Party Pieces

I woke up this morning and for some bizarre reason I was humming my childhood party piece. Oh – you mean you didn’t have a party piece. How lucky were you.

On a tree by a river a little tom-tit
Sang “Willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
And I said to him, “Dicky-bird, why do you sit
Singing Willow, titwillow, titwillow’?”
“Is it weakness of intellect, birdie?” I cried,
“Or a rather tough worm in your little inside?”
With a shake of his poor little head, he replied,
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”

We were great Gilbert and Sullivan fans. But I hated this party piece which I had to keep practising until I was word perfect. Mum said that every child needed a party piece to perform for family and friends. Was that a common thing back in the day? Did anyone else have a party piece? I do remember grimacing when I was pushed in front of people to sing this stupid song. I can’t remember what Brian’s party piece was maybe I will wake up tomorrow humming it too. Or maybe he quite rightly refused to do it. I was always a goody two shoes!

Interestingly my boys loved to put on plays and dance performances for anybody that would watch. They would spend hours practising and we would spend hours watching. How I wish I could go back to those times. Actually I have been back there this morning – in my head. Still sorting through photographs I found another huge case filled to the brim of pics. Where did they all come from and why did we take so many pictures. I mean really do I need to keep pics of my parents sitting on beaches on various annual holidays in the same costumes year after year. And besides my family who are all the other people in these pics. But it gave me a lump in my chest most of the morning remembering and missing and longing.

I also found a whole stack of letters – mum had kept every letter that I had sent her from my travels and I had travelled a lot from around aged 16 to 25. I have only just started reading them – some are hilarious and quite revealing. Poor parents they must have been so anxious about me. And in those days there were no mobile phones and telephoning was too expensive so we had to rely on the post.

There are also a whole batch of letters that mum sent to me. With many references to the white slave trade. I think she was quite obsessed with this. I remember the first time I went to London she had instilled in me slave trade paranoia. So much so that the first time I took a tube I stood with my bag covering my bottom just in case a slave trader crept up behind me and stuck a needle in my bottom. According to my mother that is what they did to innocent young girls who would then wake up in a Harem in the Middle East. It was about the same time she told me not to take any cigarettes without tips as they might be reefers. Meanwhile she smoked Senior Service (for best) and Park Drive (everyday) and neither had tips on them.

But she had every reason to be anxious about my safety. My first trip overseas was to work as an au pair in Spain for a Canadian woman called Roberta Shreiber and her playboy boyfriend Enrique. I love it that I remember all these names and yet sometimes I can’t remember the beginning of my sentence. What is that about? Roberta Shreiber came to Leicester to interview me and I remember the spectacle as they swooped into my small semi detached suburban house. She tall and beautiful and he dark and very handsome in a white suit. We were all blown away. I was despatched by plane to Switzerland to pick up her 3 children from boarding school and bring them to her villa in Marbella. A few days later she took off to Portugal with her lover leaving me aged 16 to look after these children, who took an instant dislike to me and refused to do anything I asked. When she returned 2 weeks later, I packed my bags and headed into Marbella – goodness knows where I thought I was going to stay with almost no money!

And this was just the beginning – I will reveal more later. Afterall I have to find other things to blog about so can’t give you it all in one go.

I have just remembered Brian’s party piece The King’s Breakfast A A Milne.

Let’s be careful out there”