Saturday, 1 November 2014
China to Falmouth
Back at the end of September I confessed that I am very lucky to be alive today because my mother got me out of China on the last ship to leave Shanghai as the Japanese invaded the northern border. Life in a Chinese concentration camp was very hard and a baby of less than a year old wouldn’t have lasted long. A Chinese lady who we called Amah came with us, she had looked after me since I was born and from what I gathered I doubt if she would have trusted my mother to look after me. It came as a shock to find that though Amah lived with us in England until I was two, when I asked what her real name was so I could search for her when I went back to China in 1980 my mother confessed she had no idea. All the early photographs of me show a smiling baby but from the age of two every one is of a very solemn child who never smiled at all. My mother was a distant figure who believed in children’s hour, time spent with mummy from five to six o’clock, the rest of the day was spent with a constantly changing background of nannies; today we would call them mothers-helps for they were all untrained. Then came the war and my mother disappeared to be with my father in Greenock while my grandmother supervised the nannies. It probably wasn’t as bad as it sounds but for a couple of years life was just very confusing for a small child. One memory is as clear as yesterday; I was standing at the top of a road in Falmouth looking down on the harbour holding the hand of ‘Nanny who married a Dutchman’. She was talking to a sailor who had a red pom-pom on his cap, presumably the Dutchman in question. The harbour was filled from side to side by grey ships and I now know I was looking at the Free French Fleet who had made an exciting escape from the Germans to fight alongside our Navy.