“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”
― Alan Watts
50 years ago, today, I was on the cusp of a new life, and didn’t even know it. That’s so often true, when you’re a child. You sense the things that are directly affecting you, day to day, but the bigger picture is the province of grown ups. They call the shots, often with the best of intentions, and you have little choice but to fall into line. So, on my 10th birthday, I had no way of knowing that in a few short months I’d be leaving my grandparents’ home for somewhere that would never be my home, despite the best efforts of a new family and those naturally closest to me.
The Laurels, the house I was so sad to leave.
Those short November days offered me the best of both worlds. Enough daylight, between end-of-school and teatime, to get the boots on and kick the ball about, before devouring the contents of my history book in the soft, yellow light of a low wattage bulb in what we called ‘the kitchen’. In fact, it was a cosiest of living-cum-dining rooms.
Each night, for several weeks, I roped my grandfather into a game of football in the unkempt field adjacent to his house. Me, variously playing as Moore, Greaves, Charlton or Paine, weaving around between the long tufts of grass and playing to the sound of a stiff evening breeze as it passed through the loosely strung power cables hemming the lane. My grandfather kept a makeshift goal, standing solid in his hobnail boots and blocking my shots with his huge splayed hands, fresh from the woods. Only when daylight finally drained away and the final whistle of my grandmother’s shrill call reached our ears, did we beat a path for home.
That particular birthday has remained fresh in my mind for so many reasons. My first in double figures, my last in the house I always regarded as my true home. It was the launch date for the next half century, a length of time I wouldn’t have got my head around as a 10 year old, except maybe, with the aid of my history book. I still have it. It’s a thing I cherish, a chronological record of the lives of others and the events that shaped them.
The most poignant reminder of my 10th birthday. An inscription from my mother.