If I went out at the front of our house, I could see my Dad walking up the lane, coming from work, just where the shop and the tip were: so it was a very regular part of my day to stand beside a wall gazing down the lane to catch the first glimpse, and then run off to meet him. I liked it best when he wore his big gabardine Mac, with pockets that went right thorough, and I would go right inside it, and hold his hands in the pockets, walking home almost without being able to see where I was going. There was always a smell of sweet pipe-tobacco around him. He would buy a small amount each week, which had to be broken up and rubbed into shreds, on a piece of newspaper. I think that was a Saturday special treat. My Dad worked on Saturday mornings always, and in those days had one week off in summer to go on holiday. I always wanted my Dad to come home, I felt much happier then.
I had one or two other treasures before I started school, given by neighbours usually. Mrs. Priestley next door gave me a very small porcelain figure of a little girl in a Dutch bonnet, and that became a sort of friend and confidante and comfort for many years. I still have it. I was told later that it was a cake decoration and it was hollow, about one and a half inches high. The same lady gave me a little pot watering can, with a brilliant orange lustrous glaze and a little desert scene on one side, about five inches high. It wasn’t very useful; I couldn’t think of anything much to play with it, and I always disliked orange I’m afraid, but it was mine and therefore special. Later another neighbour presented me with one of those Japanese tea sets, with very thin china and a beautiful lustre, decorated with ladies in kimonos and trees and blossoms and lakes and bridges: I really thought they were beautiful and was quite upset when my mother shattered the milk-jug. The rest of the set is still intact and still seems lovely to me – I fall for lustre, it’s so pretty and bubble-like. I suppose some things that I once liked I have grown out of, but it is surprising how I feel to have been consistent. Many of the things I specially liked when very young I still take much pleasure in.
Perhaps the boys tricked me at times, I don’t know – but on the whole they were very nice to me. They certainly encouraged the tomboy in me, and I was told that one mustn’t cry ever – if you hurt yourself you should laugh and hide the pain. Since I was three at the time, it surprises me that I simply accepted this and acted on it, and have always so far taken pain in silence- funny if the reason I have done so for 60 years is because my brother told me that was the right thing to do. He could have taught me to curse at pain instead and that would have made my life and me different. Such small bits of guidance can prove to be absorbed so deeply. Another thing I learned very young was that it’s not very clever to lose your temper – I had been playing all afternoon and was probably just about tired of it all, when the last straw reared its ugly head. I was playing with one of my favorite things, a set of thick cardboard squares, with round holes cut out in patterns, into which I placed little clay silvery painted balls to make pretty, geometric designs. Unfortunately, it was frustrating me in some way and I just got so cross with it that I flung the little balls about the room. My Dad came in from work while I was miserably crawling here and there trying to gather up my precious game, and he naturally came to help me, reaching into far corners and moving furniture – if I had lost any pieces I would be unable to complete the designs and was feeling rather desperate. Dad was calming me down all the time and I trusted that it would all be all right because he was on my side, but before we finished he pointed out that such dismay and effort to put things right were likely to result if one really gave in to temper. I thought I’d like to avoid such things in future. I thought my Dad would like me to do so. I knew that was the way he behaved and I very much wanted to be just the same.
Me and my Dad with Maurice at the beach