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All Saints' Paston ChurchPaston Lane Peterborough England 1946-1956

How I loved my early childhood. I spent most of my pre school days in the kitchen with my mum, helping her as only a four year old can; and listening to the stories of her life in India.

The youngest of four children, I would spend hours with her, just the two of us, in the busiest room of the house. Singing, baking and playing with water were the order of the day. It was like a modern playgroup but without other children. My siblings were nearly always doing more grown up things.

The fierce heat thrown out from our Beeston barely warmed the cold red flagstones on our kitchen floor, so I huddled up against this coke burning boiler during the bitterly cold winters as I listened to Mum’s stories. Washdays were different. We were lucky enough to have an electrically heated copper with a paddle to agitate the dirty clothes.

The windows and back door were always dripping wet from condensation and the smell of wet laundry was not unpleasant. When the weather was bad, wet clothes were draped over an airer that pulled high up to the ceiling out of the way. I remember sometimes fighting my sister Margaret for the job of raising the pulley.

Ice would form on the inside of the bedroom windows. It froze so hard and I would gaze for ages at the breathtaking patterns formed, some the exact replicas of snowflakes. What fun I had, blowing hot air from my mouth to melt a small peephole.

‘Did your windows freeze when you were a little girl?’ I asked

‘No darling. I lived in India where it is very hot. We did have snow on the high ground when I lived at the foothills of some mountains called the Himalayas. But when the noon day sun shone, the ground below got so hot you could fry an egg on it.’

I tried hard to imagine this scene as I walked into our dark, cold larder to look for eggs. They were kept in a large earthenware pot full of isinglass to preserve them.

Bleak, black winter evenings, I would go outside with Mum to bring in the frozen washing from the line. Trousers formed legs of their own, as they stood upright, frozen solid. We would forget about the washing and holding Mum’s hand, I would gaze up at the stars shining brightly in the clear black sky.

What’s that one called?’

‘That’s the Milky Way. And over there are the Seven Sisters. Oh, look, you can also see The Great Bear.’

How I marvelled at my clever mum. She knew everything. She would cast her eyes across the sky and name every star, every constellation.

‘How do you know all their names?’

‘Because the nuns taught me in India.’

India, always India! A place Mum seemed to love and hate at the same time.

So now I can begin to tell her story...

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The Story of Beatrice Mary Mason. Written by F. J. Louis | Copyright © 2009