I started a project – 50 days of drawing leading up to my 50th birthday, one for each year of my life. I did a writing version of this when I was 40 and I thought it’d be good to see if my perspective has changed much in ten years.
This is the first 10 years:
In 1976 Nadia Comaneci and Olga Korbut were my heroes. I made a Romanian gymnastic team outfit for my Sindy doll.
9. Piano lessons
When I was eight I started piano lessons with a lovely lady named Dorothy E Shepherd. She was always immaculately dressed and neat and smelled of flowery soap. She had a small Yorkshire terrier called Samson who she carried in a wicker basket. I went to her house once a week and lied about how much I had practiced even though it must have been obvious that I hadn’t practised at all. I had piano lessons until I was 13 and I really owe her a lot, because I still remember much of what she taught me, even though our musical tastes were quite different (she liked Bach and Beethoven and I liked Abba)
8. Playing out
The street where we lived was next to fields (now it’s all housing estates). My brother and his friends ran for miles all around the fields and I tagged along. In 1974 the farmer let one field go fallow and we spent the summer making camps and mazes and tunnels in the tall weeds and grass, and pretended that we were in Tarzan.
7. My little sister
When I was six I got a little sister. She was (still is) ace, she had yellow fluffy hair. She liked lying in her pram under the tree, looking up at the leaves. I made pom-poms to hang from the tree for her to watch.
In my first year of school I had recorder lessons which involved squeaking ‘G’,’A’,’B’ and then dipping the recorder in bad tasting disinfectant. This is me with Jackie, my smarter and cleverer best school friend.
5. My first stage appearance
The ballet teacher put on a show at the local hall. The youngest class did ‘3 Blind Mice’. (The ‘dance’ involved pretending to be a mouse and scampering on the spot). Mum made my costume (even though she hated sewing). After the show Nanna Ken gave me a basket of flowers. This was my first time on stage.
4. Family holiday
Our family holiday 1970. We went to Cornwall with Nanna and grandad Ken. The daily trip to the beach involved carrying deckchairs, wind breaks, calor gas stove, towels, picnics, flasks and a ‘changing tent’ that nanna made from an old curtain that tied around your neck so you could change on the beach without anyone seeing your bum.
This was drawn on International Women’s Day, and so, in celebration, I drew the women who (apart from my mum) were most important to me in my third year; my nannas.
I absolutely loved both of my nannas. Nanna Win was my mum’s mum. She was from Yorkshire but moved to Hertfordshire in the war when she joined the land army. She wore short skirts and high heels, smoked JPS, liked pubs and going on holiday to Scotland, and made really good cakes. Nanna Ken was my dad’s mum. She was from Bow and moved to Luton in the 1930s. Her real name was Edith but for some reason we called her by my grandad’s name. She wore nylon house coats, was brilliant to cuddle, knitted us jumpers with long arms and short bodies that my mum called ‘gorilla jumpers’ and gave us jars of sugary stewed apple which would spill in the car ride home. She looked after me and my brother while my mum was at work and she took our family on holiday to Cornwall every summer until I was 7.
2. Our dog
We moved from Luton to Ampthill. The dog kept running away so dad & grandad spent a weekend putting up a tall fence to keep the dog in. As soon as they finished the dog jumped over the fence and ran off. Mum & dad couldn’t control the dog so dad took the dog to the vets and had him put down. When we were older and asked if we could have a dog or cat my dad would say “remember what happened to the last dog we got you”.
I asked my mum what I was like as a baby and she says that I cried non-stop until I could sit up.