Sure, you turned out pretty good, but is there anything you wish had been different about your childhood? If you have kids, is there anything you wish were different for them?
When I think of my childhood, I think of the time we lived in a small village to the east of Plymouth in Devon. We moved there when I was 7. Dad had got a new job working at Laira railway depot and we moved down to join him after he had been working there for a period of months. At first we rented a cottage on a small farm just outside the village while we waited for our new home to become vacant. We only lived on the farm for about six weeks but I have fond memories of chasing ducks, driving home along the steep banked country lanes praying that we wouldn’t meet any oncoming traffic, watching mice run across the rafters while we watched the TV below and living in an ‘upside down’ house. We thought it was very strange to have bedrooms downstairs and the kitchen and lounge upstairs. In hindsight, this was probably because the rooms upstairs had better views of the surrounding countryside and, as the cottages were holiday lets, they wanted to make the most of them.
We eventually moved into our new home and were so excited by all the space after the little cottage. The little close that we moved into became our community. The parents were always in each other’s kitchens drinking copious amounts of tea and the children were always to be found in one of the gardens, building dens or getting up to mischief. We all went to the village school together and would take a short cut through a neighbour’s garden and over a fence into the local park rather than walking up a very steep hill on our journey.
The village had a number of little shops; a newsagents, a butcher, a baker (no candlestick makers) and a funny little wine shop that felt like you were in someone’s front room. We used to fight over the job of going to the bakers on a Saturday morning until our mum wised up to the fact that whoever went would be given a little iced bun as a treat by the baker. She had words to say about that! The newsagents was tiny and the door opened straight onto the main road, no pavements here! There was a little section where they had the half-penny sweets, we mourned the day the 1/2p went out of circulation and all the sweets got twice as expensive overnight!
The village school was on a split site when we were there. The infant school was in an old Victorian building which has now been converted into private homes. The Junior school was in temporary classrooms on another site and we loved it there. The site was huge, there was a nature area, an outside swimming pool, an Orchard and a massive field. Between the field and the Orchard was an earth back where we spent many happy lunchtimes building dens and watching the world go by.
This all carried on pretty nicely until my dad got his job in Derby during the summer of 1987. We stayed in the South West while my dad once again spent his life commuting around the countryside. By now I was old enough to notice that he wasn’t about as much and I let my displeasure be known. I also had my first encounter with death during this year as my class teacher died of cancer during the summer term of 1988. This was a term of huge changes, all my classmates had taken the ‘Eleven Plus’ but, since we already knew we were moving to a place without grammar schools, I was the only person not to take it. I watched as they visited their new secondary schools and began to worry about my slightly uncertain future. I knew where we were moving, I had seen the unfinished house (my parents had chosen a new build), seen the outside of my new school (closed for half term) and seen this big city that we were due to move to over the Summer holidays. I didn’t like the uncertainty of it all and I think it has shaped me now – I hate not knowing what’s going to happen.
This is the thing I’m going to try to never do to my child. We’ve already moved to a house which, unless the council decides to change its catchment areas, means that little B (and any others that might appear) will follow the same route through schools that my sisters did when we moved here. We have bought this house with the intention that we’ll be here for many years – at least until little B has grown up and moved out anyway!