Last Sunday we had all our children over, I know that sounds like we have a lot and at times it feels like a lot; but it isn’t we have only three. Nathan had Biljana with him and of course Emma’s husband Luke is always with her. Dopey’s bloke Nigel works pretty well every Sunday over at one of Sydney’s major hospitals. I can’t recall which one but it is big!
We all gathered as Sarah is off to Malawi in deep darkest Africa on Tuesday and she will be away for a six week study tour, I’m not sure if this is part of her university studies or her work with the New South Wales Health Service. Obviously something to do with AIDS.
The War Office and I were in the kitchen; me working. she talking and I happened to mention something that happened way back when, I don’t recall exactly it was just idle chatter while I was working; but she said ‘do you remember back that far’ -kind of makes me feel old- anyway I told her I could remember a lot further back than that -which doesn’t make me feel old at all- and she looked at me as if I was odd and rejoined the children where she could talk of sensible things like football.
Well of course this got me thinking back to my earliest memory, which must be the one I have concerning my polio. Two things about this event have stayed with me; the first one was my mother taking me out of the pushchair (that’s what we used to call strollers in England back in the 1930’s) and standing me up and I promptly fell over.
She picked me up and stood me up and over I went again, I recall her telling me to stop “buggering about” (that was her favourite expression always, she did have a few more which I doubt I’ll ever mention her father and all his brothers were Royal Navy so you can use your imagination on the rest) and standing me up again and of course I fell and this time she gave me a slap on my leg when she stood me and I laughed and fell.
I suppose I thought it was funny because she slapped me and I hadn’t felt a thing, which normally didn’t happen. I didn’t normally cry either; my mother didn’t permit that luxury. But then again she was a hard woman as Hitler was to find out a few years later!
The other recollection of my polio was in the isolation ward of the Upney Hospital. I see it vividly, the glass wall of the ward and the faces of my parents, my maternal grandmother (I was her favourite, blue eyed blonde and dimpled (come to think of it Adolph Hitler would have liked me too I was all there; literally ;-)).
I can also see the trains pulling into Upney railway station, always going from the right to the left never left to right. Of course I now realize thats because the up trains were on the other side of the platform and I couldn’t see them.
Now the polio must have been before 1938 as I started school that year around September I suppose. It seems that I was a carrier of the polio virus, I have no idea how long my paralysis lasted and I was fortunate that I made a full recovery and suffered from no lasting ill effects.
I had had a previous bad illness, remember this is the 1930 s and the medical knowledge was not as great as now, I had contracted pneumonia from somewhere or other around Christmas 1935, and according to my mothers version (which I was told many years later as I don’t remember this event; don’t forget I’m only 8 months old) Doctor Caplin came around to visit me late one night and suggested that my mother hold and feed me drops of brandy from the end of a tea spoon during the night and he would call again and see how I was in the morning. Doctors used to make house calls in those days.
Apparently when he arrived the next morning my mother was still holding me and giving me a drop of brandy from the end of the teaspoon as instructed, and he was surprised to find me still alive, he thought I was going to die during the night that’s why he suggested that my mother do what she did. I was probably too drunk to die.
Anyway I don’t recall that part of my life at all; however, there is one incident I remember quite clearly. I’m not sure when it took place whether before or after the polio but I might just as well mention it while on the subject.
I was sitting on the floor between the parlour and the living room; it must have been in early spring or late autumn as the sliding doors between the two rooms were open and towards the evening my dad would close the doors and light a nice coal fire in the living room. I can distinctly hear my dad saying to me ‘get up boy I want to close the doors’ he normally called me boy when I was very young; sometimes he called me Bodger God only knows where that came from and my mother sometimes called me Midge, I don’t know it this was because I was small or reminded her of a small insect like a mosquito. Probably the latter.
Sometimes I wonder if he knew my name, he probably did but didn’t like it so didn’t use it; my mother selected it but I wont bore you with the story of how and why at this stage.
Anyway I can see me sitting there legs out and I just shook my head and wouldn’t budge; this happened a few times and instead he just kept telling me to move, I know he was smiling enjoying my disobedience and he called me a ‘stubborn sod’ and that is the strongest word he ever used, and I hear my mother pipping up telling him that I wasn’t being stubborn ‘he’s being determined’ I can still hear them. Thing is he was right and she was wrong I know that now!
As usual I’ve gone on a bit long so I’ll continue with a fresh blog later and might entitle it something exciting like “Early Memories contd.”