What is your most vivid memory of the kitchen in your childhood?
Laundry – before we had a washing machine laundry was a big weekly chore, and took a lot of time and effort – I even wrote about it in a creative writing class once…
I am standing at the sink, hand-washing something delicate and daydreaming. Swirling the warm water around with my hands, the pure soap flakes melt into opaque slimy softness, thick and rich and cloying. It smells of my childhood, fresh and comforting and clean.
Mum is standing at the big kitchen sink, washing sheets. I know it’s sheets because from where I’m playing on the floor I can just see them poking their heads out as mum pulls them in and out, in and out, scrubbing them hard on the sparkly glass washboard. Mum looks a bit like she is cross, but I know she always looks like that when it’s sheets. The world smells of hot wet things, soap suds, and mum. It is a nice smell, and I breathe in deep, just smelling and smelling.
The back door is open and the smell of fresh air and sunshine and wind dances across the floor, joining in the fun. Mum starts to wind the clean sheets through the mangle, but they fight and slip and slop and grumble and groan as they go through its thin tight mouth. I watch them as they sulk all flat and folded into the little sink on the other side. When they are all done mum puts them in the plastic basin and we take them outside to hang them up on the washing line. They stretch out and puff themselves up and snap and slap and whip about, playing chase with the wind until they are dry, all fresh-airy and crisp. I stay and play chase too, in and out and round and round, until mum tells me to watch what I’m doing, she doesn’t want to have to wash them again…
I must be no more than three years old, as in my mind’s eye my brother is not yet born, and it was his birth not long after that prompted the arrival of the twin-tub washing machine to lighten the load on wash-days. The mangle may have been retired that year, but the mingling smell of soap flakes and bracing country air has happily stayed with me ever since.
As a child, who was your favourite relative?
Probably my grandparents, all four of them – I think when you’re a child (and you have a happy childhood) you take your parents and all they do for you for granted, but your grandparents feel ‘special’, somehow? I was lucky to have had all four of my grandparents living right up until after my own children were born – and my maternal grandmother lived long enough to see my first grandchild born, so she probably has the biggest place in my memory simply because she was around for more of my life.
What did you or did you not like about the first apartment you ever rented?
Hmmm… I’ve never actually rented an apartment – I grew up in tied houses (as in the house was tied to the job) until my parents bought the house they still live in today. When I first got married we lived on several different farms, also in tied cottages, and when that marriage broke up my children and I lived in a rented house while they were growing up. I’ve since remarried, and here in London where affordable space is severely limited we now live in an apartment that we own, not rent. But in general, living much of my early life in homes where continued occupation was conditional on continued employment in a particular job has left me with a strong sense of creating my own space by surrounding myself with those little things of sentimental value, favourite soft furnishings and personal possessions that have moved from place to place with me, wherever I am, regardless of the particular bricks and mortar all around me at any given time.
What kind of TV commercial would you like to make? Describe it.
I tend not to watch (or listen to) TV commercials these days – I’ll mute the sound while the programme break is on and do something else for a couple of minutes. I’m not interested any more in being a passive audience for who-knows-what, and I find the worst adverts to be those Emperor’s-new-clothes, artistic types of ‘clever’ ad that have absolutely no bearing on whatever-it-is they are advertising. However, I still remember (and can sing along with) many of the fun jingles from the TV ads of my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s – I wonder how many of the ads of today will be remembered with a smile in the future? 🙂
For other Share Your World responses to this week’s questions, please see here.