If you follow this series, you’re going to have to get used to random juxtapositions. Footage of dogs chasing each other will suddenly cut to a local shopping trip, as happens here. It is the tail end of the sixties, and two dogs are running in circles around a small, largely paved-over back garden. One – the golden retriever – is our family pet, a staple now of my online security questions, so I will draw a veil over his name. The other is the poodle belonging to my paternal grandmother, whose back garden and patio this is. The golden retriever runs through these films much as he does through my mind, invariably chasing or gnawing at a small punctured ball. He belongs to the first eight years of my life, and must have died some time before the second half of my childhood began, in another part of the country, because he did not travel with us. My grandmother’s poodle was long-lived, eventually replaced by Dalmatians, a constant trip hazard to an elderly woman in a small house, resulting in broken bones late in her life.
Cut to my mother leaving the house looking very swinging sixties in an orange mini-skirted dress and calf-length boots, carrying the infant me. I’m put in the cot in the old-fashioned motor car, while the golden retriever provides continuity by running out of the previous scene and into this one, joining me on the backseat. My mother then reappears on the high street of a town I know to be Epsom. We see Finlays the tobacconists, the long since defunct Charter Inn, and Meakers, men’s outfitters, as well as chain stores still familiar in the UK, Burton and Boots.
My father shoots the traffic, and – not untypically for him – lets the camera wander after a bare-legged girl walking along on the other side of the street, before returning to my mother crossing the busy road. ‘A man who never sees a pretty girl that he doesn’t love her a little’, as the Sea And Cake song has it. People wait in a long, orderly crocodile for a bus in front of the long-lost pub. It’s late summer or early autumn, 1968. You can almost hear the Kinks’ ‘Days’ or Dusty Springfield’s ‘I close my eyes and count to ten’ drifting from the window of one of the passing cars, or from the open door of a shop. And again comes the wondering, where are all those patiently waiting people now? What were their lives like? If not in the ground or tossed as ashes into the air, do they ever remember those endless minutes queuing for a bus on Epsom High Street?
Cut to later that same sunny day, and a brief shot of the chef from the restaurant next to the golf driving range run by my father, followed by footage of two little twin girls eating chocolate, one of them clinging to her father’s leg, perhaps a little awed by the strangeness of the camera.
And now comes my first act of self-censorship, as the rest of the reel features me baby-naked in my cot, looking up into my birdie mobile (thus explaining my later ornithological leanings). While I haven’t got a problem with you seeing me in what in those days they might have euphemistically called the altogether, I suspect YouTube would have. And I suppose I don’t really want images of what would subsequently become my manhood floating all over the internet, so… cut!