Autobiography Part 1
Chapter 1 - Earliest memory
I was born on Sunday March the 8th 1970 at four in the morning. It has just occurred to me as I write that, though I am a 1970’s child, I was conceived in the 60’s. Therefore I was a 60’s foetus for six months. I know this birth date, and even how heavy I was, due to one thing: a blue and white plate - Delftware. On it is a stork bringing a baby to its cot, the clock on the wall says the time, and the inscription is my name and the date. Apart from my body, the plate is my oldest possession, given by my Dutch granddad Tuijl to celebrate the birth of a boy.
On Saturday 7th of March my mum and dad went to see Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Not only was I a 60’s foetus, but a theatrical foetus. Then a few hours later I was born at home, obviously not in time to see the play.
My very first memory was not long after. Most people remember events from three years old, I had to be different. As memories go it is fairly boring: the back of a door. Ok there is a little more. The door had an arch window above; typical of a terrace house, behind the door there was a wire basket to catch the post. And here is the first memory: the door was opened by my mum and a man stood there: grey, shortish, stoutish. He talked to me, or about me, to my mum. And, as men did then, winked to the little baby. And there was little me, peering at him from my pram, a big dark blue comfy one with a proper foldy roof, big wheels and springy legs. An “old school” pram.
This memory knocked about in my head for 40 years or so until one day I told my mum about it, describing the door only. “That was our house in Nottingham, I used to put you behind the door in the pram when we came back and let you sleep.” I’d obviously woken a few times and peered at the back of the door.
We left Nottingham when I was less than one year old. Which means that my first memory puts me at less than one year old. As a scene it is average, as an achievement it is quite surprising. I’ve been obsessed with arch windows above doors all my life since, not to mention wire baskets to catch the post.
I have always been pleased to be born on a zero. My maths has constantly been bad, so being born on a ten has made things easy for me. I’ve also rated being born in 1970, a good year, looks pretty, nicer than 1969 or 1971 for sure. Also March has obsessed me as a month, both for its place in the year (windy in England) and for a good distance from Christmas, so one gets more gifts, but not too long to wait after xmas. As I kid I passed through the town of March quite a lot, and there was a Formula 1 racing team back then called March. I used to play with the word March as marching, especially when passing though the town. I like the idea of being born on a Sunday and love the number 8. All wins. If just the time of year makes one a fit a star sign then I have just listed a few things that affected me as a kid and still as an adult.
Chapter 2 - Earliest memories 2, 3 & 4 (but not necessarily in that order)
Then I arrive at the second memory, which for a long time I thought was my first. I was three, or even two, nearly three. I think it was Christmas, though I am not sure. Perhaps I think that because I woke up in my cot to find a present. The cot was in my Nan and Grandad Gunn’s spare bedroom and my mum was sleeping alone in the double bed. In the semi gloom I opened my gift and found it to be a toy car, and a pretty swanky one at that, with real rubber wheels and opening doors. A rather sporty number, not a common-all-garden toy car.
When my mum awoke she told me it was from my dad. I am pretty sure I did not know where he was, even if I was told it would have made no sense, I just know that he wasn’t there.
Which brings me to the third memory, which I once thought was my second memory, though it probably actually is the forth. I know what order they were in if I think about it, but the main fact is that they were all around one event.
I remember being in a car with my mum and we were going to hospital in Peterborough. There were a neat row of trees outside and flags on tall poles, and inside was my dad, in a communal TV room, wearing pyjama’s. We watched cartoons on the telly with some other men in pyjamas. My dad had bare feet. This is clearly a fourth memory as I now know we had been to see him before, but that time I was not allowed to see him as he had a wire frame on his face which was holding it together.
That third memory was with my Nan and Grandad Gunn as well as mum. For years I always thought it had been a dream, as I had a lucid memory of the lifts in the hospital. My Grandad was with me, pointing out the lift doors as we watched the doors open and people were inside. I know that this did turn into a recurring dream. All the walls turned into glass and I could see the people going up and down inside the glass elevators in neat columns, all placed one on top of another. A glass conveyor belt full of old people with sticks, climbing up the glass walls of the tall and wide hospital grand hall.
Of that visit my nan has always keen to tell the story of when I ran down the corridor to dad’s room, but stopped just before I got to the door. He was inside with his wire framed face and I’d have probably been scarred for life. As indeed he was, having to wear glasses from then after his severe head injury.
He was 28. I know that because when I was 28 something similar happened to me: my dad had been in a car accident.