has influenced others too (so that I can blog about it when I am done). In addition, you will have seen that I am reading “A long Way Gone”, the memoirs of a boy soldier from Sierra Leone. Ishmael Behr is only 12 when his story begins and I find myself thinking back on my childhood often while reading this book and working on that piece. Ishmael’s childhood was cruelly snatched away from him way too early in life, but he talks fondly of his family, his father, grandparents and brother, mainly.
I had a wonderful childhood. I’m so used to reading about the trials and tribulations experienced by seemingly everyone at an early age, even on blogs, that I have sometimes wondered if anyone so untouched by misery, as me, can have anything exciting to say and even if people would be bothered, generally, to read a happy story if I write it.
When I was born in 1969 at Ashford Hospital, my Mum and Dad were living on a council estate in South Ashford. That estate does not have a great reputation today but we lived there for the first 16 or 17 years of my life and I have very fond memories of the house, the neighbours and the estate for all of it! Three years after me, my brother was born at
home. I remember this miraculous occasion and I remember the wonder of a new baby in the house and thinking that my Mum was such a hero in this story and that she was magic
for being able to do this wonderful thing. Over our childhood my brother and I would fight like cat and dog and Mum would grow weary of our shenanigans threatening to “bang our heads together if we didn’t give over”, she didn’t of course! I was still very protective of Colin though, and I have always been proud of him. He was always smart and he did so well in school. I’m even prouder of him now and enjoy his company very much, now that we are adults, although we don’t get to see each other often.
I remember so much of my early childhood that it is quite unbelievable to me sometimes. I remember more names and faces from my primary school than I can from all my teenage years thereafter and all my years in the military after that. I remember being able to play outside all day and wander off into the woods to climb trees without a care (or a watch), and how we tried to eke out as much of the day until Mum stood on the doorstep, like everyone else’s, and yelled for us to come home for tea. I remember Mum making the best treats like flapjacks and coconut
ice and baked goods like bread pudding and I remember her frustration when she had to brush out my always-tangled mop in the morning, and how she cried when I eventually had it cut! I used to lose my school tie every single time I took it off and there was Mum, hunting for it every morning. Mum made me fabulous costumes for my dance recitals and Easter bonnets for the parade at school. She crocheted beautiful outfits for my “first love” doll, and tidied and re-tidied my room that was packed with everything I could have ever wanted. Mum helped me with school projects and sat on the toilet seat at bath time and helped me hammer in those times tables. She chased Joe Burt when he stole my bike (I’ll never forget that sight, she was so fast!). Of course, my Dad was a hero to me too. He would read me the bedtime stories I loved night after night. Three Billy Goats Gruff and Chicken Licken, every page, because I would know if he missed any. Dad could do the voices, each Billy goat and the troll, he could even gobble like turkey-lurkey and you should have heard his Donald Duck! Dad learned to swim so that he could teach me and then my brother and I remember them both helping me learn to ride my first bike. It was from my Dad that I got my love of poetry. When I was in Junior school I had to learn something off by heart to recite at school and he taught me “Drake’s Drum” by Sir Henry Newbolt. I felt so grown up and intellectual at only 10 years old! I can still recite that poem to this day. Dad used to ferry me all over the place; school and town discos, friend’s houses, sports events. Dad also came with me to the Opera visits I made with the school. You name it he was there at
the beginning and the end. Both Mum and Dad were always supportive of all our activities and they worked so very hard to give us this amazing childhood. Now I know, as an adult, that it won’t have been easy for them. We were not rich and Mum and Dad both worked extremely hard. They must have had their own difficulties for sure, but we never knew about it. I never heard my parents even argue never mind witness a fight. The cooking my Mum did would stem from making the money for food go further but it just always seemed like a treat to me. It must have been hard to afford to do many of the things we did but they ensured that we didn’t see the hardship. I still think they did a great job of instilling in us an appreciation for the things we had, although I doubt it always seemed that way when we were kids. I certainly appreciate it all very much looking back, especially the more I see how so many children suffer all over the world today, even at the hands of their own parents.
I remember so many family holidays at the seaside., happy Christmases in London at my Grandparents, and simply happy times at home. I am really grateful to my parents for the start they gave me in life and now that I am older I am so happy to have them as my friends too. I don’t know where I would be without them. My Mum was the tower or strength I needed when my first marriage failed at a young age and they have both put me back on my feet so many times over the years.
In closing this long post today, I’m remembering back to something I was asked to write early on in primary school about what our parents did. Mum and Dad have mentioned it a couple of times since and I often think how horrible it must have seemed to my Mum when it was shown to them by my teacher. My Mum used to work evenings, cleaning office buildings after they were closed, so that she could be with us during the day and be there for us when we got home from school. For some reason, now unclear to me, I wrote that my Dad was a brain surgeon and my Mum was a stripper! I always have had a great imagination, I suppose. Anyway, Mum, I hope you know that I would only have written something like that because I always thought you were so beautiful!!
Thanks for being there! I love you xx