Bedroom privileges

Saturday 7th July 2012

COKE went on the fire; kindle involved paper; kettle had nothing to do with police cordons.

It’s easy to romanticise the 1950s: the unlocked back doors; football and cricket in the street; neighbours popping round to borrow a drop of milk; sixpence pocket money for sweets; that sweltering afternoon when Dad would get out the paddling pool.

The first eleven years of my life were spent in Batley, a mill town in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Yes, we had a coal bunker, mangle and wireless; the rag-and-bone man’s horse liked sugar lumps; hooters wailed the end of factory shifts; radiators belonged on cars, not walls.

Which may explain why, twice a year, the furniture in my bedroom was moved.

Being the only boy meant privileges. While my three sisters were compelled, at differing ages and in differing combinations, to share sleeping quarters, I was always in a single room, which granted me privacy, my own lights-out deadline, and a personal play-space carpet.

Railway tracks, model villages and besieged forts may eventually have to surrender to the dread omnipotence of Vacuum Cleaner, that evil ruler of the Universe, but probably not until next Tuesday and certainly not before supper.

Maybe the bedroom re-arranging only started as a precautionary measure after a health scare – simultaneous pneumonia and measles, aged seven – but I loved having the bed under the window for the summer; the cool breezes from an open window; marvelling at the moon.

Mum continued to ‘change the room round’ when we moved to Hull in the ’60s.

The wallpaper was grey, with small, white, polka dots. One night, unable to sleep, I decided that those myriad spots resembled a Patrick Moore sky.

Drawing as neatly as I could with a pencil, I circled a dot close to my pillow as the Earth, later identifying others as the nearby planets and then transcribing a vast arc, where wallpaper met corner, to represent a fraction of sun.

They didn’t approve, but I got away with it. Being the only boy meant privileges.







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