The first thing I ever remember...
I am around two, I think. And sitting happily and proudly with my twin sister at one end of the big silver cross twin pram, my mother had for years. (When it was done with my brother took the wheels off and devised a fiendish game where we sat inside, he put the hoods up and rolled us over. I swear my hatred of fairground rides started there.) Our little brother - aged about eight months? - is strapped in at the other end. I think we are going to buy buttons at the haberdashery store near Southgate Station.
The pram is a cumbersome beast, and my mother is struggling to lift it off the kerb. Suddenly, the pram seems to fly through the air and get stuck in an upright position. My sister and I are flung on top of each other screaming loudly. My brother, though held in by the straps, is flailing towards us. I can feel my mother's panic as she tries but fails to free the pram. Hours seem to pass, and my sister and I are convinced of imminent doom.
Then... a kindly presence, a face I no longer remember, but a man appears, to help my mother release the pram from the kerb, and gently we are lowered to the ground, disaster averted. Having established everyone is fine, the man goes on his way, and we go to buy buttons. As if nothing had happened.
It is summer, and Wimbledon is on. A rare occurence when my mother will incorporate something she enjoys with her daily routine. My sister and I are toddling in and out of the lounge, half interested in the strange people whacking balls at each other on our tiny black and white TV, but more in the ants that are crawling through the air bricks in the patio. I am fascinated by what's behind the air bricks? Is there a secret cellar? (sadly there isn't, but even at three, I feel the need to make up stories about the things around me.)
I know from the pictures taken that day, that my mother sits down with us and reads to us and our brother, but I don't recall that. It's just the heat of the day, the summer dress with dots, which I love, the thwack of the ball. And the ants, popping in and out of the air brick, heading to where, to what?
I remember when a day turned black as night.
I know it was lunch time as we were waiting for our older siblings to come home from school. And yet, my mother had the light on, and outside it was dark, so very dark, I was terrified. Was it a storm? I didn't like thunder, but there was no lightning, just this inexplicable darkness.
Spookier still was a sudden gust of wind causing a massive clang as a lid blew off the dustbin, and my mother rushing to pick it up.
I think I may have hidden under the table as we always used to do in thunderstorms. I don't remember light returning, and yet, I suppose it did...
*22 September 1968 saw a total eclipse across the UK. I was about 3, I think it was the beginning of the school year, so I'm pretty sure I remember it!