My parents home for almost all their married life was a privately-rented ‘superior’ (so they were advertised in the late 1930s) terraced house in Broad Green, a suburb of Liverpool. It was the third house down from a bend in the road on which stood a wooden telegraph pole. The other direction, along the straight, was known as ‘down the road’ despite it being the direction in which the numbers went upwards. About seven houses down the road there was a yellowish concrete lamp post near the kerb. The telegraph pole and the lamp post formed the limits of my world for a number of years.

(‘My’ lamp post and telegraph pole can be seen in the distance between the larger ones in the foreground. By the time I took this photo – in the 1960s – the lamp post had been moved up towards the corner a bit and replaced by a newer model – perhaps the original one was suffering from what occurred below!)

Every mother in the road was concerned about the dreaded ‘Hunter’s vans’ – vehicles from the local meat processing factory, Hunter’s Handy Hams, which used the road as rat-run and whose speed was considered excessive bearing in mind the narrowness of the road and the number of children playing football in it. As soon as a car or van was seen the first adult to spot it would shout ‘Car’ or ‘Van’ and children were excpected to dive for the pavement at all speed. But for me, a pre-school youngster, there was no ball play in the road. I was permanantly confined to the pavement between the telegraph pole and the lamp post. Trespassing off the kerb, for whatever reason and however little, was punishable by a few days indoors.

Fortunately my principal playthings were Dinky cars and, from 1953, Matchbox cars or my beloved tricycle, neither of which required me to go off the pavement. I would pedal up and down my alloted space for hours on end, content with my own company and my own thoughts, whatever they might have been.

My brother, GB, being five and a third years older than me (and the four months mattered at that age) had long since started school. Either by some inner clock or by a warning from Mum as to the time I always cycled down to the lamp post to meet him as he came up the road from school. I say always because in one’s memory the sun shone every day and it was warm; warm enough to be outdoors all the time.

I am extremely short-sighted and have been all my life but when I was small no one realised it. Regular eye-sight and other health checks now undertaken in all schools were a thing of the future in those days though Council schools did suffer the attentions of Nitty Norah – the nurse who checked all the pupils for head lice. Certainly pre-school medicals of any sort were non-existent. As result I was about eight before anyone appreciated I needed glasses. It is therefore unsurprising that in my pre-school days I managed to ride my tricycle at full tilt into the lamp post on at least one occasion. I don’t remember the pain involved but I can vividly recall the shock of suddenly coming to a body-jolting halt. Perhaps this metaphorical hitting the brick wall is my first real memory. I’m tempted to think that both appropriate and a pre-cursor of things to come.

Advertisements