Tag Archives: childhood

Memories are made of these

Memory is a funny thing. It is possible to have two people remember the same incident totally differently. A memory of something in the past is always coloured by the present and all that has gone in between. And no two people experiencing that one instant have all the same experiences after that shared one. And even coming to that shared moment nothing else is the same; everything is unique to each of them – even that shared moment. Whatever I shall write about my past – when I really get down to it instead of this meandering from one thing to another – is written here and now with here and now memory and interpretation of what I remember. There have been times when one or other of my children has corrected my recollection of something or other. On one or two occasions the recollections have been so different that I could but wonder whether we were talking of the same incident.

I have read and heard people talking about their lives when they were very very young, babies in fact. Some even talk about remembering their own birth sliding through the birth canal. I must say that I read and listen to those stories with scepticism. Yet, I do not want to deny them. Who am I to say what others can remember.

I have been trying to work out what my earliest actual memory is. I have been told things about me when I was a baby, but I do not remember any of them actually happening. My earliest hazy memories are about the primary school. In Finland, where I was born, children start school when they are seven years old, but I do not remember the first day as such. I do not know if my first memory is of that day or of some other day. I have a memory of standing in the school yard and being aware of my underpants, which were made by my mother and not your standard shop bought issue. I was ashamed of them and afraid that somehow other kids would find out about them.  I have other flashes of memory about the years in the primary school. None of these early memories could be related as a continous story; most of this time is just a blur in my mind.

We used to play baseball in the school yard during recess and in physical education lessons in spring and autumn. As the school was a small village school with just a handful of pupils all years played together. In the winter we did skiing. We had competitions between other primary schools in the area. I remember becoming the third once and getting a spoon as a trophy. A girl from my year was jealous thinking that she should have got it saying something to that effect to me. An older boy told her off. I think that was when I was about ten.

Some of my most pleasant memories about this school were times spent in the school kitchen. It was a big room with a big farmhouse table able to seat ten or twelve of us children. We had breakfast at school made by the cook. It was the best porridge I had ever had. Another thing happening around that table was a story club. A few of us children attended it and our teacher read us stories or novels. I remember her reading Little House on the Prairie and eagerly waiting for each session.

The school library was a treasure trove to me. The children’s library was a bookcase about one metre by one and a half metres in size situated in one of the two classrooms. The adult library was perhaps slightly bigger bookcase in the school hallway open one evening a week to the whole village. In the four years I spent in that school I read all the book in the children’s library and when I was allowed access to the adult library I read many if not all books from there too.

There is one very sweet memory from those early years – my first love. I suppose it could be called that although I do not remember much about my feelings at the time. I just know that thinking about it now gives me a pleasant feeling. I think it must have been at the beginning of my last year in the primary school when I was ten. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon. We (don’t ask me who – I cannot remember) were walking home from school. A neighbouring farm boy told me that they had really good apples and he would give me some if I walked with him to their farm. So I went with him leaving others to continue on the main road. He went on ahead to make sure their dog could not get to the orchard as I was afraid of it. It had a fierce bark if nothing else and ran after us if we rode the bike past their house. (I usually speeded up before the house and put my legs up on handlebar for the stretch past the house.) He then came back to me lead me to their orchard. We lay on the grass eating apples and looking at the blue sky with a few cumulus clouds appearing here and there. We looked for shapes in the clouds, but apart from that did not talk much. I was late for dinner that day. Everyone else was sitting at the table when I got in. As usual I did not get much attention on coming in.

I keep thinking that I should have some earlier memories than the ones from the primary school and after. However much I strain my brain no memory comes from my early childhood. I wonder why and I wonder how common it is not to remember. All the people whom I have heard talk about their early memories have them from much earlier than me. I have some theories based on what I have been told and what my experiences of my home life were from the time I remember anything. However, they have to wait for another day.


Dreams of country kitchens, pea wine, vegan banana cake

Yesterday’s post got me thinking of food and cooking. I used to do more cooking. With children it is a necessary part of life if the children are to thrive. When I was a child my mother did all the cooking. The only way we children helped was pick some vegetables from our garden or wash and peel potatoes. I do not remember ever cooking anything when I was living at home with my parents. Not even when I was an adult visiting my parents.

