My earliest memories date from my fourth year. My world then, was limited mostly to my immediate family and the physical boundaries of our home; my three elder siblings, our mother, and the house and section.
Our property was one-quarter acre. The back yard stretched to eternity with a flat open area for kicking balls and practising cartwheels, that fell gently away to a vegetable garden crowded with fruit trees: plum, peach, crab-apple, grapefruit, lemon and mandarin. Grape vines sprawled over wire-mesh and iron-pipe supports that divided the two spaces, one for play, the other for provision. In a back corner, a sturdy concrete block incinerator sat, connected to the house by a broken concrete path. This, my kingdom, was surrounded by hedges, with hidden, dappled, hollows, where I made my secret hideaways.
The house was plain and plaster clad, with a grey hat of corrugated iron. I call it plain now but to a four-year-old boy, it was anything but. My favourite feature was the space joining the storage area at the top of the linen closet to the broom cupboard. I could wriggle up into this odd little corridor and, by reassembling the tongue and groove boards beneath me that served as a false ceiling, disappear. The crude crayon drawings I made up there by torchlight are probably still there.
I remember my big sisters rehabilitating injured birds and constructing flying foxes for our scowling cat, while my brother, twelve years my senior, was either coming or going on his silver Yamaha. I learnt Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris, sitting on my mother’s lap at the piano. But, most vividly, I remember the textured glass of the folding doors in our lounge that I was playing next to the day my father left.