Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Early Memories - Evocations More Than a Moving Picutre History

With my own children reaching school age and forming their own memories and impressions of us as parents and the world around them, I wanted to start this blogg with my earliest memories of being a wee nipper on the shores of the firth of Clyde.

Time seemed an endless and often tedious quantity for a four year old, a little out on a wing where we lived and no electronic entertainment bar Playschool at 10.30 am. Now time rushes on and already my eldest is answering back and conjuring up her own little deceptions in order to get her own way and play about. The wee man is still in a charmed age of 5 and young for that, so he is still a bit of a teddy bear and amusing in how he sees the world with open eyes with his hilarious descriptions of the inane objects or happenings I completely over look, while also his misconceptions and his own way of allowing himself wee half fantasy explanations of why cars work, or who his dead grandfather was.

So that very grand father which he never saw, my wife never had the chance of meeting him, he was dead 30 years ago in 2010, that man was an image for me to remember. He was a character, but on the modest and shy side a bit, a bit awkward socially without a dram in him I remember, but people who got in through this regarded him very highly and found him very amusing. He was an amusing man, with a chirlish sense of humour, liking more the slapstick than the sarcastic. He loved watching Tom and Jerry with me, turning to laugh with me like a wee pal would.

My father loved me but he was of the old, old school of the 1940s and 50s would be educated gentleman. A naval architect in the clyde yards, he retreated from offers of a company house no less in Clydebank to continue living where his family had moved to on the Firth of Clyde before the second world war. His roots were set, and after his war time experiences, he maybe had a need for certainty and the joys of being alone or in passing company on the "watter" of the Firth of Clyde.

My earliest memory of him is perhaps him picking me up out of my drop side prison barred cot at age 3 maybe. I remember the cot, and I seemed to remember being in nappies, propelling myself on the "back gravel" path by foot under- arse method before I could walk. Then there was a trip to Port Banatyne my mum denied for years- I remembered a beach picnic and a strange modern building like a little cathedral, which was the boat yard west of the town. I saw a photo of us there and actually happened upon the very spot while on a Scout 6 mile hike (along the roadside on Bute! Can you think of that today!!)

Dad was there and my brother and we all played together and my mum held hoose. In fact I remember more the feelings and the places more than I do any particular continuity in my own history to age 5 or 6. The odd event seemed to burn itself into my memory. I remember my dad loved me and smelt of cigars and sweat, of brill cream and old-spice and a good old wooly jumper with masses of lanolin left in it.  He would tie me up in my life jacket and take me out in his by then rubber dinghy out to our wee bit of luxury- a 28 ft yacht on its own mooring. This was just normal to me, why shouldn't every boys father have a good job in the shipyard and do up his own wooden boat in his spare time?

I did feel decidely middle class and that was at a time when there was a growing middle class in Glesgie and the 'burbs. There was a lot of middle class pride in the 1970s instead of all that guilt crap which came in with the 1980s due to the unemployment in the schemes, where admittedly middle class planners have shoved people in order to demolish or recondition the slum tennements.  I can understand a little of the inverted snobbery I always have encountered in Scotland, and the jealousy of educated folks, and the suspicion of the middle classes intentions with the country and the health of the people, but Eff That!

The middle class built Glasgow. It would have been a shambles if the economic and infrastructural development had been run by the working bloody class. They worked, the middle class thought up good ideas and put them into practice to make Scotland a once great land and Glasgow the second city of empire. Glasgow was however nearly destroyed by the upper middle class and owners who under invested in various industries, and then eventually a lower middle class English Woman helped facilitate the demise of steel, and the rise of shopping complexes.

Ok, so you meet fantastic working class folk all the time in Glesga, but you will never meet such a conceited bunch either. Class shaped me and although I too got into the 1980s middle class guilt or Jack McLean paternalism ( I was together with john Mcleans grand daughter for a while) I am a resolute believer that the middle class in Scotland are its saving grace and have facilitated the movement away from heavy industry while keeping Scotland out of the class-climbing, dog-eat-dog,  crooked little England view of life where pretence of having higher class than you came from is a national obsession ( a mate of mine who lived in Gareloch-Heid for a while a case in point, now with his two black labs, quaint cottage and cricket green pretentions in Tamworth)

Well that was a class digression..... I have the foremans job at last........it did shape my early memories because I was a little isolated in our little villa out on the coast, with no kids my age at school within safe walking distance. Also being in that very cosey middle class bubble of the early to mid 1970s before hyper inflation and industry shutting shop. (The middle class changed with the times, the working class didnae, they weren't interested by in large and would rather go round on the dole for years with a chip on their shoulder than learn the new skills needed for the oil industry, and of course, end up being middle class)

The cosey bubble then, how to describe it. Pleasant. Parent oriented, they decided everything, who you got to play with (not by snobbery, but by logistics), when you got to play and so on. We were maybe the first really spoiled generation in terms of  how important we were to parents, many of my later school mates were very materialistically spoiled for those days, and as we grew older we were a little too far off the leash.

