Friday, June 08, 2007


I’m currently reading the autobiography of John Simpson, a television journalist, who claims that he can remember things from when he was very small – in his pram, in his cot and so on. And I remember someone commenting on one of my posts that she, too, could remember very far back. I can’t now find the comment; was it Velcro?

I think my first memory is probably of having the above photo taken. How old was I? Three, maybe? It was very exciting because the photographer came to our house. Some of the pictures were just of me, some of my big brother and some of both of us. I can remember clearly what it felt like to stand up and hold on to the back of that chair, which had a fawn, slightly slippery cover. The dress was what my mother called my Coronation dress, because it was white, with red, white and blue smocking and also little tufts of these colours. The Coronation was in 1953 and I was born in 1950, so this figures. My mother persisted in putting bows in my hair for some years, but I always hated them. They kept falling out and anyway I thought I looked silly. I was very shy and a lot of things made me feel silly.

Of course, we had the chairs till I was about ten, and the photos were there as a reminder of the day. So maybe that's the real reason for the memory.

But I don’t remember the one below being taken. I look about two, do you think? The age when it's socially acceptable to be short and plump.

Another early memory, though I have no idea how old I was: I was crouching down in the bedroom I shared with my brother and suddenly realised that I didn’t know the word for what I was doing. I asked him, the fount of all knowledge – two years and eight months older. “That’s crouching,” he said. And that was another word added to my vocabulary.
I’ve been told of the time when I carried an opened newspaper while toddling past an electric fire with radiant bars. My mother had to wrap me up in a rug to put the flames out. I wasn't permanently injured, but still, you’d think I’d remember that. But no. Strange thing, memory.


  1. What beautiful photos! You were a very beautiful child, & I loved those little dresses with the puff sleeves, & the smocking.
    Yes, memory is curious. I sometimes wonder if my early memories are real, or just remembered because of family lore, & the retelling of certian events.

  2. Such an adorable child..... And now your brother could probably turn to you if he needs to know the word for something!

  3. What a beautiful little girl you were! I just love those baby pictures from the 40's and 50's. Seems they usually touched them up a little bit and made rosy cheeks even rosier. Perhaps you have your brother to thank for the fact that you went into a life of words. (Hmmm. That doesn't sound right, but you get the idea! ;-) )

  4. This is interesting: I have spent the last 8 months or so researching memory,(for a thesis) and the role played by images in maintaining/creating them.
    It has been said that this time now is the most documented and the least remembered, digital recording standing in for memory.
    The truth is fragmented: that which is embedded within us in a sensory way is that which is strongest. I beleive everything is in there: its just that, with far more in our "hard drives" , life deletes much detritus from conscience as we get older. hence those vivid memories from when our heads were free of the stuff of life.
    I am investigating where painted images stand among all this. I have a long way to go.

    You were the most beautiful child, oh, really.Being fair, I have always considered myself featureless and bland, and wished I was dark.

  5. I have one vague memory of playing dolls on my mother's bed with her. Since she died two weeks after my fourth birthday, I must have been pretty young. I do remember the day she died, but only being upset when my dad told me.

    You were quite a cutie - well, probably still are :-)

  6. A bonny, wee lassie.

    Memories. Indeed. Tricky things.

    As I have very few that I can access I have to believe that they're in there ... just haven't figured out how to bring them up ... bit like a computer ...

    Hmm....Isabelle, just a question, should it be "an opened newspaper"?

    I'll probably burn in hell anyway.