The food at my childhood home was very simple. Potatoes and bread were the staples at every meal. Perhaps not always – sometimes we had a macaroni dish baked in the oven or a main soup made with macaroni and vegetables. When those were served we did not have potatoes. But bread was always on the table. My mother baked really good bread. We had always rye bread (I think it might be what is called sour bread, although any sour bread I have had here is nowhere near as good) and either mixed flour bread (oat, wheat, barley) or bread made with just wheat or mainly wheat. At least two kinds of bread were always at any meal table.

Meat was never the main dish, it was more like a garnish. Well, that is not the right word. A side dish – perhaps. Some meat could be added to the gravy or we could have some sliced meat to put on bread. Even the roast pork I mentioned in the last post was not the main thing of the dinner. With the roast pork we would have a potato casserole, a carrot casserole, a cauliflower casserole, a turnip (rutabaga) casserole, bread and pickles. And lets not forget the fish dish that I never liked.

I never learnt cooking as a child. I sort of picked it up later on following recipes – more or less. I have always been more of an experimental cook. I might follow a recipe once, but next time change it a little or not bother measuring ingredients exactly. It all depended what I happened to have available. So one time a dish might be really good and the next time not so good or really horrible. One thing I became an expert on was pancakes. When I moved away from home to my own rented room with a little cooking corner I lived on pancakes during the week and went home for weekends to eat other food. I might have cooked something else occasionally, but the main thing I remember cooking and eating was pancakes and more pancakes and yet more pancakes. And I still like pancakes (vegan pancakes made with soy milk) although I do not make them much at all nowadays.

The reason I have not done much cooking in my present home is that the cooking facilities have been somewhat limited. When I bought this house there was a working kitchen and I discovered the original unusable kitchen in the cellar with rusted iron things inside the big hole in the thick wall. Neither of those was what I wanted (if the original had been in working order it might have been – I now have a sauna there).  The working kitchen was really badly designed and really badly put together. The units were coming apart, never having been properly done. I got rid of that kitchen giving the gas hob and the oven to a friend and burning the units (could not do anything else with them). That room is now a kind of store room with the new toilet taking a corner of it.

My new kitchen is inside the main house now. I had a stove company build a wood burning stove and a wood burning stove/room heater going through the wall and heating the room next to it too. Unfortunately, the company doing it was not up to scratch. I commissioned them for two reasons: I read about them in an environmental magazine and they were the only company in this country installing the sort of stoves I wanted. The magazine gave me the impression that they were doing good work building and installing good environmentally friendly products. The literature of the company claimed to build and install the sort of stoves that were and still are very common in my country of origin. Lesson No 1: Do not trust environmental magazines to have checked the products of people and companies they have information for. Lesson No 2: Do not trust what companies say of themselves even when they claim to be for the sort of ideals you hold dear.

The company has been back once to correct something in the stoves. Still not working as well as they should. And the company refuses to come and correct anything else unless I agree that the biggest problem with them is not their fault and I would have to pay to put it right. The biggest problem is the water heating element in the cooking stove. It is not correctly positioned. In all the boilers that I know of the cold water comes from lower down than the pipe taking the hot water up. In this one they are level. The result is that the water being heated goes up both ways and then at some point tries to adjust, I assume, and makes horrible bangs doing it. The noise is truly scary. It is slightly less now that the pipes are better attached to the wall. I had to correct that as the company left them a little loose. They had forgotten their better drill they told me and could not work the screws properly on the wall because of that.

I do not use the cooking stove very much. The oven/room heater stove I use every day in the winter and not at all in the summer. The oven in that is not as good as I had expected. I have not really tried many dishes in it as the ones I have tried have not worked as well as they should have. The cooking facilities I have here that I use all the time are: a kettle, a toaster, a sandwich toaster, a microwave oven I bought a few months ago, a two ring electric hotplate I bought a couple of months ago. I almost forgot, a friend gave me an electric slow cooker recently. I have ideas of how to improve the stoves I have but no money for it at the moment.

I had such dreams about my new kitchen. I thought I would have a proper country kitchen – an environmentally friendly country kitchen. I even dreamt of doing proper cooking more than once a year. I thought once the house was finished I’ll cook (if I cannot have someone else to do it for me), I’ll bake cakes as I used to (I did more of them – my vegan banana cake was delicious), I’ll learn to do the rye bread and other breads my mum made, I’ll make wine again (pea wine, apple wine, berry wine – all soooo good).  There is a tiny, little spark of hope of that still in me. Maybe …. one day.