When I was a child, a favourite poem of mine was by the time-obsessed seventeenth century poet Robert Herrick. The words of which were set out under black notes in a music book which we had at 9 Wilton Road, and although I could not read the tune, I often recited:

Gather ye rosebuds, while ye may,

Old time is still a-flying:

And this same flower that smiles today

Tomorrow will be dying...(57)

A warning of which I have remained aware, but in spite of ourselves we pass through time, or time passes through us, and the events recorded in this book for the most part took place fifty years ago, and more! So many pages to illustrate the first eighteen years of my life, when it is possible that the remainder could be telescoped into a similar number of pages! Perhaps a partial explanation can be found in the third verse of the above poem!

That age is best which is the first,

When youth and blood are warmer,

But being spent, the worse, and worst

Times still succeed the former.

But, my intention in writing this book was to speak of my origins and the influences which continue to dominate my life. The child comes into the word an alien and is fitted into society where it has been decided by culture, tradition and economics how s/he should grow, a society in which there is a pretence that stability is the norm. On the other hand, History is a record of change and upheaval from the beginning of time, bringing with it displacement and a great migration of peoples from one place to another, from one part of the world to another, across seas and continents. And so the streams of displaced persons throughout the centuries maintain their exodus, yesterday and today. For all of us in our time have been ‘driven from the Garden’ and the golden age, as the perceived promised dream of stability, has remained elusive. Hopefully, this book will indicate my own part, and that of my family, within this maelstrom.

It is said that ‘the past is another country’ and perhaps this applies more so today because of technological invention within the past fifty years and the extension of the global economy. In comparison, the world in which I grew up appeared to be more simple, and innocent and yet this is an illusion, a surface impression, which I hope this book will show.

Finally, I hope that within these pages, I have told something of my family history and have made the world of my childhood live again. An especial pleasure for me has been in raising from the dead my parents (even though my father continues to appear before me in autobiographies, or biographies, of his writer friends) my grandmother, relatives, neighbours and friends so that for a short time they push aside the vast heap under which they have been buried and take their places upon the stage. I, and those who have grown old with me, have relived our youth in these pages, while those still living, but whom I have not seen for fifty years or more, remain forever young.


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