The red bobble jumper was another favourite. Like the cardigans, I wore it with my black and white kilt. It had white daisies embroidered round the neck, which was, of course, tied with two bobbles. In those days bobbles – on jumpers, on hats, on scarves – were all the rage, so my jumper was fashionable as well as cute.
It was a present from my Uncle Colin, not a real uncle, but a ‘friend’ of my grandmother’s. He was a regular visitor to our house, and quite often gave me presents, but I can still hear my mother’s anxious voice – ‘Don’t mention Uncle Colin in front of your grandpa’. So my lips were sealed. Uncle Colin had an aura of money about him. He bought the presents in an expensive children’s clothes shop in town called ‘Lindy Lou’. When I was very small I was often called Lindy Lou or Looby Lou after the song ‘Here we go Looby Loo, here we go Looby Light’ regularly sung on my favourite television programme, Andy Pandy. So for a long time I thought the shop was there specially for me. My mother loved to dress me in the things Uncle Colin bought from that shop. She would explain to her admiring friends ‘It’s from Lindy Lou’, but she didn’t explain about Uncle Colin.
My mother and I went to Uncle Colin’s house occasionally with my grandmother. The house was unlike ours and the other houses I knew – much grander, Edwardian, with heavy dark furniture softened by pale lavender brocade cushions. It had something of the mausoleum about it, as if the house, like Colin, was still grieving for his dead wife. The garden was a tangle of old roses and brambles, and I spent happy hours there searching for the secret door that would open on to another world. Around this time I was very taken by a story about some fairies losing the key to fairyland. The beautiful creatures pined and languished until some children found the key – a snowdrop – and rescued them. Colin’s garden became the scene for my re-enactment of this story. On every rose petal, every dewy spider’s web I imagined one of the fairies finding a temporary resting place, while like the children in the story I searched for the key and the door that would save them.
While I was saving the fairies, my grandmother was saving Colin, whose only solace apart from her was his black poodle Phil. I did think it was a bit funny that Colin seemed to have quite long conversations with his dog, but who was I to talk, with all those fairies dancing in my head? And it never struck me that there was anything odd about Colin’s place in our lives. Because of Colin I had something lovely to wear for the school photograph. With the photograph in mind my mother permed my straight hair, and for once the result was worth the hours of suffering. With the curls and the red bobble jumper I felt confident enough to muster a half smile for the camera.
Nana on the beach with Colin’s dog Phil. I am just visible in the distance, paddling, wearing a frilly costume and bow in hair.