This post was inspired by the incomparable Kerrdelune in her wonderful and inspiring blog Beyond the Fields We Know
who unexpectedly found some photos of herself as a baby. It is usually her own photographs that are so immaculate and beautiful, but to see the innocent kernel of a person, before the forces of the world have made their mark, made me ponder.
When my Eldest Daughter began work for a firm called Mother, she asked me to find photographs of myself when young, and scan them and email them to her. Their business cards showed pictures of, yes you guessed it, not themselves but their mothers! And the card said on the reverse "Proud Mother of Eldest Daughter" (or whatever their name was). This was the one she chose :-
I used to go to classes at the local ballet club from the age of four, I think. I had just won my first cup in a competition as "Tom, Tom, the piper's son" and there I am with the pig my father had made for the dance. I can remember the feel of the stiff pink canvas, and where the metal armature poked through the stuffing of its legs. The costume was sunshine yellow and dark blue satin, made by my mother. I was so pleased to have won a cup, it meant much more than medals for first place. (I still have my haul of medals to this day) We used to go all over London to competitions, with a different ballet solo learned each year. And also group dances. It was a great discipline - we had to learn new dances quickly and efficiently, and perform them exactly as taught. But then I think ballet, although full of convention, is a good teacher. My body learned to do what I asked of it, and I had an early grounding in French (the common language of Ballet steps etc). I can copy movements easily, even now, and find learning. say, t'ai chi much easier than most of my friends because of it.
I loved this costume, it was a lovely grey silk with a moire pattern, and the sleeves were pointed over my hands. The little layers of net in different greys and blacks represented plumage, I was Little Trotty Wagtail, and am photographed waving enthusiastically to Jenny Wren. My style was lively and suited to bird characters apparently. Don't you love the little white feather patches over my ears? I can feel the Kirby Grips digging into my scalp right now! I was asked to dance a solo at the Annual Display (a great honour) and so had my photo taken at the dress rehearsal. My mother was mortified that my knickers showed! But at least they were white, and I had a less floppy pair on the day!
But this is my favourite photo from my childhood.It was taken on a country holiday in a place called Risely in Bedfordshire. It was on a farming estate, surrounded by cornfields and we stayed in the lovely old manor house. It had a lawn with elegant cedar trees, a tennis court and a summerhouse that turned to catch the sun. Some of my first memories I think - a toy penguin that stood on a polished piano, and being given a doll's pushchair with a handle that you squeezed to make it say "Mama". Very sophisticated for those post-war days!
My mother had me quite late in life, eight years after my brother was born. I was a much wanted child, and I treasure this photo. You can feel the love. She looks so young, happy and carefree. And I know that my Dad took it, enjoying the moment too. My big brother was probably off somewhere helping with the harvest. Maybe I found my love of the countryside there, for I was a London child. It took twenty eight years, marriage and a yearlong trip to India before I came to roost in the countryside eventually.