When I first arrived here from the colder climates where Penguins were all the go, I was thrilled. Here were Tim Tams! Something just a little bit familiar and, dare I say it, nicer than Penguin biscuits, though they didn’t come individually wrapped in those different coloured foil wrappers. In fact all the Arnott’s biscuits beat the British ones, I thought. Now in England they have the scrumptious, crunchy, crispy and decadent and hideously expensive Duchy ones; plus a whole host of others. This makes comparison not only odious but far too difficult. I do miss the chocolate Digestives though…
‘Come on dear; eat up your afternoon tea’. Patronising woman, she is. Who does she think I am anyway? I’ll give her ‘dear’. I’m saving this one for later. I’m going to wrap it up in my hanky and put it under my pillow for a midnight feast.
We used to do that sometimes. Since boarding school nights were so tightly monitored I’m not sure how we managed it. What did we eat? There were hardly any treats and no-one had those tuck-boxes which seemed so prevalent in the Girls’ Own-type stories of the early-20th century. For good food, and lots of it, we waited until the outings and half-term.
‘Time for a walk to the toilet now, Mrs Thompson; up you get. There’s a girl’. There she goes again! Here am I, old enough to be her grandmother, and she calls me ’girl’. I’ll give her ‘girl’.
I approached outings and half-term with such mixed emotions. Anything to get away from the place for a short while – but then the fear set in as I knew that after only six hours, or a long weekend for half-term, I’d be back. I wept into my pillow for at least a fortnight at the start of each term and then for about two nights after half-term. The outings were spent in miserable dread wandering round open gardens, picnicking in the nearby parks, going to museums or other worthy institutions or occasionally visiting friends. Half-terms were crammed with frantic activity and the riding of ponies.
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‘Well done, love. I bet you feel better now. Shall we go and get you showered so you can get into bed?’ Showered? At this time of the afternoon? Bed at 6.00pm? Spare me! I’ll give her ‘love’.
No wonder I never learnt much. I hated every moment away from home on the farm. The first few years of my life were spent in blissful ignorance of what was just around the corner – banished, I felt, to prison at such a young age. There was, of course, some school. I went to a local one where all my friends went too. I suppose I learnt a little spelling and grammar, some numbers and perhaps a bit of running, jumping and swinging. There are some of those old photos in my drawer here.
‘That’s it, sweetie, put your bottom down now on the shower chair. Careful you don’t bump that hot tap. We don’t want you scalding yourself, do we? I’d have hell to pay if that happened!’ Yes you would, you presumptuous thing. And I would no more scald myself than fly to the moon. You’d be the one who would have to answer for it. I’ll give her ‘sweetie’.
The farm. Home from birth until the ages of eight. The place where we nursed and nurtured orphaned lambs, hatched ducklings in boxes and towels on the warming plate of the Aga, bottle-fed calves, watched sows farrow and suckle their greedy little pink piglets, collected the eggs, watched Perce milk the house cow by hand – and where there was peace and security. There were carthorses before the introduction of tractors – not even my father could fight that – and hayricks in which the cats had kittens. The threshing machine, a huge wondrous piece of ancient equipment with a smelly, noisy motor on the side which drove a huge belt, produced the sheaves of wheat; replaced by the combine-harvester. The ancient baler gathering up the newly-dried hay and magically spewing out the bales tied with baler-twine, the other end. There was even a moveable milking bail which was towed from field to paddock where the small dairy herd happened to be. Where are they now? Scrap metal…
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‘Let’s dry you properly, precious. Don’t want any nasty infections, now do we?’ I’ll give her ‘precious’.
I remember sitting in the high-chair. It was blue and had transfers stuck on the inside of the chair-back. I’d bang my spoon and pusher on the tray – does anyone give a baby a pusher any more? Sounds like something to do with drugs. I knew the world revolved around me, I was the centre of everyone’s world and I was certainly the centre of mine. It’s a bit like here and now. I can be demanding and irritable and they’ll put me to bed. I’ll be seeing them all again soon…
‘Come on, poppet, into bed with you now. That’s it, sit down here and let’s swing your legs up; gently now.’ Too tired to whinge any more. I’ll give her ‘poppet’.
What item or food reminds you of your younger years? What has a special significance in your life? Tell us below.