Earliest political memory of the day #25

epm-25Wow! This is fascinating. I am passionately interested in this area […] And on to the question you posed! Yes, I do believe that I can identify a particularly significant ‘political’ moment for me at the age of 8 in 1971. A bit of background…I had grown up in Brighton with my mother and two grandparents in during the 1960s. My father had died when I was two and my brother newly born. My early memories are of being very happy and secure but I realise now that there was very little money and that it must have been very hard for my mother. When I was eight my mother married ‘Uncle John’ and we moved to a farm in the Cotswolds. Our lives changed dramatically. There was a financial stability hitherto unknown. Uncle John and my Mum got married and my brother and I accompanied them both on their Honeymoon (by aeroplane – imagine…) to Sorento (lucky them!) I realise now that I had led the sort of sheltered life that many lower middle class families led in the 1960s. I can remember walking through Sorento – holding tightly onto my mother’s hand (I can still sense the grip. It all felt very exotic). But what I remember more than anything was the shock and pain of seeing an old lady begging on the pavement so close to us as we walked past that I could smell her old, decaying body. I can still sense the smell of her and the shock and sadness. I was pulled past but I remember tugging at my Mum’s hand and asking her for money. I took it back to the old lady and gave it t her. I can remember very intense feelings. I really don’t believe I was frightened. I think I was appalled at the human degradation. I was upset afterwards I seem to remember. My mother has said that I kept asking, ‘why’ and what she would do with the money and whether we could go back and give her more and if we could go and see if she was alright…

Of course – this was a long time ago and I am now unsure just how much of this I remember ‘in my core’. Clearly, it struck my mother as a significant moment and it is something that we have talked about since. I suspect that she was very good at engaging with me as best she felt she could. It’s interesting that I recall it as something ‘exotic’. Was I ‘protected’ from such sights in Brighton? Were there fewer homeless people in Brighton then? I don’t know. I do know that my new life in the Cotswolds meant that I didn’t see anyone in the same condition for many, many years. But I do believe that it was something that became part of me…although I went to quite a ‘posh’ private school through my adolescence, as soon as I got to university I became involved in a ‘student community action group’ in the early1980s in a way that led me into student politics, combining ideology and practice (and many arguments about it with my lovely Uncle John, who was very much my ‘Dad’ by then…) Sorry, I hadn’t meant to write that much. I do apologise. I’m not quite sure that I have ever written that down before. It is a special memory. Thank-you for giving me permission to remember it and accord it some value.

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