I guess everyone at some time in their lives have had the discussion ‘what was your earliest memory?’ In truth it is probably quite a difficult question to answer, since how do you actually know that one incident over another constitutes the ‘earliest memory’? Although I haven’t done much research into it, I would guess that an early event in your life that is in some way traumatic or had some consequence to it probably form most people’s earliest recollections. I would think it more likely that the trivial events such as getting out of bed won’t be remembered as much as events that get you into trouble! Toilet accidents then would be such a traumatic event!

It may be of course that it wasn’t the toilet accident at the house in Tudor that was actually my earliest memory, but over the years the retelling of the story by my mother probably reinforced it in my mind as being the earliest memory. I can unfortunately recall it quite clearly; the rush to the toilet, a physical reminder that I wasn’t going to make it in time and the unfortunate mess that was created when the toilet door closed, squishing the evidence underneath.

We had a ‘house boy’ at the time called Rashidi. (See ‘Domestic Life in Kenya’). According to my mother he came to her and said in Swahili “Peter na fanya ‘chi chi’” (Which translates Peter has done a ‘chi-chi’ – I don’t think that takes much explanation!) I was aware I had done something embarrassing but didn’t realise it was a ‘chi-chi’!)  I am not sure what my mother’s response was, but in all likelihood it wasn’t along the lines of, ‘please don’t worry yourself, I will clean it up myself!’

Blll and Pete in 1960


Three other events possibly vie for the title ‘earliest memory’. One was trapping a bee in the lid of a carton that formed the packaging for a Kodak ‘Instamatic’ Camera. Of course trapping bees is a male sport as old as time itself and I don’t think I needed anyone to show me how to do it – some things come naturally to little boys. At the time carton lids often had two semicircular recesses cut either side of the edge of the lid – I think you were supposed to place thumb and forefinger into the recess to pull the box apart. Naturally the bee escaped through this space and whilst I don’t think I got stung the bee seemed very displeased and  this panicked me enormously, giving me a healthy respect for the African bee for the rest of my life.

Another event would qualify for an ‘earliest memory’ if I could in fact remember it! It was quite common in the 60s to have ‘occasional tables’ in the lounge. I am not sure what the ‘occasion’ was, they just seemed to be small tables to put your beer glass on and were just the right height for a small toddler to be able to reach. Apparently I went round all the tables when my parents were entertaining and weren’t watching me and I finished everyone’s beer! I developed a taste for Kenya Lager that never really left me!

Finally – this picture says it all. I tripped over the stones that formed the side of the drive and hurt my knee. It seemed amusing to my parents and they took this photo, which subsequently has become part of family legend. I remember the incident well!


Joan and Pete 1960