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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 31-Jul-14 10:42:33

Well, of course, I would remember that!

Mark Haysom, author, journalist and former MD of the Mirror Group, wonders why some seemingly inconsequential memories hold such power, while other memories...well, you just would remember them. The latter, for Mark, was a childhood memory of a particular caravan, that struck a chord strong enough to spark a book years later.

Mark Haysom

Well, of course, I would remember that!

Posted on: Thu 31-Jul-14 10:42:33


Lead photo

A caravan that sparked a memory, that sparked a book.

I am walking home beside my sister and she is pushing her twisted bicycle, crying, limping. There is blood weeping from her red-raw, gravelled knee. I too am crying - even though it didn't happen to me. She is six years old and I am five.

It is, I think, my earliest memory.

But why is that, I wonder? Why has this remained with me when all else has been lost? After all, there was nothing so very unusual here. There would have been countless other childhood scrapes, other falls; certainly there were plenty of other tears.

I remember remarkably little of those growing-up years - perhaps because mine was something of a fractured childhood of eight house moves and seven schools - but this and the few other scraps of later memory that have somehow survived are sharp, vivid, precious. And they have retained - or perhaps they have acquired? - the most extraordinary power.

So it is then that fifty five years on, not only am I able to see it like yesterday, I can feel it too. I can remember how I felt as I walked, small and creamy-haired, along that Margate street: fearful, shaken, helpless. My sister had always looked after me. She wasn't meant to limp and cry.

Other fragments: an Easter egg shaped like a rocket glimpsed in a shop window from the top front seat of a double-decker bus; the fizz of a sparkler as my father emerged from the darkness, cursing a Catherine wheel that refused to light; the comfy lumpy feel of the worn leather seats of my mother's Austin Seven; the crash of a crate dropped from a milk float, the white spill across the road.

There are, I think, three kinds of childhood memories. First there are these jewel-like fragments. Then there are the false memories - those that you have pieced together from family stories. And finally there are those things that, of course, you would remember.

I know that what is true of me is true of others. We all carry these tiny splinters of memory; sights, sounds, smells. And they are mysterious, miraculous, intact. Potent.

And because there is no story to go with them, because they are too small to share, we hold them close, keep them to ourselves, treasure them. They matter to no-one else but us.

There are, I think, three kinds of childhood memories. First there are these jewel-like fragments. Then there are the false memories - those that you have pieced together from family stories. And finally there are those things that, of course, you would remember.

My foot slipping as I climbed the plank in the builder’s yard; the nail going through; the dash to hospital. Of course, I would remember that.

So too this.

One summer’s day in 1961, when I was seven years old, my family left our home. Suddenly. We simply drove away. My older sister and I were in the back seat of the car, my younger sister - little more than a toddler - was with my mother in the front. My father was dark and silent behind the wheel.

I don’t know how long we drove but I remember sleeping and then waking to find ourselves parked on a country lane next to a field that bordered a wood. In the middle of the field, squatting low in long grass, was a small grey-white caravan.

That caravan was where we lived for a month or more.

Towards the end of that time, I returned with my father to the house we had left so abruptly. It had been stripped bare of all our possessions. What had not been taken had been left smashed on the bare floorboards. To this day, I can still feel the crunch of a broken plastic toy beneath my feet.

Yes, of course, I would remember that.

Mark's book Love, Love Me Do is published by Piatkus and is available from Amazon.

By Mark Haysom

Twitter: @markhaysomUK

nonnanna Fri 08-Aug-14 09:30:00

This got me thinking...what earliest memories do I have? Oddly they are, like Mark's, the traumatic ones. The ones that involve an accident or something that upset the rhythm of my young life. I can only recall happy ones from the age of eight or so. Where have my earliest happy memories disappeared to? Is this the same for everyone?

henetha Fri 08-Aug-14 10:10:13

Fascinating subject. Loved the blog. I suppose we only remember things from our very early childhood if they were somehow traumatic, or dramatic. I was a small child in the war, living in Plymouth, and my early memories are all of bombs, explosions, noise, colour. I dreamt about them for many years afterwards.

MiniMouse Fri 08-Aug-14 10:19:25

My earliest memories are of nursery school, which was held in a lady's home. Doing bunny-hops round her garden. Lining up for elevenses - a handful of raisins or sultanas and a drink. Playing hide-and-seek and hiding under the piano.

FlicketyB Fri 08-Aug-14 13:41:27

I am surprised that she considers a' fractured childhood of eight house moves and seven schools' as a reason for not having many childhood memories. I always explain my very clear memories of childhood to the 21 house moves and 10 schools that shaped my younger years. They help because I can always remember which in house and which school a certain event happened so can accurately work out the year and my age for every event.

I have a very clear memories of being just 5 and under because I spent them in the same house and have a host of memories the background to which is the house and garden, being terrified if I heard a plane and having an irresistible urge to run indoors and hide under the dining table. Memories my mother told me of how our household responded when we heard the V2s coming over towards the end of the war. I was born in 1943 and we lived in South London. My mother and grandmother stopped doing this when the V2s stopped. I was too young to remember the V2s but the fear stayed with me.

janeainsworth Fri 08-Aug-14 14:23:12

I have very early (happy) memories too.
I clearly remember my sister being born at home when I was just turned 2 and going downstairs in the morning and she was in a cot by the fire. Also going to 'the Welfare' to get her (and my dolly) weighed and receive the NHS orange juice and powdered milk.

WBundecided Fri 08-Aug-14 14:31:33

Jane my earliest memory is similar, my newly born brother when I was just turned 3, asking to look in the District Nurse's bag to see if there were any more babies in there ( that was where i thought he came from), and taking my baby doll with me to the clinic when Mum took my brother, my doll, Jennifer, had a weight card just like my brother did.

Mishap Fri 08-Aug-14 16:59:37

A drop of dew in a nasturtium on a summer's morning - I remember it as if it was yesterday - I must have been about 3. I can remember standing gazing at it for a very long time.

It is brilliant to have this as a first memory rather than something traumatic.

Mamie Fri 08-Aug-14 17:49:04

I remember being on a miniature train with my sister on holiday in Folkestone when I was 18 months old. I remember the yellow sprigged flowers on my cot cover from the sane time. I remember being sick in the middle of Queen Mary's funeral (on the telly) and my mother being furious with me because she missed a bit. hmm
Then lots of the Coronation when I was three, the local procession, the tea party and the huge number of people crammed in our front room to watch it on our nine inch Pye television.

Galen Wed 27-Aug-14 11:52:40

Being scared to go into the house as I thought there was a bull inside.
It was a radio on and the noise was coming through an airbrick. It was when my father was stationed at the hospital at Lido de Venezia. I was about 2.