In a dark dingy hospital in the North of England, a baby was born. Her grand arrival into the world was made highly inauspicious for several reasons, the main reason being that a Caesarian section was required. This in itself was not particularly unusual, however her father couldn’t be tracked down, and there was no surgeon available.
Eventually a surgeon could be tracked down (dragged off the golf course), though he did complain about being dragged from his game of golf on such a nice summer’s evening (he was winning). Her father being contacted presented a far larger problem. Since this was before the days of cars and telephones the police were used to find him, and when they couldn’t find him the operation had to be performed without his consent.
The birth itself took 72 hours and ever since my mother hasn’t let anyone rush her.
She was born on June 21st 1959, at a time when Marilyn Monroe was still starring in films, when sending a dog into space was thought revolutionary, when dressing to look like a teddy bear was considered fashionable. My mother speaks of these day and the following two decades will deep nostalgia for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. She speaks of it as if it was a golden age, and conveniently forgets events like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the appalling haircuts.
Her earliest memory from childhood was sitting at home with her mother, listening to “Listen with Mother” on the radio (TVs were not yet a life essential). They then went into town, and she was pushed around the town in a red spotted pushchair. Afterwards she went home on the bus. Having been taken into town from a very early age she comments upon being distinctly unimpressed by the large crowds of people and the noise. She was a true city child and began using public transport etc from a young age.
Later that year she moved to Nottingham, however she claims to have no recollection of moving house. Soon after that she started primary school. She remembers this vividly for a slightly sordid reason, the reason being that the girl next to her had an “accident”. Towards the end of the day, when the teacher was telling a story she remembers the girl next to her wetting herself.
Another of her earliest memories is of a more serious nature. It is of President Kennedy’s assassination. She remembers playing out in the streets on her blue scooter, then came in to find her mother pacing up and down with the radio pressed against her ear. When she spoke her mother suddenly became cross and explained that she was trying to listen to it. Five minutes later she explained that the president of the United States had been assassinated.
When asked how her childhood was different to a modern childhood, she says, “childhood then was far less organised than childhood is now”, and that there was “far less activities to do.” For this reason she spent a disproportionately large amount of her childhood sitting at home reading books, and she remembers having a book called “100 great lives”, which was a book about 100 different famous people in the 19th century. She was fascinated especially by the lives of Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie, and remembers reading the sections on them continuously.
They were her role models throughout childhood because they were such “powerful” women at a time when women were “oppressed”. They were her inspiration and eventually influenced her into becoming a doctor.
She also spent large amounts of time playing in the streets as most children did at the time. This was so common because of the lack of traffic. She particularly favoured cycling, and would often leave the house after breakfast and not return until dark. However reading books was what she did most of, in the summer holidays she would read as many as 6 books in 2 days.
Whilst she remembers all her teachers at infant school in Nottingham being very kind and friendly, the same couldn’t be said about a new teacher at her new school. After moving again, this time to London, she began school at Eversley Primary School. The teacher’s name was Mrs. Blake and she did “handwriting” lessons. She was described as “terrifying”, shouted at children if they crossed things out or spilt ink, and wouldn’t even let children if the age of 8 talk in lessons.
To make matters worse, her mother was recently qualified and working as a teacher in the same school, and one day she was invited to the teacher’s house. The flat fascinated her, because the teacher had travelled the world and had exotic stuff from places like India, Thailand and even China. This was particularly remarkable because at the time air travel was extremely rare.
From this experience she concluded that the teacher wasn’t a horrible evil women, just good with children.
Her remaining time at primary school passed without any major events, and when she finished at primary school she moved house yet again. This would be the fourth different house she had lived in, and she would live in two more before she went to university. She moved house so much because of her father’s job in trading standards (head of the weights and measures department), and so they moved every time a bigger department with more prestige was available.
Private secondary school then was a very different place to private secondary school now. Several unmarried elderly women ran merchant Taylor’s girls school. So consequently he was extremely strict. For example if you were caught without your velour hat on, you were given a detention. If you were caught eating in the streets it was a detention. This however had some advantages. My mother has now become extremely honest and law abiding.
At school she was a stereotypical swot, or “high achiever” as she charmingly terms it. She was right at the top of the year in everything, hopeless at sports, and when asked if she was ever in trouble for anything she said “no”. She was only late once in her entire school career when she was 15, and apparently it was worth it.
Though in fairness being a “goody goody” had it’s advantages. At “O-Level” she got 7As and 3Bs (there were no A*s).
At the end of O Level she moved schools for the second last time, to Central Newcastle High School. She found A-Level more challenging, especially as she moved schools and exam boards partway through the course. She moved schools for the final time, this time to Maynard School in Exeter.
The journey from Newcastle to Exeter didn’t pass without event though. The car they had at the time was a Mini, and her father forgot that it had a small tank. As they entered the motorway, he checked the petrol tank and it was half full, however he forgot to take into account the size of the tank. Soon after entering the motorway, the orange warning light came on to show the low petrol tank. Even though he reduced his speed immediately, they ended up running out of petrol and having to park on the hard shoulder. My mum ended up walking an 8 mile round trip to the nearest petrol station to get a full tank.
Changing schools and exam boards present a huge challenge, with the result that she obtained only 2Bs and a C instead of the predicted AAB. However both headmistresses sent letters of recommendation to the University Board, so she could go to Bristol as she wished in the end. It turned out she would’ve’ become head girl and Central Newcastle if she’d stayed there.
Whilst she had wanted to be a doctor for a long time, she made the final decision 3 weeks before sending of her UCAS form. She decided this because her boyfriend was doing medicine and she decided to do it as well because she didn’t think he was very clever, and that she could definitely do it if he could (her boyfriend later dumped her because Bristol rejected him and took her).
She went to Bristol University in 1977, to study medicine. Whilst she enjoyed uni greatly, she does recall being scare by the consultants, “They acted like their job was to scare young students”. Her experience of uni was fairly typical otherwise, running out of money etc.
In the holidays however she would often go to places in Europe with her friends, including Greece, Crete and Italy. She remembers staying in some fairly rough places though, but remembers those days as the most fun of her life.
She passed easily and in June 1982 she was awarded the degree of “Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery”.
However, when she was working in a psychiatric hospital in 1981 however, she was encouraged to be friendly to the new first year students. She took a particular liking to one of them and a friendship developed. Five years later they were married, and she then first year student was now qualified as a doctor. With them both fully qualified, they could afford to go abroad for their honeymoon. In the end they decided to go to Pisa.
The rest is history. Two years later I was born, and my mother gave up work to concentrate on being a mother. She remembers being a mother as the best part of her life. She seems to have already forgot about all the sleepless nights, tantrums etc.
Two years later my sister was born. Apparently having a second child completely changed being a parent for her. She repeatedly says, “When you have one child you’re a mother, when you have two you’re a referee”.
At the time my father was looking for a full time job, and a bigger house was need anyway. We therefore moved to your current house in Frampton Cotterell. After my sister’s birth she remained at home for a further two years, then when I started school she return to her previous job part time.
After my first year of school she became pregnant for the final time, and in October 1992 she had my brother. Whilst she took some time off work she returned soon after.