Pope, Edward Christopher 1948-1951

There were points in my life as early as age 10 and probably even earlier when I deliberately scanned my earliest memories, so now I'm 66 I can't tell the memories from the memories of them. The filing of memories from my first three years seems to be by place, recalling incidents that took place in my first home at 9 Acton Lane, near Chiswick Park tube station in West London, England. When I was nearly three we moved next door to 11 Acton Lane and we let number 9 to tenants, and I hardly ever went back in there. Both houses are now demolished. Another source that is now lost was my baby book. My mother kept one for me and one for my older brother (my only sibling), and I read that book some time in my childhood. The information I remember from it was that I was born at 10.50pm on Sunday May 30th 1948 and that I was 24 inches long. "A very long baby!" was my mother's comment. From what my mother later told me I was born in her bedroom, the first floor front room of 9 Acton Lane. At some point in my twenties I was dwelling on my earliest memories and a picture came to me of a gloomy bedroom with curtains drawn. I know some people calling themselves scientists consider the recovery of memories from around the time of birth impossible. I think those scientisis arrogant, but in this case it seems very likely my imagination created the picture to accord with the facts I believed at the time of recall. However, then as now I believe in keeping an open mind about such things. My mother also told me her labour was quite difficult but that I was a very good baby as regards crying.
My clearest memories of 9 Acton Lane are of the garden, the basement which opened onto it (but not to the front as the street was some four metres higher than the garden), the stairs up to the ground floor, the ground floor front room and kitchen behind it, a corner table in the corridor, and a toilet on the landing where the stairs to the first floor turned. On the first floor there must have been a room above the kitchen as well as my parent's bedroom at the front, but I can't remember it, nor what the stairs to the second floor were like, but what I think is now my earliest memory was in a room above the first floor, perhaps an attic, where I was sleeping. What I remember is kneeling at my bedside saying my prayers before getting into bed. I have a vague sense that my mother's mother or some other older lady may have been suggesting prayers to me. I know I was supposed to begin with "God bless mummy and daddy" and "God bless me" came later in the prayer. But my strongest memory of it was of wondering who on earth God was, yet having no trouble at all imagining angels.
There was a charlady called Mrs Kerry who came to help with the housework most mornings. To get me out of her way mid-morning, she would put me on my own in the ground floor front room and tell me she'd bring me my cocoa and biscuit for elevenses. This could be a longish wait but I enjoyed it. The room seemed rather empty (as front rooms often did before televisions) and I liked the peace of having the room to myself and being able to gaze through the net curtains onto the melancholy street of hurrying pedestrians. And of course it was good knowing the cocoa would come.
My earliest dateable memory was of a Matchbox toy bus which was an Easter present from a relative, which gladdened my heart. It was waiting for me on the corner table in the corridor, presumably at Easter 1951, our last Easter in that house. There were also pretty coloured little sugar eggs in chocolate nests for Easter, and I remember thinking then that we'd had them the Easter before. In the toilet on the landing there was a small window through which I couldn't see much but I heard sounds and voices from the house next door and this link from the private room of our house to the neighbours' world struck me as a special and exciting intimacy. My brother and I also met the children next door across the garden fence but they seemed strangely different and distant to me.
My brother tumbled down the stairs to the basement and when I heard about this it seemed a terrifying thing to me. But not long after that I was sitting at the top of those stairs and I rolled down them half on purpose. It hurt much less than I expected and I was pleased to have got that accident over with. Another time I was with my father in the garden and I pointed at a bee, My father said don't point at bees or they may sting you. Then he went indoors, I pointed at the bee, and it stung me. I rushed to tell my parents I'd been stung by the bee, but I found I couldn't get in the back door. I cried and banged for a long time before my father came and let me in. I was most upset that he took it all rather casually and couldn't see the enormity of his crime in locking his own son out in the garden. The most memorable thing in the garden was a carved wooden Burmese screen, six foot high and several inches thick, which my father had brought back from his war service as a lieutenant in Burma.
One more incident I remember from the kitchen of that house, but I sometimes wonder if it possibly happened some years later, as some of my father's drinking friends may have lodged in that house and we could have all gone round to their place one time. Anyway I guess looking back on it the grown-ups had had a bit to drink, and my mother and father and some of their friends were sitting round in the kitchen and I was allowed in. The conversation semed to be full of jokes I couldn't understand. My father began to recite a rhyme which my mother thought I shouldn't hear, but she allowed it as long as he didn't use a certain word. "There was a young person of Gosham, who took out his eyeballs to wash 'em, his mother said Jack if you don't put 'em back, I'll step on the ------- and squash 'em". I suppose the missing word was bleeders, but I found the whole rhyme quite horrifying.
Sometime in the early summer of 1951 number 11 was for sale and we bought it and moved next door. My father was not poor, he owned a furniture storage warehouse just down the street but also had to pay annuities to his two sisters. We lived quite frugally and in a district where most of our neighbours were working-class. Clearly my father had access to capital, but houses were much cheaper in those post-war years, relative to the cost of living, than they are now. I helped, or thought I was helping, to carry stuff next door. When I went into the new house for the first time, one of the first things I saw was my mother, her hair wrapped in a turban, on her hands and knees scrubbing the linoleum. I was amazed to see my mother in such working garb and posture.