Thursday, April 19, 2007


Some bitch has tagged me!

What is the earliest memory you have as a child? Think far back.

It's my fourth birthday. I've just woken up. I'm in Mum's bed. Dad's away. I don't have my own room. My bed is next to my parents' bed. But I'm not in it. I'm in with Mum, safe and warm. Mum's been teaching me the time. I look at the wind-up alarm clock on the bed-side cabinet. The clock itself is almon shaped, like an eye. The face is circular, adding to the eye effect. The big hand's on the twelve, the little hand's on the eight. I just know it's eight o'clock. I nudge Mum. Her perfume is very r
eassuring. Even now. "Is it eight o'clock?" I ask proudly. Mum nods and reminds me it's my birthday. I scream with delight. My excitement at knowing the time made me forget my long awaited birthday.

What is a special memory you have about someone? It could be a grandparent, family friend - not including your parents - that you knew as a child. What do you recall about them that makes the memory special?

Aunty Holcroft. Strange, I've never known anyone to address someone like that, before or since, Aunty followed not by a forename, but by a surname. In later years, I called her Aunty Beatrice, though no-one else did. I should imagine this was quite rude of me, but I did it nonetheless.

Aunty Holcroft was the sweetest, kindest, most gentle woman I've ever known. And so patient. She worked in the dinner-centre* at my school. Even in the most horrid of situations, she never raised her voice.

My special me
mory is of each and every Wednesday afternoon. She would come and visit my Mother. I'd come home from school, arriving about half past three. By twenty past four, she'd get the bus to Kinson. Mum and I would walk across the busy road with her and wait at the bus stop until the number ten arrived.

On returning to my house, Mum would present me with a huge bag of chocolate bars, left by Aunty Holcroft. She wouldn't give them to me in person. Why, I've never been a
ble to work out. She wasn't shy. I knew she was uncomfortable with me thanking her for them, too. As I grew older and recognised this, I stopped. I felt bad, but, I think, she felt better.

I must add, too, th
at when I was somewhere between the ages of nine and eleven, the teachers at my school went on strike. Not all day, just at lunch time. So all the children had to go home. If I'd have walked home, I'd need to turn around to go back again as soon as I'd arrived there. So, instead, I went to Aunty Holcroft's house for lunch, just a five or ten minue walk away. It was fabulous. She really spoiled me, letting me watch the television while I ate. And a cooked lunch, too. The first time I ever remember having had oven chips was at Aunty Holcroft's house during the teachers' strike.

What was a favourite game you played as a child?

Families. Or Haunted House. Just rôle playing games, basically, but I loved it. A
ll girls - and me. So much more fun than Armies, War or football. Serena Coombs, Dawn Norman, Rosemary Watts, Sarah Hubert and I. You'd have thought, dear reader, that I'd have been Father, me being the only boy. No. I wasn't allowed! Nor did I want to be. I was usually baby to Serena's big sister. A lot of fun. Being spoon-fed with a pebble for an eating utensil, grass for a bib and water from a muddy puddle for a wash made for a messy play time.

Oh, and we used to make birds nests out of grass clippings once the tractor has cut the school lawn. For the birds, of course. Just wee rings of clipped grass. Imagine the look of disappointment, dear reader, when we realised, time and time again, that they weren't being used. And we were being so helpful.

What was a memorable trip that you can recall being a little kid and what did you do that makes you think about it even now?

Going to Austria in the Summer of 1979. My sister and her then husband lived in
Dortmund. He was in the Royal Artillery Mounted Band (though there were no horses to be seen) and stationed in Germany for four years. My sister, the fool, loved him dearly, although he treated her terribly. But that's another story.

The simple plan was to drive to Dortmund, meet up with my sister, her husband and his parents - then drive south. A European road trip, if you like. I don't think road trip was used as an expression in 1970s Europe, though I may be wrong.

We left home in the very early hours of the morning, 02:00 or 03:00, I think. Wh
ich was quite normal. This was going to be a camping holiday, something we'd done many times before. In order to take an early ferry to The Netherlands, Belgium or France, depending on where we were going, we had to have left Bournemouth not long after midnight. The drive to Dover was about five hours in those days, though now, I believe it can be done in two or three.

I loved driving through the night. Well, being driven. Father would have drunk gallons of tea (coffee w
as far too Tory for him) and popped a couple of Pro Plus tablets. I'd usually sit on the back seat, in the middle with someone either side of me, " case there was an accident..." No-one considered using the seatbelts provided.

This time, for the first time, we were holidaying without Christine and Mark, one of my two sisters, one of my two brothers. Just Mum, Dad and me. And Aunty Winnie - my Mum's dear cousin.

