Taken from first scribblings, and the putative second ‘chapter’ called “Ancient History”…
Of my mother’s five siblings, I knew her sisters – my aunts – best of all. My recollections of Ernie are sketchy and probably limited to imperfect recollections of the Isle of Wight (place again!). Cyril I never met thanks to the intervention of Hitler and the Luftwaffe. Perhaps the greatest legend of all in our family.
My maternal grandmother was, as you will discover a large and influential presence in my early life. My maternal grandfather – something of a terror by all accounts – the man who, until I was about five (when he died), used to put me on his knee whenever we visited and bestow ’10-bob notes’ on me which were subsequently kept for me in a jar in their kitchen cupboard. In 1962, ten shillings – 50p today – was actually a significant sum. And when it reached the heights of £50… Well. Does it say anything that I can’t recall what I did with it?
But already I’m rushing ahead.
At some point in their shared past (my grandfather and mother), he used to have a horse – called Tiny – who was used to pull a vegetable cart around the streets of Portsmouth (a horse and cart prophetically providing the first link – and means of class differentiation – between my mother and my father). Intentionally or otherwise, Tiny had been named with layers or irony as he was, according to my mother, a brute of an animal who was regarded as dangerous and could be trusted with no-one. My mother was forbidden to go anywhere near him – until the day she ignored that edict when she heard him in distress in his stall. He had become entangled in his tack somehow, or otherwise discomforted, and on hearing his presumably considerable noise and my grandfather not being around, my mother went into his stall with the intention of rescuing him. It was both brave and stupid, especially given the horse’s nature. But he responded as a gently as a lamb and my mother escaped an unscathed heroine – at least until my grandfather returned home and found out.
Legend – though, I have to suppose, with its roots firmly set in actuality.