I was born on 22nd June 1956. Don't remember much about it but probably the usual shouting and pushing. 18 months later, on 10th Jan 1958, I gained a sister (Mary, aka "Mame") and promptly stopped eating. My parents were both working (or they'd had enough of me) and I spent a fair bit of time with my aunt Sybil and uncle Trevor.
My dad had given up his career as a journalist to become an actor, and one of his first major roles was as Dick Turpin in an ITV series of the early 60s. He had small parts in loads of TV programs - Z Cars, The Avengers, The Ratcatchers, Hud (a notoriously violent program about a young thug), etc. - and he also starred in an early soap opera - "Sister Ship" - about a cruise liner called Jezebel. His friends were of a similar ilk, British actors that you'd certainly know the faces of if not the names: Emrys Jones, Barry Linehan, etc etc.
But all that was later on. In 1961 my dad was in Italy filming "Cleopatra" (with Liz & Dick), and in August of that year the rest of us flew out there to be with him until after Xmas. We stayed in the Pensione Suisse - I vaguely remember James Garner (Jim Rockford in later years) coming up to our room (suite?). We visited the film set several times - I vaguely remember that - and apparently we sat on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's laps. The main story that survives is how one or other of us (Mame I think) threw up in the Fontana di Trevi.
What do I remember of Rome? Well, I remember sticking my fingers in an electric socket and getting a shock, I remember the go-karts in the Villa Borghese, the machines in the underground station where for 100 lira the mechanical monkeys played their drums, the people selling olives in paper funnels by the side of the road, and the long trek around various shops to buy me a water bottle to wer on my belt. We didn't find one and in the end I enraged my dad by saying maybe I didn't want one after all.
A lasting legacy of that visit was our enduring love for pasta - this was before pasts was comon in the UK - and our favourite meals were spaghetti bolognese and lasagne. One year we even had spaghetti for Xmas dinner!
In September 1962 I started at Muswell Hill primary school in class 3. I'd previously been to Mrs Summers' nursery school, St Gildas convent, and finally Birklands convent in Crouch End (where my mum had gone years earlier) but I have no real memories of them apart from orange juice and chocolate marshmallows. Mame started at MHS at the same time in class 1.
A week later, on 20th September, we moved to Rookfield Avenue. One of five "private, unadopted" roads on the Rookfield Estate off Muswell Hill, the roads were "un-made up" and the surfaces were large flint rocks. They also had gates at the top and bottom, so traffic was nonexistant - the few people that had cars were reluctant to drive them over such treacherous surfaces.
We'd previously been living in a flat in Granville Road, Stroud Green, and so moving into our own house was a huge change. It seemed massive and with front and back staircases it was quite an adventure. We soon made friends with the local kids: Gemma and Matthew Hilton, Peter (my best friend) and David Burnett, Sara Birtil, Claire and Christie Knipe (they lived in the next road, Cascade Avenue, but moved to Rookfield soon afterwards), Billy and Andrew Travers, and probably others whose names I don't remember. We all played out in the street most of the time, running, riding our bikes, climbing trees and the like.
There was one "special" tree called the Teddy Bear Tree that was our special place. We'd hold meetings halfway up its thick, gnarled trunk and only the special few could climb all the way to the top. I didn't do that for a while.
Gemma, Claire and Peter were in my class and the girls and myself were selected (being among the brightest, apparently), at the age of about 6, to learn French. I don't remember whether I was pleased about that but it began a lifelong love of the French people, language and culture. More about that later.
We also did singing, "Music, Movement and Mime" to the radio, and Drama on a Monday night. Every year the school would put on a nativity play and for several years running I was the narrator. This involved me standing to the side in an angel's costume (previous narrators had always been girls) and basically telling the story. Towards the end, the three kings and shepherds and whoever walked up through the audience to Delius' "La Calinda" - I loved that piece then and still do now.
In summer 1964 we went to Butlins in Clacton (the first of 3or 4 visits to Butlins) and met a family from Southend called the Bottomleys. Mr. Bottomley later arranged for our central heating to be put in, and their two sons had ginger hair and periscopes. That's about all I remember.
Claire and Christie's dad was a senior consultant at Chase Farm hospital and in about 1965 we often went swimming in the outdoor pool there. It was cold, slimy with moss and algae, and bright green. I can vividly remember the sight and taste of it as I swam underwater - yummy!
That year (1965) we had a couple of students staying with us, Jane and Jackie. Jane was pretty and jackie wasn't. Nuff said.
Mike and Tim
Most Christmases we spent with my cousins, Mike, Tim and Elizabeth, and their parents Mary and Maurice. They lived in a big house in "the country" in Tilehurst, near Reading. Mike and Tim were my heroes, they were about 4 or 5 years older than me.
As I mentioned elsewhere, I started learning French when I was about 6. MHS used to take some kids to Littlehampton every year for Christmas, and in summer 1965 they also took a bunch of us to France for a few days - to Wimereux, near Boulogne. I remember I cried a lot the first night I was away but soon got used to it. I particularly remember shouting down the plugholes to friends in other rooms and the foul taste of the mustard that I had with my breakfast the first morning. BTW I like mustard apart from yer bog-standard "English" and "French" varieties.
Nana, May and Marg
Most Sundays we'd go to visit my maternal grandmother "nana" and her two sisters, May and Marg. Seemed to me they were always pissed on bottled Guiness and sherry!
Moving them to 27
In August 1965 Nana, May & Marg moved next door to us in the hose now occupied by Steve Howe and his family (incidentally I've met his wife a few times but never the great man himself).
Err - dunno what I'm saying here other than it's a convenient place to make a note that I've just remembered (while writing this) that I used to go round the house with my headphones on all the time - I had about 40 feet of extension cable so I could go down and make a cup of tea (or mow the lawn) without aking them off.