Children of a confirmed atheist, Peter and I only ever associated Easter with chocolate eggs. And there were those sugar eggs, as well, the ones that had a window at one end, displaying a cute picture of some kind inside.
Usually, I think, it was a reason for a family visit that involved a special Sunday lunch, roast lamb, perhaps, or what my mother referred to as “a joint”.
Peter is older and his favourite recreation was playing cricket. He did this alone, in the “passage” that led from the bottom of the stairs, past the bathroom and the pantry to the kitchen. Peter would “bowl” a tennis ball against the far wall and swipe at it with his bat when it bounced back.
It was a long corridor covered with brown linoleum that my mother spent hours polishing, down on her knees, so she was never very pleased about Peter’s activities, but at least she knew where he was.
On his way home from school, he often played in the bomb sites and would come home black from head to foot. That was even less popular as well as potentially dangerous.
At the other end of the passage, was the coal hole which had an opening at street level, through which the “coal man” could make his deliveries. Periodically, Peter would stick his head in there and come out covered in black dust. He seemed quite good at getting dirty!
At the bottom of those stairs and next to the coal hole was a big empty room that would have been a living room. My parents had rented the basement flat as well as the one above because they needed more space, but they had no use for two living rooms. So, that room was completely bare, down to the floorboards and unheated. Peter and I were allowed to play in there as, I guess, what damage could we do in an empty room?
We tried to prove my parents wrong, of course. One day when we were chasing each other, I tripped and fell against the mantelpiece which was one of a number of times I nearly lost an eye.
Mostly, though, I just chalked things on the floorboards and made up stories about imaginary families.
What I most remember about the place was that it was barn-like, with enormously tall ceilings and in consequence it was very cold which made my father even more grumpy than he might otherwise have been. Certainly he was less morose in the tropics.
Every so often I go to Google Maps and look the place up. It’s a square of of pre-WW2 flats that surround a church on three sides. As far as I can tell, nothing much has changed in all these years, 65 in total, since I last walked out that front door.
Once or twice, not many years after, I was back in the area and saw that things were very different. There had been Italian restaurants. Then it was known as Kangaroo Valley and after that I lost track.
How many families have lived in what was my first home? (I was actually born there.) Sometimes I imagine going back and knocking on the door to see who answers. Of course I would never have the nerve.
The place is still there and apparently being maintained.
It looks as if it will out-live me.
But it seems that those coal-holes have been filled in!
It’s just as well my mother never gave us chocolate bunnies for Easter. She had a blancmange dish that was rabbit-shaped and I never even liked eating that!
The above bunny was given to me some 15 or more years ago.
Perhaps if I was a chocolate fancier I might have succumbed. I could never bring myself to dispose of it, so it has moved with me 4 times. It’s only now that I photographed it, that I realized the bunny has wings.
Just like my childhood fairy story bunny, Pookie. How I cried over that story. I’m sure it’s not recommended for small children. Or maybe I have always just been a bit soppy in the head.
Wasn’t it sweet of this bunny to turn up for Easter?