I had a quiet rebel in me: I even co-planned an escape from playschool with Kevin R. in 1971 or 72. I think at some point in my pre memory 3 years old or the like, my mum beat the living daylights out of me relatively speaking when I was wild and very naughty once, because I have always had a sense of bowing to her authority grudgingly and I have always been pretty inhibited as a person (sharing anonymous writing is a catharsis for me!)

After that time I was a confirmed casual follower of the brave and not a leader of the foolish, whom I could have perhaps lead. Never very ingenious or cunning me. I was an individual, a little inhibited, a little disorganised, a little hyper-perceptive and intelligent but not a "group" or team person as a young child and into my teens.

This is one thing I am trying to engender into my rather gullible and naive son of 5. He is a definite follower of the brave, he hangs onto their jacket tails and runs around trying to get their attention and generally irritating them. He is unlike me though, he is a natural inspired leader type if only he realised what taking the initiative and letting others follow you means. I have regrettably never learnt that lesson! I am hyper perceptive and can spot a subterfuge, game play or political maneuverer a country mile away, but I am not a leader, not even a player. In my forties now, just like when I was 6 years old, I get run rings round me by events at work and my suspicions are never acted upon. I was born with a healthy paranoia which could have made me a good "spook" in the cloak and dagger MI5 dept.

I even felt at age 4 that I was a passenger hopping on other people's rather erratic little trains of thought and play. This feeling came to me at Playgroup. I remember turning up at playgroup, in the local village hall in a prewar building which would have made a great set for Dad's Army.  There were plywood adventure boxes and I remember running around on the mini assualt course and being super impressed with myself popping up out of the boxes with a circular exit on the top. I noticed no one else was very impressed with me, everyone was doing other things. So I tried to join in, but a bit like my son, age four, I just kind of tagged along half getting the play. A photographer came one day in a wee tar-felted caravan studio and I was given a comb for my shock of copper blonde hair I had then. I went with my best wee mate, who was a bit sceptical about me all his life, Eric D. He was quarter french and became an insufferable academic.  We did a lot of hiding in the fire curtains or were they black out curtains- great heavy, musty green things which hid the profusion of doors along the entrance to the hall along one wall from the annex. We eventually had some school classes there in the other annex, a seemingly volumous room with a great bay window where I remember my life long dentist, Mr Lamont, showing us how to brush teeth on a scull when we were maybe in primary 2.

My family were worried about the imminent demise of the Clyde Shipyards in 1971 / 72 and on the side they bought over a small petrol station and confectioners up the top of a near by town built as so many clyde towns are, along the beach and up the hill. This involved after playgroup and school playing as my parents seemed very good at convincing the local kids there I was a good wee guy to play with. One chap was "wee coxie" who was frae a big hoose, with its own tree house up a rope ladder he used to escape me the middle class oik. I hated him for that and refused to play with him. Then there was Hayden who was a wee english kid with blonde hair and all and he was cool and had cool toys and a cool wee house along the railway line which had noisy locomotives on it. So I played often with him in the afternoon and at weekends I guess. I only vaguely remember it all, but one of those very strong vague memories, a vivid evocation of the time. I also played with the very nice Mrs McIver's daughter pam who was backwards, and a down syndrome girl called Jackie who I fell in love with because she was to me then, a pretty long haird, lanky girl who loved playing cowboys and Indians and although she couldn't speak properly at all, she had fantastic body language for getting me to play with her and she loved me too. Maybe my first romance. I wonder where she is and how she is doing, her parents are no doubt in their seventies now.

