How did I get here, to 9 Trafalgar Terrace? Its all a question of how far back you go. I came here from Clifton Hill, but that’s not where the journey began. To go right back to the beginning, and ruling out previous incarnations, it all started in the Spring of 1944 in a boarding house in Skegness at which bleak outpost of Eastern England my father was stationed. Shortly after that I travelled in my mother’s belly to Alton Towers where the Officer Cadet Training Unit was based. During my time there I spent many uncomfortable hours being jolted around in the ancient vehicles of the Poteries Motor Traction Company Limited. Finally I started my quest for independent existence (which still continues, by the way) in the sumptous surroundings of the Adlington Hall, ancient seat of the Leigh family near Macclesfield, and birthplace of 997 officer’s wives’ children during the Second World War. Apparently I arrived to the sound of practice gunfire, and was promptly whisked away from my mother to be cared for by the hospital staff. It seems that I only got to see her again when it was nearly time to leave on the long train journey to Haltwhistle in Northumberland.
I have always loved train journeys; I feel snug and secure in a railway carriage and the rhythm of the wheels works like a lullaby to my ears. No doubt this all relates back to my first railway journey when at last I had my mother to myself and when she was obliged to give me maximum attention. (My son feels the same about aircraft; at the age of two weeks he flew from London to Vienna, and became something of a celebrity when a vexed MP, who had failed to get a first-class seat, was forced to witness a nappy change at close quarters!) My mother and I settled down to a rather lonely existence in Ivy Cottage, Park Village, about a mile from Featherstone Castle where my maternal grandfather ran a prep school. My father still had another nine months or so of active service to run, so we only saw him when he was on leave. The walk in my pushchair from Ivy Cottage to the castle was mostly along the bank of the River South Tyne, past the Stone Bridge and a tiny settlement called The Bridgend. For years I dreamt about that towering bridge and the sinister brackish water which swirled beneath it. At last my father joined us and taught at the school for a year.
The next step on the long road to Trafalgar Terrace came when my father took up a teaching post as a science master at Shrewsbury School. But more of that next time.