Thursday, October 03, 2002

In childhood, it is permanently summer, even in England. Long golden, sunny days of nature walks, rolling in fields, of melting ice-lollies and "ladybird ladybird fly away home". It never rains in the past, and when it does, you splash home, gleefully jumping in puddles. When I look back on my English childhood, I am playing in impossibly green fields, burrowing tunnels through long, silky grass. I am playing hide-and-seek in the spinney behind our house, smelling the earthy odour of autumnal beech trees. I am picking blackberries: one in the bucket, one in my mouth.

Quite absent from my memories are any unhappy times. My recollections gloss over my parents' continual arguing. I manage to ignore the fact that we lived in virtual poverty, in the depressed seventies, in a literally crumbling farmhouse, in the arse-end of Preston. It really was grim up north. If I think hard, I can just about remember feeling shy and isolated at school. And although I do remember playing with my mum's best friend's kids, I can't remember having many friends.

But all of this was when I was too young to know sorrow and regret. It's not till you get older that you start to become self-aware, that you see the bad as well as the good. Not till you reach, ooh, eight-and-a-half - the age I was when I was uprooted and moved to a foreign country.

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