It’s the same for all of us – we don’t remember our lives from day one, or from anything soon after. I think my first memory comes from when I was about two years old. I’m told that a problem developed on my left leg, just above the ankle. The whole leg swelled up and the doctor was called. He didn’t seem to think it too much of a problem, but by the time my leg turned black and I couldn’t bear the weight of a sheet on it, it was time to call another doctor. This time osteomyelitis was diagnosed – an abscess on the bone – and an ambulance was called to take me off for an emergency operation. Thankfully I remember nothing of all this, except that my first dim memory is of being in hospital – I know not where – and feeling very sad as my mother had to leave at the end of a visiting time that I really can’t remember well at all.
The only other thing that stands out in my mind from that episode is a little vignette of being loaded into the back of a car to go home with my leg in plaster. I’ve no idea whose car it was for we certainly didn’t have one. I remember it was black, but then weren’t they all in those days? Someone kept saying “Mind his leg!” as presumably it wasn’t easy to tuck anyone with a leg in plaster into the back of a car – even a two-year old.
One of those two doctors clearly saved my life, for there’s no doubt that severe blood poisoning would have done for me had I been left another couple of hours. Doubtless my parents expressed their gratitude: I clearly wasn’t in a position to. The doctors’ practice was on Plains Road, near the top of Portchester. I believe the two main doctors there at the time were Dr Archer and Dr Foy. I recall that Dr Foy had a daughter, Vivienne, who was a contemporary of my brother, John, who’s five years older than me.
They say that as you get older, into your dotage, so your early memories become clearer. That’s a phenomenon that I’m quite happy to wait for – I’m in no rush. At the moment my earliest memories are very foggy, but if I allow myself a few moments of reminiscence, they do start to take shape.