  7. Isabelle,
    I'm so delighted you read my blog and wrote. I hope a friendship grows from these beginnings. Looking at your cute photos, I believe we are close in age. My dresses in photos look so similar... and the bows in the hair. I remember bing 3 years... we moved into our first house that year and my father came home from the war. I think life changes can spark memory.I am an avid reader, also, and your latest sounds interesting. More later.
    Joni Possin

  8. Oh heavens, our mothers must have known each other. I had BOWS too. Mum thought I looked so sweet. I did not.
    I have a very clear memory from when I was about 20 months. I swallowed a number of my mother's tablets and was put in hospital for a couple of days to have my stomach pumped. I don't remember that part, but I do remember hanging over the side of the cot looking down a dark corridor, waiting for my gran or Dad to arrive to see me. Mum was about to have my sister, and was not allowed to visit. How things have changed now! I can also remember a great deal from about 3 onwards. A stunning display of memory???? Just do not ask me anything recent. Or names. My short-term memory is diabloical. Worse than diabolical.

  9. Ooh, Rise, it ought indeed to be "an opened...". Just a typo, but it's so much harder to see one's own mistakes than other people's (and that doesn't apply only to typos, of course). Thanks so much for pointing it out.

    I've changed it.

  10. I have vivid memories from around that time too, usually associated with strong emotions. I'm not sure how old I was in my first memory, but I know that I had a book taken away from me because I was too young to be able to read. I remember the indignation I felt.

    They are gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing them.

  11. Isabelle,
    It's 5:18 in the morning here... and I'm up because I cough everytime I put my head on the pillow. So I went back to the beginning of your blogs (strange word) and I have been laughing so hard. You are a wonderful writer! Are you published? I love reading about your dress shopping and the purse for your daughter's wedding. I somehow picture Hyacinth Bucket and her hats. And your weight... I can relate to that. We have a wedding coming up for daughter 2... date undetermined... can't make up her mind what state or island to have this production. So that just gives me more time to get into a dress. But, I haven't started dieting yet! I shouldn't take up all your "comment" space, so I'll continue another time. Off to continue reading your story.

  12. Hello Isabelle
    Thanks for visiting mine, I have been enjoying yours.
    It's funny how we don't always remember what seem to be the more significant things; perhaps the fire and newspaper incident was actually quite traumatic and you blocked it?
    I can remember the design on the back of the chairs we had, a shell-shape, and although we had them for a long time, I'm quite sure this shape was imprinted in my mind from very early,from being held over people's shoulders.
    The photos are certainly cute!

  13. Isabelle,
    I made something for you to celebrate your love for your garden. I put my email on my site, and if you send me a mailing address I'll get it in the mail today.
    Joni (Wisconsin)

  14. Aww what gorgeous photos. You were a beautiful little girl.

    My memory goes back to me being about 22 months old or so and in South Germany on holiday with my family. When I was younger I could remember further back than that but not any more alas.

  15. I love looking and finding photos of our childhood. Your photos are beautiful. We are similar ages. My mother had no hope at all of making my hair curl!! I have some really early memories - just fleeting ones but I find it interesting. Our little grandson aged 6 1/2 has some quite clear ones from when he was around 3 and it amazes what he can remember.

  16. Oh, my goodness. Do you know what strikes me about the first photo? Your dark-haired daughter - I think the youngest - is the spitting image of you, particularly around the eyes.

  17. What beautiful photos -- you gorgeous girl. As for memories, I don't have many early ones. Why is that, I wonder???

  18. I love those photos Isabelle! Photographing must be the most important invention of the last millenium...well along with printing maybe. But what would the world be without images like this to look back on? Have you ever thought of writing your memoirs? Not necessarily a book to be published - just a separate blog. Have a look at mine for ideas, if you haven't already had a peek at some stage.
    (Patracat's Memories)

  19. My earliest memory is being in an ambulance withsiren screaming as we rushed through the night, followed by being on a gurney rushing through a green painted corridor with yellow lights in the ceiling. My mother swears nothing like that ever happened to me, but I have a faint scar going across my left eyelid.

  20. Beautiful baby photos by the way.

  21. To Kathy, I also had a book taken away from me at the age of three, I promptly snatched it back and read out loud a good portion of the page just to prove that I could. Unfortunately the early intelligence didn't really get me anywhere in life.