This year, my November journals will also appear here as collected works. For posterity, and for the sake of a change of topic, instead of notes about Germany and the area of it I live in, it will consist of a collection of reminiscences from my earliest childhood.
You can read what people have said about the daily entries in the conversation here.
1 November 2017
Although this won't be entirely chronological, I will start with a description of where we lived when I was really small. They say that no one can remember before their 2nd birthday, but I have some very very clear memories of where we lived in North London until I was just short of my 4th birthday.
We had a black labrador called Sally. We had quite a large garden at the back of the house (a semi) with a huuuuge Victoria plum tree growing on the border between ours and the next door's garden. My father made a swing for me to swing from the branches of that tree which seemed to me to be high up in the sky.
I think the swing may have been a simple board on two ropes (although my father never did that sort of thing by halves - it would have been planed, sanded and varnished) but, as I was only 3, it more likely would have been more like a cage or a box with holes for legs for a child of that age.
The plums from the tree were huge and abundant, but I can't remember eating them.
I have looked up the place on Google Earth - it has changed, of course, since then.....
We moved away in 1959.
2 November 2017
One year I was given a toy trumpet for my birthday. I loved it and "played" it a lot. To my mother's annoyance.
It was blue with a grey mouthpiece. But it was only made of plastic and over the weeks, bit by bit, pieces of it broke off. But to the end, the mouthpiece was still intact and I managed to get a noise out of it.
I distinctly remember standing on the gate-post, which was about 18" square, blowing my trumpet. The neighbours must have loved that!
P.S. Sizes in these memories are to be taken with a pinch of salt. Remember:
(a) I was 3 at the time
(b) I am 63 now! Well, I will be soon.
3 November 2017
A few houses up the road there was a family with about 10 children. The eldest, Lesley her name was, she was probably about 14 or 15, used to take me to the playground. The slide was enormous (but see note above on my perception of size at that time.)
Once I remember going down the slide on Lesley's lap - or I might have been on my cousin's lap when he took me there ... anyway, the sides of the slide were made of wood painted green, but the paint was peeling off.
My arm rubbed along the rough paint and splintery wood and I got a huge "burn" mark. My mother must have been furious, but these things happen. I don't have any scars from it, and my own children also had horrendous incidents involving playground slides.
This is one outstanding memory of those happy days, although I did just read a report on the safety of children on slides.
Food for thought?
4 and 5 November 2017
Sorry - I was away this weekend and unable to post.
6 November 2017
Next door there was a boy called Graham. He had a sister, but I don't remember her - she must have been a baby, or a toddler.
One day we were having a cup of tea with them. I was sitting on the mother's lap (her name was Alice). So my sister must have been on my mother's lap, but I don't know where Alice's children were. I think I had just learned to do and undo buttons because whilst sitting on her lap, I undid all the buttons of her blouse - a scandalous thing at that time, even though
- there were only women and babies present
- Alice had at least a vest, and possibly also a slip on underneath her blouse, so absolutely nothing was revealed!
It was a white sleeveless blouse with some broderie anglaise or lace involved, I seem to remember.
I wonder if I already knew the names of the colours at that age, or if I simply have a colour photo indelibly printed in my memory.
My granddaughter, who is 2 3/4 certainly knows all the colours, so maybe I did, too, at that age.
7 November 2017
I have one more memory of the time in London before we moved out to the country.
My mother would never cut our hair. She always had a professional do that - even when we were toddlers with wispy baby curls.
Somewhere nearby was her hairdresser, called Daphne. I clearly remember having to go up outside steps to get to her salon, which, in my memory at least, was a house on stilts, all made of wood. No idea why. Perhaps she was worried that big game might attack.
Nowadays my mother still has her hair done professionally - she goes into town for it every other Thursday and sometimes does a little shopping or visits the library whilst she's there. Every 6th or 8th Monday or so, she has her hair permed. Between times she doesn't even wash it herself, just combs it out in the mornings. We are glad that she still takes an interest in her appearance at 98 - when she can no longer manage this, it will be a very sad day indeed.
8 November 2017
Our house in North London in the 50s was much like many many others, with a narrow staircase almost immediately inside the front door, with the loo at the top of the stairs.
For some reason - maybe he got it cheap! - my father papered the walls of the tiny toilet with dark red wallpaper, decorated with silvery stars. He also stuck some remnants to the walls of my dolls house - not sure if it was in the loo there, too, or elsewhere in the house.
