MY EARLIEST memory is of crying for my mother from a cot in a dark room. She never came. My second is of having crawled under my parents’ bedclothes and becoming trapped. Only this time my cries were heard. The third is of batting a faded green plastic telephone off the side of my pushchair. And I was a frequent visitor to the hostipal, not because I got my finger stuck in a dodgy tap, swallowed a penny, got a plastic bead stuck up my nose or chased the budgie until I fell out the window but becauss the nice doctor in Inverness made me wear pink eye patches that smelled funny. In the twilight of my toddlerhood, I thought that the light attached to the wall was a plant and that in order to understand what you were saying in another language, you first had to speak English.
THE DAY we moved from our dickensian Harrapool cottage to a modern Limepark council house, I must have fallen asleep in transit. The shock of discovering stairs for the first time and not knowing how I had got to the top had me perplexed for hours. With three bedrooms and a proper bathroom, our new home was a palace.
I have very little memory of my maternal granny or my aunt coming all the way from New Zealand to stay within days or weeks of the move. But I do recall the visit to Aiseag Beach on a hot summer’s day, when I dropped a hermit crab down Daddy’s swimming trunks, and our wee holiday in Edinburgh. Daddy stayed at home, while Mummy, my little brother, Grandma, Aunt Judy and I stayed at the guest house on Castle Terrace. We rode the donkeys at Portobello Beach and watched Mary Poppins at the cinema, with lashings of yummy ice cream thrown in. In those days a spoonful of sugar really did help the medicine go down.
Grandma and Judy might even have turned up before we moved, or maybe we were still moving our belongings weeks later, for I could swear it was in the old house that Mummy taught me to say ‘Super-calla-fragll-istic-expi-alli-docious’.
6 October 1972
THE BIG lorry had a tipper on the back. On our return home from Daddy dropping off a load of sand in Inverness and visiting Mummy in hospital, my brother and I sat in the passenger seat. Whether we wore seatbelts, no idea. Probably not.
We stopped at the Cluanie Inn, where I wolfed a bag of salted peanuts and a glass of lemonade. Daddy had his usual pint and whisky, then we were on our way.
The peanuts an’ lemonade, then being hoisted back into the truck, are the last things I remember prior to all my senses being assaulted by the semblance of an almighty drill ploughing through the right side of my skull. Then the distant sight of a red Maxi that stopped to take us to the ferry … my baby brother and I sitting in the back seat clutching hands and staring out the window … the sensation of blood streaming down my neck … whimpering like a lost puppy … the ambliance waiting to take us across the ferry.
I teetered on the edge of consciousness. The lady with the soft platinum hair took my hand.
“No, dear, I’m not your mummy.”
Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2020