A solitary child, I always had my ‘head in a book’. Books were more real to me than people or places–perhaps why my landscape of childhood memories remains indistinct. Images emerge, dream-like, from a grey-green backdrop: a red rose for the Harvest display, a white balloon yo-yo’d home from a party.
But I do remember the castle.
Even in the permissive seventies, a six year-old walking from school alone seems unlikely, yet in memory I amble with the wavering footfall of a dreamer up the hill, towards the castle collaged onto an unremarkable North London suburb.
Not an actual castle–an apartment block, built by another dreamer. But to me it was real–and by extension everything from the pages of my books was real and possible–if not here in Kingsbury, NW9 then in another land at some past or future or imagined time.
I believe this still.
A photograph of myself aged 5 in a yellow mac (worn for the occasion, it isn’t raining) outside the house, an unremarkable pebble-dashed net-curtained semi. I recall little of it, or my first school. I remember the castle, but had forgotten it until coming across Trowbridge, the architect, years later in a book about suburban London. I think of how infallible my immigrant parents seemed, both younger than I am now and how many friends they had, though they’d lived in England barely five years. I wonder what they sacrificed to allow me to dream of castles.