As part of National Novel Writing Month, (#NaNoWriMo) I've set myself the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel (1700 words a day), consisting of short stories about my memories of primary school. Today I'm writing about my terrible twos between 1976-1977). Just so that you know, all names of people have been changed unless they are publically known. Each story is based on my own memory, so may not be an exact representation of events, especially since I am writing this over 40 years after things happened! But I hope you will enjoy each story all the same, and that perhaps it will spark your own memories of life at primary school.
Life for my young mum and dad was pretty tough, and no doubt very lonely for mum, especially when she was stuck at home for the first few months and without any other humans around for laughter and fun and words of wisdom. Though it wasn't well known at that time, a medical person today would recognise that mum probably had what is today called 'the baby blues' or possibly even Post Natal Depression and even with the help of her younger sister (and childhood enemy whom she hated) coming to stay for a bit, life was rough for the teen mum. We lived in a one story house in the middle of a field in a village in Berkshire called Hampstead Noreys, close to where mum worked on a vineyard.
I was constantly ill with pneumonia and chest infections, and that made it difficult for me to breathe properly, so I wasn't able to breastfeed, something that mum took as further evidence that I hated her.
Her dream had been to live in the countryside and to have a beautiful and happy smiling baby girl, with the love of her husband, and a little cat to sit with by the fireside whilst she made patchwork quilts. But the reality was very different indeed, and only got more difficult as I entered the terrible twos!
As a smart and strong willed toddler, I quickly learnt that if I cried or screamed I would not get my own way at all, and instead of getting the love from my mother that I so badly craved, I would get a bright red, stinging-for-hours, jellyfish smack of a hand across my bare bottom. And worse still, you never quite knew when you had pushed mum over the edge of her patience, until it was too late and you heard a loud, ear-cracking, THWACK as her hand met with your bottom.
And so it was that I developed my own little terrible two-year-old tactics to get my own way. I would simply hold my breath. I would hold my breath for so long, that eventually I would pass out unconscious, become blue and floppy, and sometimes start to convulse.
Nothing could have prepared mum for a motherhood like this, even though the doctor told her it was fairly common in toddlers, to simply ignore my breath-holding tactics and that I would grow out of it by the time I was 6 years old - just another 4 years of standing in supermarkets as your child passes out in front of you and people stare at you like you are a terrible mother!!
But even though I was a sickly child with a snotty nose and repeated chest infections, I did enjoy time outdoors with dad on the rare occasion that he was home from his long hours at work, trying to make ends meet for his new family.
I would follow him everywhere he went, he was my world, and we shared a passion for nature, plants, and insects. My explorer nature had already kicked in long before I learnt to walk and I was into everything around me, especially if it meant being outside in the fresh air.
The only problem was that dad was also a heavy smoker, and time together would end up in my chest conditions getting worse, especially living in a damp, dusty, and mouldy house, filled with the smell of stale and rotting nappies that never quite dried.