Saturday, July 30, 2016

Poetry at the Museum of Childhood

“Poetry in Motion” was out at Strathpeffer this afternoon. We spent an hour or so in the Museum of Childhood at the old railway station. The first task was to write a word or phrase about the first ten objects that interested us, something that stirred a childhood memory or a feeling attached to the object.

I had two problems here. I can say with hand on heart that I remember very little about my childhood. Currently I am reading the first book of Maya Angelou’s biography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. She writes with so much detail and depth.  It’s unlikely that I will ever write my own biography.  Certainly not the early years. Not only can I not remember much, but I think it was not particularly that remarkable. I have a feeling that the things I think I remember were stories told to me over and over again that I have made my memories, if you know what I mean. I don’t know where the dividing line between story and reality lies.

Second problem – the museum wasn’t about my childhood.  The people I was with poked and prodded the dolls and the marbles and studied the pictures of cutting peat and collecting clams on a muddy beach. They remembered leather satchels and Peter Rabbit books. It was an interesting hour – but not evocative of my childhood. I had dolls. I might have had marbles too. I never cut peat or collected clams. I remember the occasional afternoon spent gleaning rosehips from hedges.  I don’t remember ever tasting the rose-hip syrup they became.

I made my list of ten. It wasn’t a satisfying list or one full of surprises.

The next task was to choose one or two of the objects and write about them – the colour, the shape, the function and anything else that comes to mind.  I took myself off to sit in the sunshine at a picnic table.

The Pram

Hers was not small and neat.  It never folded away to take up as little space as possible on the bus.

She never used the bus anyway. There was something of the claustrophobic about her. She imagined the bus crashing.  She knew she would be unable to climb out of a tiny window should the bus come to rest upside down. She was a woman of generous proportions.

Her pram was big and black, fashioned out of iron and springs. It was a station wagon rather than a nifty compact vehicle. A nest on wings, if you will, housing the next generation of Wilkinsons, silent and wide eyed, rarely mewling.  Three girls and a boy.

She fretted about the next arrival, due in March. The pram couldn’t take five children.  She scrutinised the current occupants and wondered which one to evict.

She kept close to the edge of the road. There were no pavements. A hedgerow of nettles and brambles, punctuated with dog-rose bushes and pale pink flowers, brushed against the side of the pram.

She thought about her children and worried that just as some had inherited her blue eyes and mouse brown hair, they might also inherit her fear of busses.

The pram, big and black, iron and springs, the nest on wheels, was her excuse not to face her fear.

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