BELLA'S ARRIVAL IN TOWN SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF HER SISTER
On my 9th birthday my father gave me a copy of Cautionary Tales by Hilaire Belloc. This sounds like a classic parent to child birthday ritual but it had so much more significance for me. My father who had never lived with us, rarely kept to the tradition of giving his children presents on their actual birthdays. He was more likely to fish out the occasional £20 note from the paint encrusted chef's trousers he wore to work in - that is when I did see him. I had recently returned with my mother and sister from living in Morocco for two years where we had existed in a very hand to mouth way, some of it fun and some of it not fun. We had moved to East Sussex into two rooms of a very old man's small cold house with an outside loo; I remember having a bath in the kitchen sink. So this present on my actual birthday was totally incredible and I loved the outlandish humour of the verses and the hilarious drawings of bad tempered ponies or boys being eaten by lions. I read everything and found the influence of Hilaire Belloc stayed with me, even in this poem of defeat which I composed as response to my sister asking me to move out of our very haunted flat in favour of her friend Janet. I was living in Rome at the time and came back and caused havoc for a few days every three months.