I apologise if you were reading this blog a couple of years ago when a lot of the next few sections of the story were told. But this is the new, improved version!
Also, I am putting my podcasts on a new blog, latest one here.
Anyway, enough of that. The story continues...
My mum and dad met at the Embassy Court in Welling. This was the local place to see and dance to the bands of the day. This was my dad’s music, The Ted Heath Orchestra, big band shit like that. My mum was a big Sinatra fan.
My dad and his friend would stand at the front, close to the band, their necks jerking back and forth like pigeons’ necks, in time to the music. The equivalent of our later headbanging except there were plenty of women around in the dance halls of the day to admire their smart head moves and smarter Tony Curtis haircuts.
My dad was still doing National Service, in the Air Force, when my mum and dad got married. They lived for five years in my dad's parents' home. No room to swing a cat but it was the only way they could save up enough money to get a deposit on a house. In the end, my dad was lent most of the deposit by a man whose gardening he did. They were on the housing ladder and moved to Welling.
When she was pregnant with me, my mum worked at the Atomic Energy. Her best friend at the Atomic was carrying at the same time. A girl. We were the children of the future.
I was born in the cold December of 1961. A Wednesday's woeful child, full of tears.
I've still got the mark where they put the needle in. Antibiotics straight into my chubby little leg.
The first thing I can recall is riding my tricycle, legs pumping away like manic sausages, heading along the pavement to greet my dad as he came home from work, a packet of Murraymints for me in his jacket pocket.
I don't remember our dog. Dino was named after the Flintstones' pet dinosaur and his favourite meal of the day was a packet of my mum's cigarettes. The cigarettes were essentials. The dog wasn’t. The dog had to go.
Dino went to a good home and I was allowed my own space. I soon learned to play alone, happy in the company of Baby and Daddy Mugger, my two pandas. My mum often brings up Baby Mugger, even today. Baby Mugger was the child I never had.
My mum and dad were very close to their respective sisters and parents so there was quite a bit of visiting. I didn't enjoy the company of people outside my immediate family. They were friendly and they gave me nice things to eat and drink but I would rather have been home with Baby and Daddy Mugger and my toy cars. I loved the shapes and colours and feel of the cars and they would tootle along at a nice slow pace under my gentle guidance. I had no truck with those boys who hurtled their cars along as if they were machines of destruction. Those crashing, smashing little bastards were all around but not destroying my toys. Not yet.
When I was four my dad got a job as an engraver on the south coast and we upped sticks for Christchurch.
I loved Christchurch. My dad went to work and I had nobody but my mum for company. We'd go out for walks to the shops, get the bus to the seaside. My white body went brown in the sun and I felt more comfortable exposing the upper half of my body than I have since. I had a Batman outfit in which I ran down Bournemouth High Street, oblivious to the crowds.
My dad loved it there, too. He enjoyed the job and was settled in the house and town.
But my mum hated it. She wasn't making friends. She missed her parents and sisters. As entertaining as I was, I was not adult company. I wasn't due to go to school for over a year so there were no young mothers for my mum to chat to. She was lonely.
Two incidents stick out in my mind from then. I was scared shitless by the steam and whistle of a steam train going under a bridge we were standing on. And I was scared shitless when I was left alone in the house with my cousin one day. She got it into her head that there was an intruder in the house. Silly girl.
Despite those couple of frights I remember it as year of comfort and security. With my mum I was safe, happy playing by myself in the living room, listening to the sounds of food being prepared, rooms being vacuumed and the quiet druggy sound of the radio.
I had no friends and I couldn't have been happier. But my mum was going mad with loneliness. So we moved back home.
We weren't able to get our own place straight away. We spent the next several months at my dad's parents' council house. Yes, back there again for my parents. Even more crowded now and not good for anybody's nerves, especially since my parents had now had a taste of independence.
I went to the chip shop on a Saturday with my dad, watched the wrestling and checked the pools with my grandad. But my happy days with my mum, just the two of us, were gone. I remember being ill most of the time, lying in bed, afraid of the wallpaper.
Shapes moved. They became three-dimensional. They throbbed, heaved, backwards and forwards, side to side, span and spiralled.
I started school, a tiny school around the corner. I immediately contracted measles.
The wallpaper had a field day and the bastard measles perforated my eardrum. As my mum and dad argued, my grandparents argued, the one unifying force was the sick, weak child in the box bedroom. Come on, Dad. Hurry up and get a deposit on that dream house!
2 days ago