- About the Author
- On Active Service
What’s your earliest memory? Mine is of sitting in my pram, next to my younger brother, my older sister perched high on her seat opposite us. There wasn’t enough room for my brother and I to sit side by side, so one of us had to sit forward, one further back.
“Come on Bethany, sit back.” My mother instructed me as she clipped my harness to the side of the pram
“But I can’t see!” I grumbled. “Why can’t Robin sit at the back?”
“Because he’ll pull your hair if he does.”
I remember the perceived injustice as if it was yesterday. The jolty feeling of the pram as my mother manoeuvred it out of the back gate and into the road.
How old would I have been? My brother could sit up so he would have been nine months or so. That makes me about two, maybe two and a half? People say I can’t possibly remember it. I must have been told about it, they say. But it’s a very clear memory. I have an even earlier one, a fleeting one, more a sensation than an actual memory: a green sweeping lawn, a dark shady tree. Impossible to relate this to the tidy-lawned and flowerbedded garden of my parents’ house in Taunton. No, this can only be “The Cedars”, the house in the country my parents rented before they moved into town when I was eighteen months old.
My next memory is more vivid: my sister’s friend throwing my teddy bear down the stairs and telling me he was dead. My mother, a nurse by profession, made a great show of “treating” him and he miraculously came back to life. The “murderer” was my sister’s new best friend from the infant school she had just started at. So I would have been about three and a half. More the usual age for a first memory.
Other memories are definitely based on stories that have fallen into family folklore. I have often been told how I stood on the station platform declaring loudly “Me don’t like puffa trains because puffa trains goes bam bam and me don’t like fings what goes bam bam does me?” I can see myself doing it, hear my words even, but I don’t actually remember it. The memory has been forced upon me.
What has prompted this burst of nostalgia? When we cleared out our cupboards in preparation for moving house we found photographs I hadn’t seen for years: my father holding me as a baby, my sister and I at Guide camp, my brother and I in the garden with a long-since-dead aunt.
I was the middle one of three children, my sister eighteen months older than me, my brother eighteen months younger, my fate the usual one for a middle child of being either lumped with my brother as “the little ones” or paired with my sister as “the older two”.
And so the photographs are stowed away again (much to my brother’s relief as many of them found their way onto Facebook!). Safely packed in a box they will remain in the top of a cupboard in our new house. I doubt if we’ll ever look at them again. They are the province of the next generation.
Bethany Askew is the author of seven novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years and The Two Saras.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Two more women’s fiction books have been accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021 respectively and she is currently working on a new novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.