Looking back it’s all too easy to romanticise childhood. I’ve taken off my rose tinted glasses for this post but my natural nostalgia still comes through.
I had an unremarkable childhood but to me it was pretty perfect. I grew up in Birmingham, in Edgbaston. No, not the posh part with the cricket ground and the big houses,
the more ordinary part with the reservoir.
We lived in a late Victorian terraced house which rambled over 3 floors and a decent sized garden.
For many years there were lodgers living with us – nurses in the attic and a travelling salesman called Mr Harris in the small single at the front of the house. He was the only person I knew who ate kippers for breakfast! The nurses were all impossibly glamorous and seemed to have wonderful social lives filled with mini skirts, mini cars and boyfriends. The sort of life I pictured having when I was a grown up.
My sister is nearly 4 years younger than me so wasn’t really in my gang, she just hung around with other irritating little brothers and sisters that we were told to play with. They were always the villains in our games – me and my mates were the cowboys, they were the Indians; we were the knights, they were the dragons. We played either in someones garden or in a variety of waste areas – the railway cutting or some waste ground which was latere built on. The railway cutting was forbidden but we still went there. Mum always knew when we’d been there and I couldn’t work out how she always knew – later it turned out that skidding down the embankment stained our knickers with grass stains! Girls didn’t wear trousers in those days. One year there was a dead dog in the railway cutting and we were fascinated by its decay – poking it with sticks until one day maggots poured out from under it and we all ran off screaming, boys included. We also found a DALEK in a shed – we were so scared and only dared tiptoe up for a quick peep before running away. Well, who wants to be exterminated? It turned out to be an old railway worker’s broom resting on a dustbin!
The long summer holidays were bliss. We played out all day, roaming about the neighbourhood getting into various scrapes. There was an abandoned house close to my home and we were told never to go in because there were rats; so in we went and terrified ourselves in the cobwebby dark. There was a crab apple tree behind some garages and we were told not to eat the fruit; so we ate it and had the worst stomach ache ever. The local park had a paddling pool which we were only to go in if there was an adult with us; me and my friend went in on our own, I cut my foot on broken glass and had to get a bandage from her Mum, I tried to pretend it hadn’t happened but my Mum wasn’t fooled buy my trying not to limp! Happy days!
Holidays were in a caravan in Devon. Long, sunny days running around the fields and beaches, picnics, bottle of coke with straws in outside the pub, listening to the cricket on an old radio while lolling in a deckchair.
Was it really like that?