Monday, February 27, 2006

To begin at my beginning...

I was born on the 27th of November 1960 in Northampton. A child of the Sixties. Which in Northampton meant something rather more mundane than the lives they portray in films.

My parents married at the age of 23, having met through mutual friends at the Salon, the local dance hall. In fact my father had only spoken to my mother to ask where her friend Kath was, and as she wasn't there that night asked her to dance instead. My mother's parents, Lil & Eddie, didn't like my father, who just wasn't ever going to be good enough for their precious only child. They came from good middle class, methodist stock and lived in a quietly respectable part of town. Dad was one of ten children from the wrong side of town. His father worked for the gas board, having been a coal miner, and his mother ran a second-hand clothes shop from their front room. So, no parlour with the upright piano in it for best.

But my parents fell in love and got married in the Methodist chapel where my mother's parents had met and married, and had her christened, where eventually my sister got married, and where my grandparents' and my niece's funerals were held.

For a while they rented a flat above the haberdashery shop that my great aunts ran. Then they bought a house a few streets away, but they felt the need to move on to a more family-friendly house after I was born. Something to do with used condoms being thrown into the garden from over next door's wall, I believe.

Life after then must have been quite good. We lived in a rather nice post-war, bow-fronted, semi-detached house in a quiet road (though we were at the bottom end of the road, next to the council houses). We had, what seemed to me as a child, an enormous garden with apple and pear trees in the back garden, leading down to a wilderness of shrubs and nettles beneath rows of pine trees that reached right up to the clouds. And a pedigree poodle who jumped up and made me screech because he'd have spoilt my dress, even though I'd encouraged him to jump in the first place.

I went to school a short walk away, and often walking back home with Mum, Dad would appear on his Vespa scooter and let me sit on the running board between his feet the rest of the way home. We spent time with Dad's family and with my grandparents and had bucket and spade holidays in Teignmouth. When I was five my sister arrived and the family was complete. Annual treats were the Avon company (where Dad worked as an electrician) children's Christmas party and Northampton's summer carnival.

Then came the offer of another, completely alien life. My mother's parents must have hated my Dad more than ever. I can't imagine how my parents quite broke the news to them. One of Dad's older brothers had started a construction and plant hire company in Uganda, another brother had joined him and they wanted their little brother there too. It was to change my life completely.