Room at the Top

After I was born my mother took me home from hospital to a small rented attic room at the top of a Victorian house in Rochester.

We walked past the house today and I pointed it out to Alice and Soren. “That’s where I lived as a baby,” I told them, pointing at the top far-left window.

It’s a tall, dark and Dickensian-looking house that hasn’t changed at all. My mother was on her own when I was born and she told me that she spent a very cold winter with me in her room. She became unwell and her parents had to take her and me to live with them (apparently they’d been against my mother having me because she was only 15 when she became pregnant). She said she had a meagre time in the house. No money, no friends and nothing to do apart from looking after a baby alone meant what was supposed to be a special moment in her life (and mine) was actually a terrible experience. In many respects it set the tenor of the rest of her life. She died miserably of cancer at the age of 54.

Of course I can’t remember living in the attic room. My first memories of home are of a council flat on the outskirts of Rochester. They are golden memories of my bedroom walls painted with Disney characters, playing with other children on the grass outside in the sunshine and a kindly old woman called Aunty Nell who lived in the flat above who fed me stale biscuits sprinkled with sugar.