My first memory

See – I told you it was a tank. This British Centurion tank was out during Operation Motorman. So perhaps it was a tank I saw. The photo is by Eamon Melaugh – click on the pic for more of his work.

Memory is tricky. Childhood memories even trickier.

Which memories are real. Which are from stories or photographs?

Top Boy shares his first memory with me. He was running up and down the street in from of our house. Past houses, back past houses, back past houses again, then past a house with a low white wall and a blue triangular prismatic top… (the shape details are quite extensive and go on for some time, so I’ve skipped them – funnily enough he’s now a big science fan) …then he fell over and hurt his knee. What happened next? Doesn’t remember.

Mine is one of these. I don’t know which.

1. When I was five (or thereabouts) we moved house from a more troubled to a less troubled area of Belfast. I don’t remember anything before or during the journey until we turned onto the new street. It was more shaded, quieter, greener, with trees and hedges. I remember that. Nothing before. Except maybe for…

2. Seeing my first tank. Very exciting. Big. High. Wide. Dark, maybe green but definitely spattered with white paint. On the road outside the Busy Bee shopping centre in Belfast. On the wrong side of the road. No-one else shared my excitement at the time. With hindsight, I don’t suppose the tank crew were out shopping, but at the time it was just big and wide. Don’t remember seeing any tanks on the street there since. Haven’t hear of any either. Maybe it wasn’t really a tank at all? Just something less dramatic, like an armoured personnel carrier. No, it was definitely a great big tank. I remember.

But what about the rest of it? The escape attempts and running through hedges in my pyjamas. The being as fat as a boy-sized bag of sugar. Do I really remember those earlier episodes – or do they spring from old pictures? I fear it’s the latter.

So the tank or turning up our new street is as far back as I go. I didn’t fall over and hurt my knee until later. I remember that too. And I don’t even need the scar to remind me.

You can find out the first memories of the other members of the Loose Bloggers Consortium by scrolling down the right hand column and clicking on their links. You could start with Conrad. It was his idea.



Filed under D - Loose Bloggers Consortium, family history, history

33 responses to “My first memory

  1. Hi,
    That is definitely something you would remember seeing a tank going up the wrong side of the road, that is incredible, it would of been a huge vehicle to a small child. 🙂

    • blackwatertown

      Yes – you’re right. But oddly the adults with me have always denied it. Not sure where I would have got the idea from without seeing it though – because they were not commonly deployed on the streets.

      • Paul, to pick up on your reply to magsx2. It is annoying when ‘adults’ will dispute a memory. It’s a mystery to me why they would do so. Happened to me a few years ago. At age eight memory is not exactly shrouded in the mist of earliest childhood. When my mother said that what I remembered hadn’t taken place it pulled the rug from under my feet. Took me (the grown woman) some time to recover my equilibrium. I know what I know. And let no one take it away from you. To understand: My mother is lovely, but she will bend the past (just a little) to suit herself. Only last week she disputed a memory of mine of an event she had not even been present at. Which gave me a whole new perspective. From now on, if she begs to differ that’s fine with me.

        The above was by way of comfort. You saw what you saw. In a strange and poetic way it’s almost immaterial whether our earliest memories are “correct” or not.


      • blackwatertown

        I think you’re right on both counts.

  2. Its really strange how little I remember of childhood..& ,yes, I cant help thinking that what I do recall is often cobbled together from photos & other peoples recall…………..And how odd is the arbitrariness of it all.NOTHING matches my most vivid memory which,weirdly, is the SMELL of crayons on my first day at skool! (I must have had a crayon-free pre-school?) Or maybe i just had a very boring childhood……………..

    • blackwatertown

      Good point. Don’t have any smell memories, but I’m sure I chomped a good few crayons. (To make a change from worms.)

  3. Paul…when you come to Chennai, as you make your way into town, you will pass the Officer’s Training Academy (Army). There is a tank placed at the gate!! Your right…maybe our memories come alive with the retelling of the events by others. The older we get, the more alive our early memories become..

  4. Moving to a less troubled area of Belfast is a strong memory, but a huge military tank in the street is a heart-pounding image. No way to forget it.
    Blessings – Maxi

  5. cmccon1

    Interesting tale. Definitely a different set of circumstances being a kid in Belfast compared to a kid in Pueblo, Colorado. I find things a huge jumble -lots of valid memories but the timeline is a mess.

