It is strange how our earliest memories are so fragmented. It is as if they were torn to pieces by entropy and neglect. I presume this is because our minds are still a little too nebulous at the time to form coherent memories.
My earliest memory is of the Victorian-style pram that I was taken from place to place in. A black leathery plastic thing that had a faint odour of mothballs and pee-pee.
After this my memory starts to coalesce into a whole. It is akin to continental drift, I think. Shoals and rocky outcrops and archipelagos of memory clump together after a certain age. They ossify.
My next memory is of Buddle Lane Nursery in Exeter. I recall making cars out of blocks of wood, painting them silver and hammering nails into them. This either proves that people in the 1980s had appalling standards of childcare or that I am misremembering. Clue: I am not misremembering. In the early to mid-eighties, we were allowed to risk ourselves with sharp nails, hammers and paint which was probably full of lead. Aw…good times! Nowadays if you hand your child a bagful of nails and a blunt instrument, you would be handed over to the police for endangering a child’s life. What an age we live in…
I have a few memories of Buddle Lane. A snaking enclosed path leading to the nursery, goldfish I nearly killed by feeding them too much fish food, and revisiting it before I went to school. I also remember being taken by taxi to the nursery, of seeing a famous Exeter mural being painted (the one that includes a man reading a paper while leaning against the wall), and of being given a huge Victorian black leathery non-plastic book which didn’t smell of mothballs and pee-pee.
Ah, I loved that book. It was a huge thing. I remember that inside it were many stories and a weird squiggly signature from Queen Victoria (printed not signed). I took it to my school once or twice. I balanced it on my head lots of times. I drew in it and then lost it somehow. I regret losing it.
This memory leads me to another. In my first year of school, Jive Bunny visited. This scared the hell out of me. I hid in case this giant rabbit decided to eat my brains. It was around this time, that I decided ravioli was made from spiders. I didn’t touch this spider-pasta package from the age of four until I was in my early twenties. So far I have not detected any spider legs in my ravioli.
Another school remembrance: we had huge blackboards on wheel, triangular with a base that was on wheels. A little like two playing cards leaning on each other. I have such a clear memory of climbing inside with the book and wondering if I could somehow get the blackboard-on-wheels outside and ride it down the hill like a toboggan. I was an active child. When I walked to school, I would try to outrun the milk float. I did not win unless there was a traffic jam so I had to take my victories where I could get them by only racing when traffic was bad.
And that memory leads to this: of a Blue Peter (or was it?) contest where they wanted school children to draw some kind of cartoony thing. I got everyone in my class to make this huge drawing of a skyscraper with all sorts of crazy things happening. My cartoon speciality at the time was of a detective with a trenchcoat and a fedora with a huge feather.
At the time I had a huge addiction to the Ghostbusters cartoon. I would sing the theme tune (not the words but just the music) to myself. So much, in fact, that my godmother’s child, Benjamin, copied me by going “ner ner ner ner ner ner” in a monotone and losing all the nuances of my spirited renditions of this hallowed song.
And I am led right back to the blackboard again where I recall being on my stomach copying things down without looking at the paper in front of me. I was able to write coherently and on the line without looking once at what I was writing. I recall thinking I was a genius.
I then remember not being able to say the word ‘yes’ without it sounding like ‘ness’, and of my getting around my speech impediment by saying ‘yeah’ or ‘yup’. No doubt the teachers thought I was being highly informal.
My last memory of the school was the last day when a girl, who I fancied in my eight-year-old kinda way, gave me some A-Team stickers. I think her name was Kerry Gill (or was it Emily Cooper?). I remember kissing her underneath my fur-lined hooded parka and ending up with a weird fly thing stuck to my cheek.
Nostalgia is fun. Even though some meories are painful, I would not have changed any detail of my life so far. I am who I am because of the sum of my memories and experience. Even if it did make me the person I am today.