The first memory that comes to mind is one, I think, when I was 11 years old, I’d gone to boarding school because my father was in the RAF and when I was about 11, I went on to a PGL holiday, there was a week away doing canoeing, pony-trekking and sailing. I have a strong image of the canoeing part, we had more days of that, I think 4 days of canoeing it was in Ross on Wye and I remember sailing up the river Wye and seeing the church of Ross on Wye, I remember being in a double canoe with a friend called Stuart Little. It was probably the first time away, well not the first time without the parents as I‘d just joined fucking boarding school but my first time away on anything like that.
I believe the year to be 1989, I am 3 years old, it’s a winter evening. I am inside my house in Clonmel, county Tifferary, Ireland. It is a two storeys house, I remember it being very warm, I am wearing an all in one pink wonsie with quite padded feet, I am sitting on my brothers lap, I think he is 6 years old, in front of me there is a book, he is reading from the book, it’s a book about farming, there’s picture of tractors, cows and sheep. My mother and father are also in the room, my father is at a type writer and my mother is watching me and my brother and that’s my earliest memory.
I am sitting on a stainless steel high chair with a red top, I am in the eating room of our house, I think I am about 2, 2 and a half years old so it’s about 1958 and it’s hot because it’s summer in Australia and my father is beneath me and you know what, I’ve just realised, its not hot, its hot because the heating is on inside because its cold outside, and I know its cold outside because there is a wood burning stove on the right hand side and its during the day so it only burns at night and during the day my father cleans it out so he takes out the tray at the bottom that’s got all the ashes from the wood and he reaches up and puts it on the table top of my high chair and I remember he goes back down to the wood burner and my sister, who’s maybe a year old, crawls pass my high chair and I can remember very clearly, that as she is just beneath me I push the tray which has got all the ash so it falls down and spills onto her back and her face and her hands and that’s when the memory stops really. I should imagine there was some sort of chaos after that but I think I’ve blocked that bit off.
My first memory is quite vivid and it’s of me and my dad, and we were at a swimming pool, and my dad was teaching me how to swim and I can’t remember exactly how old I was but probably 4 or 5. My dad was trying to hold me above the water so that he would show me then how to go in, how to swim but I was really, really scared and didn’t want to go in the water so he was holding me above it with his two hands, and I was really, really scared so I was just shouting: “Put me down! Put me down! Put me down!“ and he got really crossed because I wouldn’t be quiet so he just said “Ok” and he opened his hands and I dropped into the water, and I have a very vivid memory of just plunging into the water and all the chlorine and the water going straight up my nose and getting that stinging feeling at the top of your nose and in your eyes, and I remember looking up and seeing all the bubbles shooting pass me and the light rippling at the top and just being terrified and panicking and flapping my hands. I don’t really remember coming out or what happened afterwards I just remember that instant of being in the pool, submerged and feeling that I was going to drown an d I’ve always found it very difficult to swim with my head under the water since then. It is not a very happy memory but it is a striking one and it is always the one that comes up to my mind when I think back.
I am two years old and am sitting on the shiny wooden floor wearing a soft yellow dress. My legs are stretched out before me as I watch my unaware father sitting near the open window. The white shear curtains desperately try to touch him but he is unaware of them as well. The sunlight has succeeded in wrapping itself around him but all he can see are his big shiny shoes. He is polishing them with such love, such focus. The big shiny boat shoes that will faerie him far, far away…