    • blackwatertown

      Colorado! Now that sounds good. I presume it was constant cattle drives, cowboys, Indians, gunfights, etc.

      • cmccon1

        Absolutely. And nothing quite like a nubile young Indian maiden. But my experience was from mining history – at least my family history – and my Irish relatives from New Mexico ran what they called a stage line but since it was in the 20th century I suspect no horses were involved

  6. rummuser

    I can relate to such early recollections when the situation is tense. Although when I was much older, I still have vivid memories of very tense Chennai days when there was big anti Hindi agitations were held. I can still remember the crowds, the riots and flag burning as though all these happened very recently.

    • blackwatertown

      The one good thing about flag burning is that it stops the place looking dowdy when all those flags hanging from lampposts fade and rip and hang around for months.

  7. Father had me working in the steel mill at 2 1/2 and I did that and part timed as a newspaper reporter/press operator at 3. You have had such a sheltered life of aristocracy.

    • blackwatertown

      Are yuo crazy? I lived in a drain at the side of the road until we earned enough by selling body organs to upshift to a cardboard box – luxury! – in the middle of the road. We thought we had really made it! Then a tank came along and squashed it. The rest is history.

  8. I suppose to a small boy seeing a tank would be very exciting. At that age you wouldn’t associate tanks with all the violence and bloodshed that they came to signify. I think my first memories were of my nursery school and my mum taking me there. And one day when I went there on my own and the door was locked and it took ages for the staff to realise I was standing outside….

  9. In reading through the comments, I am oh-so-with Ursula on this one:

    “I know what I know. And let no one take it away from you.”

    • blackwatertown

      I think there was a song about that…
      “I’m not aware of too many things, but I know what I know, if you know what I mean…”

  10. Of course your memory is good, thing is we don;t “share” memories per se. We sometimes pretend we do but all our memories are unique.
    Must write about mine…..:)

  11. 29

    Playing in an air raid shelter was one early memory, a later one was saying. “Any gum chum?” to US soldiers who had arrived to prepare for D-Day.
    Your tank was probably a Pig or a Saracen.

    • blackwatertown

      Maybe the tank was left behind by the Americans? (I say “left behind” out of politeness. Maybe someone nicked it to act as a heavy duty tractor.)

  12. Sorry for taking so long to comment, I have been very busy these past few days making new memories. At my age it takes longer! 😉

  13. One of these days I must tell you a story about The Busy Bee car park, an army vehicle and my jack caught in the middle.

  14. The tank was real! As children we travel in many different dimensions beyond the reality of most adults so they can perhaps be forgiven occasionally for their apparent amnesia and denials regarding strangely placed tanks etc. Excursions into space-time shifts marvellous though and there’s always one of two of us even as adults who never quite lose the childhood knack to toddle to and fro between dimensions thereby keeping the memories alive and well 🙂 Wolfie is a shining example of the wierd and wonderful 🙂 It was Wolfie who chased you through the hedges in your pyjamas too! So it was real! You were trying to escape my Wolfie jaws…it was such fun!! 🙂

    • blackwatertown

      So what you’re saying is that I’m some sort of Time Lord?

      • Yes! Absolutely! And remember…time isn’t just linear…you can bend the space time continuum to travel sideways through space and time too 🙂 And did you know, as a matter of interest, there is a “Horses Head Nebula” out there in spacey-byes! See? You have a cosmic head! And the nebula looks a lot like your head too 😀 Quite remarkable 😉

      • blackwatertown

        I’m now completely spaced out.

  15. I have an early memory, but it’s really quite boring. I remember being in my room in my very first house when it was dark out, but I guess not super late, and I don’t remember what caused me to be upset. I assume lights or noises. But, my mom said it was just fireworks, probably the first time I’ve ever seen or heard them. I don’t remember the fireworks at all, just that she said that’s what it was. And I remember my room being much emptier than it likely was. I just remember the window in my head and my mom.
    I also have a memory of falling and hurting myself, but that was a few years later. I guess falling is a pretty common early memory. I was running across an empty road in my neighborhood, my friend somewhere nearby, and boom, down I went. I’m sure there was nothing to trip over or anything. Darn clumsy duckling I was. I cried like a wimp, and my friend’s dad carried me home.

    • blackwatertown

      Interesting that it is your reaction that you remember, not the event that prompted you to react. Fireworks were banned where I was when growing up – didn’t get up close to them until I was in England.

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