” CHILDHOODS GIFTS’‘
How can a clown always be so happy?
The painted face beams out, our worries, none,
He gives us a gift that lasts, never gone,
Older now, I remember that chappie,
His tears not real, his pants wide and flappy,
From the high wire to net he flew as a swan,
To make us laugh louder, a joke, he’s one,
So long ago, still I wore a nappy.
My wrinkles still crease, thinking of his flaws,
The balloon would pop spraying out water,
Fun given to us his only main cause,
To crowd he was led, his pain, his slaughter,
He bowed once, twice and took all our applause,
Was he really happy? I ask. Daughter…?
Copyright Caren Taylor Published 2001 A Celebration of Verse – Anchor Books
Going off the size of those nappies (being a child of the 1960’s) its a wonder we ever got around crawling, let alone learn to walk in one! The photograph was taken in the front picket fenced garden at my Grandma and Grandad’s house in Gorton, Manchester, where I spent all my school holidays as you can see from being a baby until age eight. I have wonderful memories from the long summers over those early years from the rag and bone cart coming each week up the back cobbled street to fetching coal from the outdoor shed (where there lurked lots of long legged spiders -YUK – I think that is where I got my fear of spiders from). My Grandparents always had all the time in the world for me, probably because I was their only grandchild, they would play card games and dominoes each night with me, usually we played for matchsticks (Imagine letting children under five play with matches now – you would be shot) but every Friday we would play for pennies – somehow I always seemed to win on a Friday!!! Saturdays My Grandma would take me to the shops with her on the High Street, where I was allowed to play the penny one arm bandits with my winnings. My Grandma always held the money for me whilst I pulled the long arm of the machine and when the pennies were almost out she would suggest spending the rest at the corner sweet shop on the way home. Before the sweet shop we would stop at the betting shop and place my Grandad’s betting slip for the horses, that was his weekly treat my Grandma would say, then next door to my shop. I always remember the little lady in the sweet shop would give me an empty egg tray to fill in exchange for my small pile of pennies.
After lunch on a Saturday was very much set in stone at my Grandparents, My Grandad would sit transfixed watching the horse racing (in black and white – so it was hard to tell one horse from another in my eyes) holding his newspaper close at hand with all his horses circled he seemed to stop breathing as the race started, You could always tell when he hadn’t won – his glasses would fly off and there would be a crumpled piece of paper thrown onto the open fire. Sitting opposite would be my Grandma clicking away with her knitting, usually with a cigarette smouldering in her ashtray whilst she sucked on an almond and I would be happily sorting my egg tray full of flying saucers, swizzles, spangles, refreshers and dolly mixtures. I would sort out each little egg holder with a day’s worth of sweets so they would last almost until the next sweet shop visit.
Life was so simple and happy back then, summers seemed to last forever, in a really nice way. By the age of five, my Grandma had me sweeping the fires out each morning, setting the new coal in place (after I had collected it from the spider shed) and knotting rolls of newspaper ready for lighting before My Grandad came downstairs, I can still remember the first time she allowed me to light the paper knots with a match, it seemed such a big moment! Peeling potatoes in the back room in front of the fire into a big bowl of water, ”…always making sure to scrape the ‘eyes’ out of them” she would tell me. Then there was the patience hour after hour my Grandma would spend showing me how to knit, she seemed to be constantly picking my ‘dropped stitches’ up, but eventually I did learn!
I often wish I could be transported back to those days and have my Grandparents all over again. But, as is Life, time moves forward, I am just so happy to have the memories which will never leave me, Those are my childhood Gifts!