Broken down on Memory Lane

Bearing in mind that last Tuesday’s update wasn’t so much a post as a cry for help, I’m planning a series of slightly more upbeat offerings. Bear with me, though: I’m also simultaneously trying to pack all of my possessions into cardboard boxes ready for the Big Move this weekend.

The one upshot to sifting through boxes of crap in my parents’ loft (and, trust me, there can only be one) is the rediscovery of a number of artefacts from my childhood and adolescence. These are variously disappointing (D), poignant (P), and hilarious (H).

Old photos are, obviously, mostly H. There’s some P in there too, though, as it’s clear that I wasn’t a happy child for quite a lot of the time. There’s also quite a lot of D. The camera never lies, etc., etc., and these photos prove that the last time I was at my target dress size, I was ELEVEN YEARS OLD.

I’ll definitely be taking my old school books and reports to my new pad, and not just because my parents have told me they’ll burn anything I leave behind. These windows into my childhood are a little bit P, sometimes quite D, but again mostly H and a little bit interesting, too. At the risk of pissing you off by demanding you read my reports like an army of doting parents, I copy below a few choice quotes on the grounds that they display the essential immutability of character traits formed during childhood:

Year one: ‘Christina’s reading is very fluent. However we must beware of supplying her with content which is too complex in its content.’ (I think this was the year I brought up Our Bodies, Ourselves during rest period.)

Year two: ‘During the problems Christina experienced with hearing loss I was happy to repeat directions for her benefit, but as I understand the hearing difficulties no longer exist the only conclusion I can reach is that she doesn’t listen.’ (Ouch.)

Year three: ‘I have recently had to discourage her from interrupting other, less confident speakers… due to her sheer enthusiam and wish to contribute.’ (At least I wasn’t just being a total bitch…)

Year four: ‘Christina occasionally displays a rather imperious manner towards her peers…’ (oops) ‘… but has tried to alter her behaviour and has become rather more popular as a result’ (phew).

Year five: ‘She is still very nervous about certain situations and often feels confused when her routine is altered or new instructions are given. With maturity, I am sure she will find life easier’ (ah, Ms Sharifi, if only I could share your optimism).

Year six: ‘Christina’s dedication to the percussion section of the orchestra is to be applauded and she demonstrates once again her excellent rhythmic skills. She is an interesting personality.’ (…)

Nothing, however, is as damning, nor as utterly adorable, as my own self-assessment, aged six. The original will be hung in the toilet of my new flat.

Interesting to note that the bits about writing and playtime (both activities that I still rate highly) are the only ones with no spelling or grammatical errors.

All the old children’s books are coming with me: just looking at their covers (the Narnias, the Roald Dahls… all the racist, child-hating Enid Blytons) makes me come over all P. There’s room for another initial here, too – T.  For terrifying. In the unlikely event that I conceive something worth rearing, I want to be able to inflict deep psychological wounds on him or her the way my parents did to me with Struwwelpeter, Heckedy Peg (“She’s Lost Her Leg! Let Her In!”), the Hobyahs and The Cat In The Hat. (I scare easily).

I’d be interested to learn what bits and bobs remind you lot of your childhoods. For me, it’s the books every time. Though details of the actual plots sometimes escape me, the general sensation of reading or having them read to me (delight! wonder! horror! boredom!) still feels very close. Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea consistently crops up as a favourite among Dalrymple HQ’s control group. Did you read this – and can you add anything? I’d be interested to know, for example, if anyone else had a book involving a blue banana, as I can’t be sure whether it’s real or I dreamt it.

Happy rereading…

About Christina Kenny

Christina Kenny is a music journalist based in London.
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8 Responses to Broken down on Memory Lane

  1. Madcatlady says:

    “Dogger” was my favourite. Unfortunate title, though.

  2. Christina says:

    Dogger (let’s be clear: the book) traumatised me. That and The Velveteen Rabbit. I was convinced that my mum was going to throw away or burn my stuffed dog, Hotdog.

    There was also a rail safety book by Roald Dahl (illustrated by Quentin Blake) that got me really worried about losing Hotdog on railway tracks. For ages I would tie him to my wrist with string whenever we left the house. Funny thing is, Hotdog wouldn’t even have accompanied me on these expeditions before I read that sodding book.

    You’ll be pleased to learn that Hotdog is still with me, faithful hound that he is. Looks like my vigilance paid off!

  3. Tom Smith says:

    That report is outstanding. But more importantly – Heckedy Peg scared the life out of me! I’ve never even met anybody else who owned it! Did you have the version with the glossy warm-coloured illustrations of pies etc?

    I also had the rail safety book. Mostly memorable for the bit where the little boy wees in the conductor’s hat.

  4. Tom Smith says:

    Also can you let us know which of your friends you don’t like? The suspense is killing me.

  5. Christina says:

    Hell yes. I’ve edited the post to include pics of Heckedy Peg. Written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood: the husband-and-wife team who love nothing more than to manufacture FEAR.

    As for the friends I like… well, I’ve consulted my six-year-old self and we’ve decided that anyone who still talks to me is basically ok.

  6. Anita Davies says:

    First off all, I love Google’s filtering mechanisms. The fact that the first advert after your post is ‘bed wetting?’ indicates that they picked up on the content concerning small children and terror. I am worried.
    I had a much chewed book called ‘Red is best!’, which was not a call to arms for young communists, but concerned a little girl who refused to wear anything that was not red (hmm, maybe there was some subliminal messaging going on). For me, childhood is best recalled whenever I hear songs by Raffi – a Canadian group who recorded zillions of songs for kids. My sister and I can still be encouraged to give a rousing rendition of ‘I’m a blue toothbrush, you’re a pink toothbrush’ at the drop of a hat…

  7. Christina says:

    We had this tape called ‘Hello Children Everywhere’. It had the toothbrush song and other greats like ‘I’m a Gnu’ and ‘There’s a Moose [Mouse] Loose Aboot This Hoose!’ It also had a very long and boring song in French that my mum said was about misbehaving peasantry. Not sure if this was a euphemism.

  8. LJ says:

    Just guffawed loudly at:

    ‘Project: I don’t like that because I don’t like doing work.’

    ‘Friends: Well not everyone, I like most of them’.

    ‘Reading: I like it because I can ‘fiend’ strories.’ No teacher correction.

    I’m not allowed to think about books from my childhood because they either make me cry with nostaligic happiness or just cry (The Rats of Nimh, Duncton Wood, and lots of other far-too-old-for-me stories about anthopormorphised animals that die horribly including *the one about the rabbits*. And, ffs, Steinbeck’s ‘The Red Pony’ which is also incredibly depressing and was given to me by my Year 1 teacher at Primary school. )

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