When I was seven or eight years old I was not allowed out in the street to play with the other kids. I remember some nights staring from my bedroom window wondering why I was different.
My grandfather, Fred, would occasionally make the long trip north from Andover to Manchester, just to escape Mrs Kipper. One glorious evening he had words with Peg, my mother, and I was finally allowed my escape – I can still remember the sense of elation as I ran down drive the drive to join the others. From then on I was the same.
Ironically, Fred had a reputation for iron discipline but, even if this were true, times were different. My mother was just sixteen as war broke out and there were army camps nearby; Fred knew all about the military. Growing up a teenage boy in semi-urban Cheshire was a world away from Andover in the 1930s but the inherited rules were the same. When I needed Fred the most he was already gone – the Carnival King died in 1966.
This photograph captures his spirit best – Mayor Carcetti thinks he is taking centre stage but the real star is my grandfather, wearing the Carnival Queen’s crown and smiling like an errant schoolboy.
I had thought to write that May, his wife, is not present – she is at home stoking the fires of her resentment. But, enlarged and repaired, I now realise that she is sat to the left of him in the photograph, smiling widely – just shows what I know: