Autobiography 4: From the Big Bang to Steady State

The latest scientific speculation suggests that there had to be something before the Big Bang, poetic flat universes like bed sheets occasionally coming together to create a terrific flap and give birth to yet another. If the first of this series of posts on my childhood began with a memory of my own big bang, the lighter striking fire and the curtain conflagration, I’d like to borrow from the pre – Big Bang scientific supposition and make mention of what existed before.
My first memory did not kick start my life, of course.  That was done in India. I was born into an exotic, even traumatic medium of events and emotions which are now, at least temporarily, lost to me. I was a second child, the first, a sister, having mysteriously drowned aged six in India before I was born. From having a dedicated servant and hot earth I was in no time seeing only white skins with a cold ground under my feet. From bilingual at four – Urdu and English – I was made monolingual by the new culture of the unrelieved, accented English of a Geordie pit village by the time I was five. I started wearing spectacles suffering from very short sight.
All this pre-history and early existence conspired to make me feel different, a bit of a loner, at least this is what my adult self now informs me sagely.  I remember having many friends but no blood brothers. My sister came along four years after me and by then my sparateness was somewhat determined. I spent the first hour in bed this morning trying to uncover early memories after the Big Flame.  Here are a few.
A square cube known as a ‘blue bag’ on the kitchen window sill to ease the pain of frequent bee stings. My mother’s horror at a jam jar of pond water and a beetle so big inside it, it seemed to fill it entirely with its black back and red belly. Plodging in the stream on the way to school and through the dark and terrifying tunnel under the road to the other side. When I revisited this landmark as an adult it seemed impossible that a child could have crawled through, never mind stooped his fearful way in his wellies. Birds eggs in boxes padded with cotton wool. Butterflies in jam jars as well as bees. A man my parents called my ‘uncle’ who was a magician and bandaged his thumb and cut it off making it bleed copiously before re-engaging it and restoring it to health upon undoing the bloody linen. He gave me a silver coin of some kind. Our pebbledash, tiny cottage with its two small bedrooms, and in winter the ice on the inside of my bedroom window which refracted illumination from the street lamp outside, casting monsters on to the bedroom walls. My father having his zinc-filled bath before the fire and the prudery of him. Our dog which was a black Scottie and yapped. Our cat, that frequently attacked a neighbour’s Alsatian so that it cowered, ears flat whenever passing our house. A peck on my willy by a hen that came to watch me pee through chicken wire, causing me to scream and my mother to laugh for minutes on end. Reading. Every day a new book from the village library which was in my primary school and was on revolving shelves that served the children by day and the adults after school and on Saturdays. By six I did not differentiate and the librarian indulged my tastes. I can still see Captain Hornblower R. N. by C.S. Forester in its vivid, adventure suggesting dust cover. The Scarlett Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.
These memories are like dots, not joined up yet into proper pictures, isolated stars not yet sufficient to make the Milky Way. But, as Dylan Thomas says in Welsh Incident, I was coming to that.

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