I thought I'd be sitting in the back of the car, all alone, Mum up front. Maths was never my strong point. Still, at least I could stretch out to sleep. But no, Mum sat with me in the back of our Datsun Cherry. Aunty Winnie sat in the front seat. Dad smoked throughout the journey, p
ractically chaining. Mum and Aunty Winnie smoked, too, though not as many as my Father. These were the days long before air conditioning in cars, certainly in British cars - and the windows remained tightly closed. The inside of the car was thick with smokey fog. How I didn't have cancer by my teenage years, I'll never know. But I was used to the smoke and to the clatter of knitting needles. I looked up to see the lights of Poole in the distance, realising, for the first time, perhaps with enough years behind me, that it was Poole, not Dover, Plymouth or France. I didn't have to ask anyone what or where it was or if we were nearly there yet. I rested my head on Mum's lap and with the knitting needles singing me a tick-tock song, I drifted off to bye-byes.

That, strang
ely, is my favourite memory of the holiday. Our journey to the ferry. I felt so safe, so warm. Never experienceing the same fears of sleeping alone in my own bed at home. I think, perhaps, because I knew Mum wasn't going anywhere. She'd always stay with me in my room until I'd nodded off to sleep, but I always knew that once I was asleep, she'd leave me. Here, in the car, choked with smoke and with the noise of the engine, I slept like a baby.

I didn't wake until three o'clock the next afternoon. I had no idea where I was. In some strange bed, in some strange house.


My sister, Lorraine, came in to see me. Phew! She told me that Mum and Dad had
gone to Hohenseeburg with Aunty Winnie to put up the tent. Lorraine provided me with some decidedly continental snacks. Including chocolate milk. Yes, like drinking chocolate, but cold.

The rest of the holiday was much like any other. My Father drove for hours on end, never needing the toilet and not caring if we did. The car windows only being opened i
n order for a passenger to vomit. Knitting. Arguments between my parents... One of which nealy lead us to being killed! Sure, so I'm putting my foot on the drama peddle somewhat, but I really thought so at the time...

We were ever so slightly lost. Dad's temper was as wild as all hell. Much shouting. Next thing, we're approaching a road with two buildings, one on either side and some kind of pole impeding our way. Dad never swore, but he did blaspheme. Often.

"Christ. Jesus. Bloody hell. God Almighty. Jesus Christ al-bloody-mighty."

None of these spells helped us.

As we slowed down, soldiers came out of the wee buildings. They had guns slung over their shoulders on straps. Dad was scared, so he stopped. Perhaps not the best of ideas. The soldiers' reaction to our stopping was for them to take ahold of their guns.

More blasphemy.

And then the car was put into reverse.

Mum and Aunty Winnie screamed, so I joined in. As I said, Dad never swore. At least, not in front of me. All that changed this day.


The soldiers came running at us, aiming their guns at the car. Dad stopped again. We weren't exactly surrounded, I don't think we were seen as a threat, but a couple of them stood at the back of the car, two at the front and a third gestured to Dad to wind down the window. As the smoke poured out, the soldier began speaking wildly in German to my Father. No-one in the car spoke German (well, Auntie Winnie did, but that's yet another story). Dad said he didn't speak German.

"What are you
doing here? What do you want? Turn around! Go back!"

We did. It seemed we were approaching Germany's boder with Czechoslovakia.

Some of the soldiers were smiling. A pity that, in the 1970s, no-one used the term Schadenfreude.

I loved that holiday. Apart from the French children at a German campsite. They spat on me and stole my kite.

I learned my first German in 1979, just basics like danke, bitte and guten tag. The following year, I mastered the art of ordering eight bread rolls in a bakery! It would be another ten years until I'd reached my pinnacle with Fotze.

Did you ever fall in love as a child?

That all depends on how childhood is classified. In black/white terms, I suppose this is under the age of sixteen, but I don't doubt that most people have been in love before their sixteenth birthday, so I'm not sure how to take this.

You are the darkest childe.

I think I had crushes on various men as a child, some of my Father's friends and even perhaps my former brother-in-law, but drearily for Minge, I was never in love as a child.

Not to my knowledge, in any case.

Is it possible for a prepubescent child to be in love, my little maid?

I'm tagging:

A Novelist
Brighton David
American David

What utter fabulousness, dear reader.

*Dining room.


Moncrief Speaks said...

Pure fabulousness on every level. The intricacies of a 1970s European road trip are brought fully to life. You almost became a casualty of the Cold War, there on the Czechoslovak border!

Minge said...

When was the phrase "road trip" coined?

Moncrief Speaks said...

I don't remember a time when it wasn't used, but then it's pretty certainly a term coined in the US. I don't know when it started being used in the UK. See: for some possibly unhelpful information.

Anonymous said...

It's perfectly possible to be a prepubescent child and fall in love with people, Minge. The first time I did, I was in single figures. But that's not my earliest memory, so I will get on with the meme :-)

Just a Girl said...

I am very, very slow but I did this one finally :)