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 childminder sometime between 1978-1979. 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.
I really don't have very many early childhood memories of mum or dad at all, but I am guessing that this is because they were working all day and that during the time I did spend with them in the evenings, I was probably tucked up asleep in my bedroom. But I do have lots of happy memories of days in the sunshine with my childminder, whom I probably spent most of my waking life with, even though I don't remember her name. I imagine that I went to her most days between 1977-1979 when we lived in either Hampstead Noreys or in Newbury in Berkshire, but I don't recall where exactly she lived or even what she looked like.
I do know that she was a very, kind lady, with older children of her own, and most importantly to me as a budding explorer, an actual back garden. The best thing abot having a back garden as that there was a red brick wall in one corner, inside which was what seemed to me to be a giant swimming pool with a large, blue, plastic cover on a roll over it that we were forbidden to stand on in case we slipped underneath and drowned.
I wasn't permitted to enter the bricked area on my own, but on rare occasions when the teenagers were home, they would show me the pool and we would play and eat ice lollies together.
Sometimes on hot sunny days, I would sit next to the bricks because if you focused your eyes really carefully, you could eventually start to see little red dots moving about on the brick, little insects called spider mites or clover mites, - teeny, tiny spider creatures.
I loved my time with the childminder, and she would always have special treats for me. She gave me my first book of my own, a Ladybird hardbacked book story about cats, which arrived with the postman one day probably something she got with a free coupon in a magazine or the Radio Times.
It arrived with the postman one day, my own name on the envelope, that I was allowed to open all by myself. It was magical and I remember smelling the pages of the newly printed book, and feeling the shiny covered corners of the book with my teeth, (though you really should not chew books because it leaves marks on them and they go really soggy).
I didn't have toys and things of my own that I know of, and this was one of the first possessions that was just mine, but which lived on a special shelf ready for me whenever I came to see my childminder. The book was called 'Five Little Kittens' and I must have made her read it to me at least a hundred times a day, whilst I looked at the colourful, illustrated, pictures of the fluffy kittens and their mum in their human clothes doing things like spring cleaning and baking and learning how to be good kittens and stay out of danger.
It was also the first time that I learnt the alphabet and to read simple words, and I loved reading from that moment on, reading at every opportunity, on street signs, in art galleries and museum visits, and eventually books.
Roald Dahl was my imaginary best friend for most of my school life, and I would always be found curled up in a corner somewhere with one of his books My favourite time of all was when it was thundering outside and m childminder and I would sit indoors all cosy, snuggled up together by the window, reading our kitten book, and listening to the sound of the rain on the window. Even today, the sound of rain and thunder storms takes me to my happiest place, and I love nothing more than sitting by the fire on a dark and rainy day, reading some lovely book about adventures and exciting places. Stories where the characters went on adventures or to new places were always my favourite.
Not only did my childminder nurture my love for books, but she helped me to become the independent, tom-boy I was, and because she had a girl and a boy of her own, maybe even three or four children, I got to play rough and tough, and to experience what it might be like to have a brother or sister, especially an older one who looks after you.
I was still an only child at home, and I didn't really see other children so all the conversations around me were dull grown up ones, usually about work, accounting, and house work. But I had a very good imagination and created lots of invisible friends, mostly mice friends, who got me into all sorts of trouble by telling me to do things I wasn't allowed to do!
It was a lot of fun and we had some great adventures together, and blaming things on the mice seemed to work - at least for a while! The idea for the imaginary mice probably came from a popular television programme for children at that time, which was called Bagpuss, all about a pink cat that could talk, and his friends were the mice. Bagpuss seemed to me to be very wise.
Depending on the weather, my childminder would take me out on day trips, or we would stay and have imaginary adventures at home in the warm and dry, in tents made from chairs, with sheets attached with pegs, and cushions inside.
Sometimes we would visit incredible museums with squeaky wooden floorboards and lots of flights of stairs, and tall bookshelves, and on one particularly exciting day, we saw the first Advanced Passenger Trains in Britain, capable of travelling at speeds of 155 miles per hour. It was the three or four year old's equivalent to being the first person on the moon and I was ridiculously excited about how fast the train rushed past us, almost taking your breath away with it and making your heart rush fast with adrenal and the feel of the rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat as the train whizzed along the metal tracks and made the ground shake beneath your feet. So fast that if you blinked you would miss it completely.
I learnt a lot of very important things from my childminder, like how to look for cars when crossing a road, how to be safe at home, but by far the most important lesson that any child can learn in life, is how to swim.