Saturday, 11 February 2012

about A Childhood On The Move

about A Childhood on the Move

The link takes you to an article in The Guardian today.  A good friend texted me this morning to tell me about it.  When i read the article it felt as if it was my childhood she was describing.
One of my 'projects' is to write about my childhood, even if just for the benefit of my sister's and brother's children - one day they might want to know more about their parents childhood, even about their grandparents.

When my mother and father both died i felt bereft, and cut adrift.  I think it is fairly usual for people to wish they had asked their parents about more of their lives before they had died, its always the way, you just dont expect them ever to die (well i didnt anyway) and i just never got around to asking enough, or to recording things.  And so then there was no one left who knew, not in my own early childhood, because no one else in the family was there.
So i thought i would leave stuff written down for my siblings children. just in case they ever wanted to know.

So now I read that someone else has written it all down first!! well, it is so well written - a short article but I believe she has actually written a book. 

We were always told how lucky we were, what an exotic life we led.  I can remember not saying very much to these comments because I honestly didnt know how to respond. Now looking back I dont think i could have any idea what growing up in one place, in one country, knowing the same people most of your life, could possibly be like.  (This was the early '50s). 
Nobody very much went abroad in those days. 
I can remember leaves in England staying with relatives and family friends, our visits to beaches on the south coast where the whole beach was just pebbles, no sand at all and rather cold and uncomfortable. 
One leave we drove up to Scotland, it took 2 days.  Those old cars had a large ledge at the back window, my favorite place to sleep when travelling.  My father taught us to sing 'rounds', he would sing the first line then i would sing the first line then mother would sing the first line .. (she was not a person who could hold a tune, and made up for it in volume, so it was always a source of amusement).  I would make up stories about things i saw on the way.  My father was a member of the AA and salutes were exchanged between him and the person in a passing car displaying an AA badge.  I remember Oban - when I woke up on my ledge to find the car stopped, my parents not there and a policeman standing guard by the car.  They had just gone into the kilt shop and apparently he offered to look out for me.

I was sent to boarding school when i was 10.  By that time i had been to so many different schools in different countries my parents must have been worried about my education.  Like the person writing the article - my maths was non existant, my spelling dreadful (I have proof!) and my understanding of what education was for was zilch (proof of that too!).  Oh her name is Harriet! Thats the name I wanted to call myself at one time, so that i could be called Harry.

We were in Barcelona at the time.  I was attending the local Catholic school where i was the only Heathen.  Nobody seemed to hold it against me, apart from when i first went to Mass and took communion by mistake - just following what the others did.
My best friend was Anne McWilliam, I think I remember her father was the High Commissioner or equivalent, but she didnt attend the same school.  We lived in the flat next door at the bottom of Tibidabo.  We used to go up the hill to the park where we could spy on lovers kissing and giggle, get shouted at and chased away. 
My brothers were tiny.  The older one always translated the younger one's non-words - told us what he was saying.  He threw most of my mothers treasured Greek pottery over the balcony, my baby chicks (they survived), his wooden truck.  He threw father's alarm clock down the loo, and he put the plugs in the bathroom basin and bath and turned on the taps until our downstairs neighbour came rushing up saying she was being flooded.  (Not all on the same day).  He was always quite open about what he had done and surprised - I have this idea that he was just wanting to know what would happen if.....

Anyway. yes all the different houses. all the different friends you never see again. all the different cultures. 

Now there is this whole hoohaa about saying prayers in a council meeting.  I am sorry but really - i cant believe the fuss.. what are we like? Shall i go to court because i dont like seeing people kissing in public? because it breaches my human rights?  I know, i suppose its not quite the same thing. but what on earth is the matter with accepting people's differences? 
My mother had to organize all these dinner parties and stuff, catering for people of various nationalities, religious beliefs, eating and drinking beliefs - she just respected them all and got on with it, it would have offended her totally to even for a minute contemplate complaining that this was a breach of her human rights.

I am not sure if i particularly believe in God, but when my mother wanted our uncle to officiate a small communion service for her at her bedside with me and my sister there - i was glad to take part and respect her deep religious beliefs.  at the end i thought that perhaps they were a comfort to her. after all, when we are dying - who can come with us?

So there's a rant.