I suppose a memoir should start with the first thing you can remember but I have stories that mum, dad and grandparents have told me about me and my very early days that are more interesting.
For example, mum’s near brush with the South London villains….
Apparently I wasn’t a dream child. Difficult to feed, difficult to instruct/teach and on occasions a bad sleeper. So whilst dad was busy working nights in the print it would be just me and mum.
My parents had rented a shop in Brixton as our first family home and the shop itself was our front room, with one of those old electrical fires with the bars in the fireplace.
I crawled into that – probably fascinated with the brightness of the orange, and singed my forehead. (Although there are no signs of any burning, maybe it was that moment that my brain got frazzled?)
On one particular evening I had given mum a hard time, wailing for bad teeth, hunger, attention who knows? She surely didn’t and at the end of her tether I was put in my cot to sleep and wouldn’t you know it – I went off like an angel.
Later whilst my parents were watching TV in their shop front/ lounge they could hear a hell of a commotion outside in the street.
Gunfire, Shouting, Screaming.
Mum was beside herself with anger,
‘I’m going out there and I’m going to tell them to shut up – I’VE GOT A SLEEPING BABY UP THERE!’
Dad, more streetwise having grown up in Waterloo backstreets himself, grabbed her by the shoulders, pushed her into a chair and held her there telling her in no uncertain terms she was going nowhere.
A kind of ‘Sit down and shut TF up.’
I think it was the next day that someone came round and knocked on the door, dad answered having seen from the large window through the nets who the caller was.
‘Allo Den, alright mate?’ ‘Did you hear anything last night mate?’
‘Hear what? We slept like a log in ‘ere’
‘Is that your littlun’ there? How old is she now?’ the man’s attention turned to me
On cue, I look up as cute as pie and gave this stranger an angelic smile apostrophed with the huge dressing covering my forehead after my collision with the electrical fire.
‘That’s our girl, she’ll be one soon, getting all over the place she is, crawled into the fire last week, she’s a nightmare – wants to run before she can walk.
The two men, exchanged niceties, mum on the inside still seething and off he went assured that in this house at least No One Had Heard Anything.
A few days later there was a knock at the door, a special delivery from a top department store in the West End. A brand spanking new playpen to jail me in and bags of toys to keep me quiet.
I think this is probably the first exciting story of my life and although I struggle to remember the Brixton days, this story was told quite a few times and feels like a memory of my own.