Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tricia McGill--Childhood Memories

What is it about getting older? I can remember my first day at school clearly yet can’t recall what I did two days ago unless I look at my diary to check. As we get older we seem to dwell a lot in the past. I’ve never been one to live with regrets. We can’t do anything to change what has gone before.

My childhood was exceptionally happy, and I always say I am blessed for I have been surrounded by loving people as far back as I can remember. I was the youngest of ten and most of my five brothers and four sisters were adults or coming up to adulthood by the time I reached an age when I took notice of what was going on around me. My sisters taught me the alphabet and how to read before I attended school.

My two eldest sisters treated me like a doll and as they and our mother were all handy with a needle and sewing machine I was donned regularly in pretty dresses and with a white bow in my hair was carted off to have my photograph taken (which was done in a photo studio in those days). 

My book Remnants of Dreams is based on our mother’s life in that it follows the timeline of her life. She was born in 1895 and married our dad in 1914. Our dad went away to the war and our eldest brother was born not long after. Dad didn’t return until four years later, consequentially it was a while until the next child came along. But then there was mostly a one year gap in between. These children were reared during the hard times between wars. So therefore I was the luckiest as by the time I came along things were a lot brighter all round. I grew up on stories of the difficult years told to me by my eldest sister who has just passed her 91st birthday and is still of sound mind and reads more books in a week than I ever could. 
I get angry with young people who complain about their lack of the finer things in life. We never had a telephone until our eldest brother had one installed. We lived in a six storey house in North London. Our mother’s sister, husband and two girls, had two rooms and a kitchen in the middle, our brother, his wife, son and daughter lived in the top two rooms with two attic bedrooms, and we had the bottom two floors. So, when we received a telephone call (we gave out the number to our friends) someone would yell from the top of the house for us and we would then climb five flights of stairs to answer the call in their living room. No one thought this odd in the slightest. Our lives were closely entwined. Our very extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins was spread far and wide, yet we kept in constant touch even before the telephone came along. There was such a thing as writing letters and waiting on the postman to call in those days.

For all our lack of amenities my childhood was full of happiness. It’s so true that what you never have you never miss. But I believe we were luckier by far. From an early age I was allowed to wander far and wide with my friends. We would be away from home for hours, only coming home when our stomachs told us it was time to eat. We played out all day every day, rain, sunshine or snow. We walked to and from school—a thirty minute walk each way. Our world was small. We had no idea what was going on in other countries or even in other parts of England, and ignorance is bliss. We never saw television until I was in my teens; and that was also my eldest brothers’. At times there would be about 15 of us crowded around his lounge room to watch this tiny black and white 9 inch screen.

But there was the radio, and the cinema. And always that close-knit family nearby.

Remnants of Dreams can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA1XZ94
Remnants of Dreams moves from the horrors of the 1914-1918 war to the 1990s, and paints an unforgettable picture of a changing world and of working class people in North London whose only riches are love and the knowledge that they did their best.
Alicia’s indomitable spirit sustains her and her large family through two wars, illness, death and loss. From her mother’s example Sara finds the courage to escape an intolerable situation and forge a new life in a new country.

Tricia McGill’s Books We Love page: http://bookswelove.net/mcgill.php