The other more vivid memory I have is of the trips that were necessitated of such small confectioners (as you would partly recognise today in any petrol station) up to the cash-and-carries around greater glasgow. We at that time bought a land rover mrk II; i was convinced for years that this was the biggest vehicle ownable, and certainly a LWB, but it was just a short wheel base in classic cream and dark green farmer's favourite. We stopped in the west end of Glasgow for tea and cakes on a side road, which I remember as being on the edge of a park, and was most likely at the river kelvin near Kelvinside Academy of all posh-alities! The cash and carry was on the less glamerous part of Glesga, I reckon it was on the east end or maybe maryhill. We also went into one of those new fangled gargaes with a toll barrier at Charing cross, which I found by accident again when I eventually had wheels in the 1990s. The cash and carry was a very old building, probably had been a workshop with the goods out yard turned into a car park for said carry part of the deal. Inside it was full of unusual smells to me and had a high ceiling with ironwork and a tin roof, and dusty light. As compensation for such trips I usually got a toy, I can't remember nagging for toys before I was a little older. On this occaision it was a vibrant blue and red wind up tug boat with a red key, in a new fangled plastic, probably made in Hong Kong, a taste of things to come. Delighted ! Surprised. I then promptly dropped the key down a drain but my brother got it out on the then very sticky chewing gum and string trick. I was probably balling my eyes out; i remember it going in.

More on cars, earlier or later: we had a morris traveller presumably before and after the landy' and I remembered it when shown photos, classic off khaki green with pale varnished woodwork. A very respectable car indeed, if a little prone to overheating. I did also remember the kiddie seat with its belts and annoying fastneres, although that like many is now a "Memory of a memory remembered" and now almost pre's'que vu. It overheated anyway, at Ballochmyle and I ran up to a garage which was opened and immediately started playing with things, finding an old walking stick and drawing some sand in a shallow tin box. That was the first telling off with some explanation that his was private, out of bounds I ever remember. I guess I was wild the very moment I knew my parents eyes were of me.

Also there was the little rear engined renault 3 or what ever it was, which we went all the way to Anderby Creek in one summer, near Skegness. I remember arriving at least, not much of the journey though, and my dad connecting the car battery at the back of the car, with leads to a portable BW- TV in the caravan we rented or borrowed. We went there at least three or four times, it was a favourite of his brother, Uncle Gordon and his clan of one young mother and her two second cousins to me, both a good few years older than me.

One other half memory of something experienced in this preschool rant, was the grounds for me to have a small scar under my chin where my otherwise shaggy beard refuses to grow. It was a little cut I got age 3 or 4 when my brother had me on his shoulders age 15 or 16, in the sitting room, where the "Big Light" was a glass upturned 1940s affair which I caught on my chinny-chin-chin. Like many memories it has become an out of body half false memory as I see myself held up aloft, a tiny me as I am now. In fact though I do have a bit of the memory of hitting it, and bleeding and mum being upset.

In the mists of time, all this economic necessities or running a job and a shop, and my fathers yacht obsession, lead me I believe to one day aged four I remember well. I was home alone, no play school, and my mum disapeared off to the shops.  I had a new toy, a car transporter for matchbox cars, and I held it like a little set of beads or a branch of a tree, not really interested in it, and more interested in my mum coming back or in having some friends for company. I kneeled on one of the big easy chairs we had in the wee bay window of our Doran prefab house, and for the first time I felt depressed. It seemed to go an age before her car (by age four we were a two car family, a red renault 5 replacing the silver 3)

TO be honest then I reckon the rest of my memories are from age 5 upwards. I will no doubt come upon more, like my granny M who lived opposite the Episcopalian church and my granny C who maybe lived in the village centre. There are some others things I don't remember which I believe are the source of me being so inhibited and prone to aggression. However looking back through the sands of this early time in 1971, 72 and into 73 when I eventually started school that August, I do have a cosey feeling of positivity outweighing any paranoia. I got to sleep in my mums bed and burried myself deep in to her back and lovely warmth. The thirteen years between me and my brother included at least one miscarraige I know of, so I was always her "pet lamb".

If I could have my time again, then I would have wanted to live in the village centre or in a a town, and be better socialised into what society is, but to be frank there are so many people like me in being bloody minded individuals from our generation in middle class and aspirant middle class Scotchlandshire, that I continue to meet the type when in my native land.

Do my early memories even matter, they are 42 years ago now? There is no more puzzle in them than there is in me now. I am a mix of good and bad and only a patient individualist like my other half could live with me, and we have barely tolerated each other often in long periods,  over the last 10 years if truth be told. That the child is the father of the man is true, but what the child is born with and what they are born into are far more important probably than any average upbringing without major mishap in the ages 0-4.