Memories of childhood are haphazard things. They are events in another dimension, knife-edged and inapprehensible, shifting on the axis of an instant from oblivion to coloured reality and back again. At a word, a sound, a gesture, time falls away like a cast skin and the cricket bat is alive in your hands, slipping at the command of twelve-year-old muscle and nervous strength into the unrepeatable leg glide, with grass, sky and summer heat long wintered, a cloaking universe about you. Those are the memories that surprise; they come more often as the dividing years stretch longer, and flame with greater brilliance – perhaps against a world grown greyer and less real. But there are others less wilful, more ready to the tired mind’s evocation. These you can call up and, more or less obediently, they come. Queen’s Gate, I remembered. Queen’s Gate. 1903?
’03 or ’04. It was difficult to remember whether I was eight or nine. I was nine when I went to St. Nette’s but I had no idea now whether my first summer in London came that year or the one before. I remembered only fragments of the train journey – noise and movement and the unbearably exciting smell of the London station; that smell that to-day is only oil and smoke. And later, drowsiness – wonder and disappointment and drowsiness in the strange house where people’s voices seemed to echo from the great mirrors in the hall, and there was meaningless, tantalizing, grown-up laughter from the open door of the drawing-room as I was taken upstairs to bed.