2 thoughts on “The World We Knew as Children

  1. The World We Knew as Children

    I grew up in a safe suburban setting in a place called Oadby, a suburb of Leicester about as in the middle as you can get in the UK and also about a 3-hour car ride away from the Sea.

    My Mum and Dad always joked that their marriage incorporated the war of the roses as my Dad’s a native Yorkshire man, originally from Sheffield, and my mum hails for Lancashire. There has been a long and well documented historic rivalry between the two counties going back to the 15th century. They met in their local Church choir in a place called Fulwood, Preston where they lived and grew up together.

    Family summer holidays mainly consisted of walking holidays in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales camping or staying in youth hostels. I am a bit of a sloth by nature so confess that 2 weeks of walking up and down dale and mountains was not my idea of Nirvana although I did enjoy the amazing scenery and have many fond memories of these trips!

    My preferred holiday activity was visiting my Granny (my Dad’s Mum) in Preston. A hugely kind but a large and slightly formidable lady who was a former nurse Matron. She always carried that air of authority throughout her life, despite having given up her career (as was the norm in those days) when she got married. I think staying with my Granny inspired a lifelong love of day tripping and traditional English sea-side resorts (especially piers and promendades0. Preston is only about 10 miles from Blackpool and lots of other accessible seaside resorts nearby, Lytham St Annes was another favourite. I have lots of happy memories of sandcastles, ice-creams and donkey rides, all the sights, sounds and smells of a traditional sea-side resort. One of my abiding memories is of my Grandpa, looking like an English Cliché, sitting in a deckchair with his pipe, wearing long trousers and donning just a vest up top with a knotted handkerchief on his head!

    The kids would all be in bathers of various alarming seventies fashions. I recall having a knitted swimsuit at one point which was probably the most ridiculous, impractical and unfit for purpose garment I have ever owned! You would come out the water twice your own bodyweight with the knitted cosie having sagged from crotch level to somewhere near your knees.

    I also did a lot of ballet and gymnastics as a child and remember the excitement and me offering up prayers of thanks when the Dupont company started to produce lycra sportswear in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This led to a revolution in leotards, swimming costumes, ice-skating costumes and the like. Gone forever was the era of saggy, baggy crotches!

    We were not a very amphibious family and were not particularly encouraged into swimming or any sort of water sports. Although we spent a lot of time at beaches near my Gran’s growing up I don’t recall spending a lot of time in the sea itself. Adults and children alike were content to paddle!

    Staying with Granny involved a lot of normally forbidden treats, club biscuits and chocolate biscuits of every variety (club and viscount were my favourites), fizzy pop in every garish colour and Barr’s variety you could imagine! Ironically in those days you ordered fizzy pop via the milkman. My granny was a very good cook of hearty traditional fare and the main meal was always served at midday. This was due to my Grandpa having always come home for his lunch every day during his working life between 12 and 1, and this habit had stuck. We always had a pudding too, quite often involving suet or pastry and usually served with custard! I do remember spending a lot of time at my Gran’s in an afternoon when we weren’t going out anywhere in a pleasant sort of a half asleep food coma whilst watching either snooker or darts on a black and white telly!

    One of my favourite toys growing up was my trusty ride on steed with wheels and a push along handle named ‘Dobin’ which I think I had from when I was about 12 months old.

    Here is a family picture of me aged 7 still trying to ride poor Dobin despite me being far too big!

    My mum is a bit of a hoarder and finds it hard to part with anything with sentimental attachment. When preparing to move out from the family home in Oadby that we had grown up in down to Dorset my Mum declared an amnesty one weekend for us all to go home and retrieve any childhood possessions from the loft we wanted. Anything that remained unclaimed would be dumped or things in better nick would be recycled to charity shops.

    At the time I was in my early twenties and renting a room in a shared house. I just didn’t have anywhere for any of my childhood toys to go so left them behind preferring not to know their fate. I imagined that Dobin, who had been very well loved and was now nearly bold, would probably not find a new home and would suffer a more depressing fate.

    However, I was delighted to find out a few years back that my Mum had not had the heart to throw Dobin out and he had moved South with my parents to Dorset. My Mum was having another, attempted, clear out and asked if I would like him. Dobin arrived very well packaged up courtesy of Royal Mail. I think he was one of the most exciting parcels that I have received since moving to the Western Isles! Dobin and I have now been reunited, he still wears the saddle that my Mum made for him, and as he is looking so threadbare he also now sports a nice warm blanket as he is used to a milder climate.

    Here is a recent polaroid picture of Dobin in my front garden taken for the recent An Lanntair’s Lockdown sketchbook project featured as ‘my favourite childhood toy’.

    Rebecca Mahony

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The World We Knew as Children

    When I was a child, I knew that I was ‘me’ but I felt bewildered as I tried to understand what was going on and who I was;

    My adults were hurting and nostalgic for their homeland.

    They told me that one day we would go back, so I must learn the language, the history, the traditions.

    But I was living in England, going to school with English and Irish children. Why could I not dress like them, live like they did?

    I had a travel document and it said I was stateless and so I thought that was good because it made me feel important.

    The teachers asked me to dress in national costume so I did, but I wanted to be the same as other children.

    My adults liked to put me on a stage. They liked to hear me recite national epic poems because it made them feel better.

    I was constantly criticised, I felt I had to do better, work harder. I never felt good enough.

    I was beaten and thought I was bad.

    There was not enough money for a doll or new clothes.

    I was given a half crown on Bonfire night and happily bought some fireworks.

    I had to take those fireworks back to the shop because they were a waste of money.

    I was humiliated.

    Eventually I did not ask for anything.

    Adults told me lies because they thought I would not understand.

    I accepted that my role in life was to do what I was told to do and please others.

    I cried and my adults could not understand why.

    I could not talk and my adults did not understand why.

    I did not feel loved.

    I felt alone and lived in my head.

    My adults did what they thought was best for me but my adults were tired and busy.

    I had to survive.

    When I became an adult I felt I lacked social skills;

    I had low self-esteem.

    I was accepted first by one and then another and another.

    I felt unconditional love.

    Now that I am an adult I am making my own choices.

    Now that I am an adult my self-esteem is rising.

    Urszula

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