The wallpaper may have been on the walls beside the stairs, now I think of it. It certainly would have been extremely oppressive in the loo.
He had been a "sparks" in the Navy during the war, and considered himself qualified to do anything to do with electricity. Well, it wasn't very difficult back then, was it?
Even at the tender age I was then, I distinctly remember always being impressed by a little brown "radio" that we had in the kitchen - in the dining room there was a big black radio. When I asked him many years later about this, he confirmed that we had had that, but the little brown one was just a loudspeaker for the radio in the dining room. No doubt I used to listen to "Listen with Mother" on it every lunch time.
9 November 2017
It must have been the summer of 1959 when we moved out to East Anglia. I think I remember travelling there, but my first memory is of running about in the "garden".
The inverted commas for "garden" are because it was a huge area - we had a whole acre right at the end of a cul de sac - and because, when we moved in, the place was totally unkempt (don't know who lived there before us, but we weren't the first occupants). The grass was taller than me, and twice as tall as my sister, who was just 2 years old.
My parents worked very hard to make a lovely garden of that huge field. My father, being a commercial traveller (as they were known in those days) was away for up to 3 days and nights every week, but my mother stoically managed the huge house, enormous garden, two small children and a dog for about 5 years until she got a part time job once we were both at school.
Out of that acre of 3 ft long grass they eventually fashioned a landscape which sort of divided it up into quarters. On the one quarter was the house, a small back lawn where we would play, and a kitchen garden. The top, far quarter was an orchard and two large vegetable patches. Then there was an uncultivated area which they never did manage to do anything with, but which was fine for badminton and volleyball games when we were older. My father just cut the grass back every Saturday with a rotoscythe.
The quarter next to the house was a huge manicured lawn with a croquet pitch. We played croquet for hours on end, and, in the summer, when we had gone to bed, we could hear the clonk-clonking of the croquet balls as our cousins and parents carried on playing until it was too dark to see.
At the entrance to the premises, my father extended the short driveway to a complete circuit around a grassy mound, dotted with sumac trees, and on the other side of the drive was a narrow lawn which was used for nothing much really.
Perfect for children to run around and play hide and seek. It really was a pity we moved away eventually but more of that another time.
10 November 2017
The house, too, was huge, but unfortunately not very imaginatively designed. More about that another time.
The garden was abutted by fields on two sides - the other two being neighbours. We were, as I said earlier, at the end of a cul-de-sac and this ran parallel to the main road through the village, so we had neighbours in the cul-de-sac and also on the side towards the road.
The cul-de-sac was an "unadopted road" and had no surfacing at all. It was very stoney and bumpy - the bigger stones and the puddles were like friends to us. Must have been rotten for cars going along with their 1950s and 1960s suspension.
What with that rough surface, the concrete part of our drive having a wavy surface, and the rest of the driveway being gravel, we never really had the ideal conditions for learning to ride a bike - we managed somehow, though. But roller-skating: Nope! Never got the hang of that. By the time you'd skated from one end of the bumpy concrete to the other, all the nuts and screws had been juddered out of the skates and the wheels all but fallen off.
I'm not sure what you would call the concrete surface I'm trying to decide. It's as if someone got a long plank and dipped it into the wet concrete every 2 ins, across the direction of the driveway, so it set in tiny waves. OK for a car, but bone-shaking on a bike or skates.
11 November 2017
Yeah, well I've just realised that it's the 12th of November already and I clean forgot to write something yesterday!
12 November 2017
The back lawn that I described was a different sort of grass from the huge croquet lawn. That one had been sown, but the kitchen lawn at the back was rolled turf. It always seemed more sumptuous, and we spent ages playing on it. We had a big swing, made of horrible dark green iron L-profiles which were driven into the ground. We had great fun swinging so high that the spikes on the end would come right out of the ground.
I expect Daddy concreted them in in the end.
Next to the swing was a sandpit - with my father's usual belt-and-braces method, this was also made for generations of kids to use, surrounded by paving slabs to sit on and lined with several layers of various materials (no worries in those days that dogs and cats were roaming around the garden and could soil the sand; not to mention what was out there at night time).
I distinctly remember standing in the sandpit once with my wellingtons on, and for some reason a garden fork was rammed through it. Fortunately it just missed my foot because the wellingtons were a size too big. I have no idea now whether I was brandishing the fork myself or whether I stupidly put my foot down just where someone was going to dig into the earth.
One other activity was running around in our little shirred swimsuits, playing with the hose when it was really hot. I know we did this because there are a couple of photos.