I must first explain two things.
Firstly, I am an only-child. Therefore, I have nobody to talk with about what happened in our little, old terrace-house in Dunstall Road, Wolverhampton, as “we” grew up. All the memories I now have are mine and mine alone. Yes, I am in contact with a few cousins (one died recently), but they lived in other houses, so their memories do not include those things which happened to me, my Mom and my Dad in that house. Have I explained that clearly?
Secondly, I am – some would say – very old now. So I have masses of memories, good, bad and indifferent. “The past is another country – they do things differently there.”
The side of Dunstall Road where we lived was knocked down in the late 1960s so, now, I can’t even go and look at the street which I knew – nor take my Family to see it.
That being said, I shall move on to explaining the thoughts which keep me awake so very often.
Those memories of the past are very strong within me. So I wake pretty early – 4 and 5 a.m. very often (though Rosie & I usually get up at soon after 6:30 as a rule – that stems from the days when we ran a business).
When I wake early, straightway I recall my Mom & Dad. Then my other relatives – uncles, aunts, grandparents – come to mind; and then that part of Dunstall Road as it was when I was growing up. And I remember, in great detail, the people who were our neighbours. I can still “hear” the voices of all those people and many of the things they said.
Recollections of things my Family did are as familiar now as they were when they were really happening.
The Second World War ended in Europe in 1945. Gran’dad Bayliss, who lived next door in that cramped terrace, had built an air-raid shelter in his back garden. He’d covered it over with grass so that it couldn’t be seen from the air. When the sirens sounded, we all went down there.
I still see the scenes of laughing faces – Mom, Dad, Gran’ma, Gran’dad and a few close neighbours – illuminated by flickering candles. That memory is etched strongly on my mind. I was born in 1939, so I’d be an infant when the air-raid shelter incidents happened.
Other images from my infant days come to mind. Toys I played with – usually, I know now, second-hand in those austere days. I still have one of them perched in our bedroom: he’s called “Woofy”, a toy dog given to me by my Dad’s mother. I remember seeing her in hospital during her last days; she passed away when I was but eighteen months old.
And that’s the sort of thing which awakens me in these early mornings. My mind recalls things from my infancy which, I would have thought, would not be so clear to me as they are.
Starting to school was a terrible trial for me. Being separated for a whole day from my Mom made me so upset – and the teachers at Christ Church School in Leicester Street were not the gentlest in temperament.
When Mom collected me from school on that first day, we walked home. I remember her telling me that I’d find it better the next day. And I recall my reaction to that!
“Oh – have I got to go again?!”
I was five at the time.
School – both at Christ Church as an infant and junior, and at Wolverhampton Grammar later – was an awful time for me. I will not say much about my memories of those rotten times here, except to mention that I was bullied at Grammar School – until Dad helped me learn a few jiu-jitsu throws. That School was also the first place I was a victim of a brief homosexual assault. Again, jiu-jitsu saved the day!
There are many other snippets of memory, of course. Things like my cousin, Johnny Muir, suddenly hooking me on jazz by playing me Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five record of ‘Muscat Rambles’, a moment I can never forget. But enough is enough for this screed.
So my childhood memories – clear as bells – are what seem to cause my insomnia. It is the people I remember: their faces, their voices.
And, though I have contacted a few of my cousins in recent years, there is nobody who knows the details of things which happened at 71, Dunstall Road, Wolverhampton, when Mom, Dad and I were at home together with our dogs.
The general forgetting and never-knowing of what happened back then saddens me. Remembrances of those days – and I am probably the last person left who recalls most of that history – are what haunt me in my insomnia.
Written to explain to Peter Lee about my own insomnia when he was suffering from his.