I went to visit my sister in Bedford last weekend. I know I’d only just got back from Rebellion but I already needed a break and she offered me one. It was a good weekend. My nieces are lovely girls and I get on well with my brother-in-law. My sister suggested I try a different route from the one I usually use (which is to come down the M6, go onto the M1 and then get hopelessly lost somewhere between the M1 and Bedford). I tried it and it worked and I made the journey from Preston to Bedford in 3 hours and 25 minutes.
On the final leg of the journey, I went through Milton Ernest, which got me thinking about a week or so I spent there when I was 11 or thereabouts. My Mum and Dad both worked and I therefore had a childminder, who came to our house to mind me. She was a lovely lady called Eddie and she was old enough to be my grandmother.
She had a daughter who lived in Milton Ernest, well, just outside actually. She had two sons by her first marriage and a much younger one by her second. The two older boys were either side of me in age. The older one, Mark was 12 and the younger, Paul was 10. At least, I think they were. The younger son was about 18 months old.
Eddie suggested that I could go and stay with her daughter during the school holidays and my Mum and Dad agreed, so they drove me down to Milton Ernest and I met Mark, Paul, their Mum, Stepdad and younger brother.
I think the two boys enjoyed my visit. They could show off to me because I was a townie (not a chav but somebody who lived in a town and was not conversant with country ways). They did show off too. They had an air rifle and had me shooting at pigeons. I missed every single one but that’s not really surprising. I think they probably had as little success as me but they had access to a gun.
They had a den. It was a piece of corrugated iron leaning up against a wall and they had put straw over the top, which provided decent camouflage. They had also made a small makeshift garden in front, which stood out a mile but there you are. We went there and sat inside on makeshift furniture and it was a perfectly pleasant place to be.
They also encouraged me to smoke. They told me that by the time I got cancer there would be a cure for it. I haven’t actually developed cancer (touch wood) but there is still no cure and I smoked for 29 years (I started properly at 13, 2 years after this foundation course) until I gave up on 26th September 2004.
They had an old bike. I think it belonged to their Stepdad. They used to freewheel down a hill (nowhere near as steep as I remember) on it. I rode down the hill and wore the brakes out completely. Nowadays I would be far less of a wuss.
Then there was the younger brother. He was a really sweet toddler and I thought the world of him. I loved playing with him and I remember his babygros drying over the radiators in the house. On one occasion we all went shopping in Bedford but I have no idea what was bought.
The visit came to a close all too quickly and my Mum and sister came to collect me. Mum had been shopping too and my sister had a brand new trouser suit on (it was revolting!) and new shoes, which accentuated the length of her feet. My Mum had got me a trouser suit too but in a different colour. I think I must have changed into it before we went home.
Not long after my visit, the baby brother died. Apparently, his death was a cot death. I was genuinely upset about it and would have done anything to have been able to prevent it. I remember bursting into tears at school and my teacher asking me what was wrong. When I told her, she said I should remember that he would now be in heaven. I was young enough and silly enough then to accept that. I wouldn’t nowadays. That’s why I didn’t mention the baby’s name, though. There is a tiny possibility his brothers or possibly even nieces or nephews might read this and I would like to afford him and them a little privacy.
Now for the hell of it here’s a picture of my sister and me in those dreadful trouser suits.