Early Memory

I have been inspired by a question raised in my friend Voula’s blog about what one’s earliest memories are, and how they might shape the adult one has become.  I don’t have the psychological insight that Voula has, so I can’t analyse them, but I do have a curiosity about my own recollections.

I am particularly intrigued by her question as to their accuracy.  What do I really remember versus what have I re-imagined since, and what do I believe I remember because it has become part of the family oral tradition of tales told and retold.

It’s almost a cliché of a writing exercise to be instructed to write about an early memory, and I have often asserted that one of my earliest is of being placed in front of the television to watch Winston Churchill’s funeral.

At the time watching anything on the television was something of performance, as the screen, embedded in the centre of a wooden box was tiny, black and white and only properly visible if the curtains were closed.  I had a very confused understanding of whose funeral it was; what I recall is my father telling me it was a very important person to whom lots of people like my Granny owed their lives.

Well, I’m sure he must have said something along those lines; but what I recall is developing the distinct impression that my Granny and Winston Churchill had some kind of special relationship.

I’ve embellished that story in various ways since, but today I actually looked up the date of Churchill’s funeral – 30 January 1965 – and I realise that it’s not my earliest memory, because I remember a couple of incidents when the family was at Butlins in Minehead, and family history tells me that holiday was either 1963 or 64 (unless that recollection is also wrong….)

Even as quite a small child I must have fancied myself as rather independent, as I had decided I wanted to have a go on the one armed bandits in the amusement arcade, and I saw no reason why I shouldn’t go there by myself.  I was having a fine old time reaching up, on tiptoes, to pull down the levers on each machine in turn.

It wasn’t without its rewards as a penny had been dislodged from one machine, and I had it clutched in the palm of one hand, when I was arrested by the woman from the chalet next to ours.

She told me I was lost.  No matter how many times I told her I knew where I was and I knew how to get back to my parents she wouldn’t let go of my arm.  She marched me to the crèche and handed me over into custody there.

I paced around the walls of my cell, well some kind of padded enclosure designed for babies, kicking it every now and again, until my mother arrived to spring me from my confinement.

But I don’t really remember if there were any repercussions from having wandered off; the memory that sticks is of my outrage at being wrongly imprisoned, and, to add insult to injury, in a place for babies.

Or maybe I’ve just made the whole thing up.

Leave a comment


  1. I’m glad my blog post was provocative.. and what an interesting memory. Because, as an adult, you know that your granny couldn’t have a special memory with Churchill…. but think of all those other childhood memories that you can’t have that adult certainty about!
    Love the picture!

    • Thanks Voula. I think I have quite a few memories that only make sense with an adult perception…..it’s something I’ve been thinking quite a lot about recently for my new novel……


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