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 our new house in Newbury, Berkshire around 1978. 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.
We didn't live in the house in the field at Hampstead Noreys forever. The living conditions were bad for everyone, and mum and dad both got new jobs with a little bit more money.
Mum got a job in a science lab testing vaccines for farm and domestic animals, and dad got a job with a company called Capability Brown selling conservatories. And so it was that we moved to a stone built, terraced house in the town of Newbury, in Berkshire, which was a much nicer house, but without the beautiful countryside that I had grown to love, and a lot more dirty than life in the fresh air of the countryside.
This meant there was less freedom for playing outside, and less space for running around, but it was a better life altogether.
I have tiny, fractured memories of this time, as I was probably about 3 years old. I remember the previous owners of the house giving me a toy to play with on the day we moved into the house. It was some kind of doll, with a string you pulled and a circle filled with holes in the doll's back for the sound to come out. I suspect it wasn't so much given to me as a willing gift, but more as a bribe to keep me out of mischief or that I had 'found' and adopted! I wasn't much into dolls, but the mechanism for producing the wheeee sound fascinated me.
One thing I do remember is that my nan came to visit, and we played hide and seek together and it was the best game ever. I didn't want it to end and I wanted nan to stay with us in the new house forever. I must have looked everywhere for her, for what seemed like hours, but she was nowhere to be found, and in my three or four year old logic, I decided that the only possible place she could be after searching everywhere else, was the trash can in the yard. I felt like a genius, thinking outside the box and using my initiative to solve the problem of the lost nan. It was a glorious feeling, and I knew that nan would be ever so surprised at just how I smart I was in detecting her fabulous hiding place.
I lifted off the lid on a very stinky bin, and promptly got stung... by a WASP. My sense of genius and creative flipped from immense euphoria to one of utter stupidity. The sting was so sharp and sudden that it gave me a terrible fright and I began to cry, something I rarely did because I generally just got in trouble for making so much noise and being such a wimp.
My nan came rushing out of the house to see what on earth had happened to me and I relayed the whole story to her of how I thought she was lost forever. I don't know which was worse, the painful sting from the wasp (first time I had been stung by anything), or the thought that she was lost forever and not in the last place I could think of to look for her.
In fact she had been indoors all along, helping mum and dad to move furniture into our new home, and no one seemed to take this concern for nan's whereabouts as seriously as I considered it should be. But the moment and the feelings of pain and loss remained in my memory forever, as clear as if they happened this morning. Which is very strange because I don't remember anything else of that house, other than playing on the stairs with the toy that the old owners gave me, on the day that we moved in.