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Ann

 

Ann lives at the end of a corridor within a large and rather shabby nursing home. Few people walk past. The unit is exceptionally noisy, with the sounds of numerous televisions and radios, and many residents calling out for help. Ann’s room has more than the usual number of photographs and keepsakes. During my visits, Ann would sit quietly with her eyes closed attempting to remember incidents from her childhood. Although it would have been simple to rearrange the fragments into a conventional timeline it would not have conveyed the disjointed, self-questioning way in which her story was remembered.

I’m Ann but the little girls here always call me Annie.                     I have no one to talk to… nudge me if I’m sleeping… you have my permission. I’d have my hair dyed for you but I don’t do anything like that now. I think my mother had a child older than me but she died… a dear little soul… the only one gone so far                     I remember…

                                         Yes, I remember sitting outside… being in the yard licking a strawberry… I remember sitting in the yard beside the outside toilet. Not a strawberry… we never had strawberries… so say it was a little biscuit… I was four… one hundred years ago.

Do you see how old my hands are today?                     Just today it’s happened.                   Today?                    

My brother made model aeroplanes.                     I could run… yeah… I was running.                     My brother, would you like to speak to him?

My sister was a scatterbrain.

I was lonely… I don’t know why… a lot of children are lonely… I don’t think I talked very much.

                    Oh, a thought…                    I had a wonderful doll’s house… such a wicked thing my mother did… she gave it to the school. A beautiful doll… I broke her head… Rosalie was her name… two sets of clothes… she gave it away… she gave my doll’s house away.                    A good photograph                     it’s old… just after the war… nothing was done for the soldiers… nothing was done.

                    These photographs… they’re all in old rooms… all very old-fashioned clothes… I wonder why?                     I had ribbons… oh, my beautiful bows… just two outfits… my mother was very cross with me spoiling my dress.

                   I remember a photograph was taken for Aunty to take back to America… she married a man called George Isaac Fisk… an American.                     Louise stayed outside waiting… playing games along the road… she lived                     further away… on a farm. Together we would call for                     Billy Easton. Oh, I’ve never forgotten that boy… I lost him… then we had to go to school… up the road… pulled down only recently                     in                     Middlesbrough… oh, you’ve missed a treat if you’ve not been… 1909 I was born… going back a way. I’ve got it written in my book but it’s not in any order… it’s such a jumble.

I found a letter… two pages, I think…

Donald told the bus conductor that I’d developed a crush on him… he seemed to think it was important. Donald Rosalie… Rosalie was my friend.                     I was left alone, in Ireland… to convalesce with a new family… I think I had to go to hospital. I was rickety.                     I got very good at being alone. I’m pretty certain I remember                     Alice? A memory of her… a servant… not in our family… we took… I took… it’s gone.                   

My father was an erector… he would spend his time working… I would run with him.                     My grandmother was a horrible person… she was cold… rather superior. And I was cross with my mother… she was a teacher. She always had her strict schoolteacher voice on. My mother argued with her sister, jealousy, I think. She took my doll’s house away.

I was a teacher… all subjects… the whole lot… then I moved to Nottingham and then I think I’m right in saying I stayed there until I got married                     my husband came from Derbyshire… I met him at my brother’s party… his 21st birthday party… I loved him dearly… he had another girl with him and I had another boy… but we soon discarded that life… he was a research physicist… interesting. I’d quite forgotten that until I said it.

                    Dad was an athlete… there was a photograph of him running in fast times…  I would run with him… ten miles… a long time ago but it’s all there.

Rosalie… something like that… it comes to mind.

My aunt gave me the doll… she already had her name. Mother… was… very… cross… with… me… she broke its head… she gave away the doll’s house… gave it to the school… harsh… she had a fiery temper                     The soldiers were coming back. It was pathetic.                    Was it 1949? Where are we?                     Oh by the way I forgot to tell you we had a bridge in Middlesbrough. I rode high up on the bridge in a little house high up above the river… a long time ago, at the end of time                    I remember my father holding me against the cold glass.                     Looking down on the river. I’d love to know what happened to Billy… he was short… five-foot-six, that’s all we were… five or six… I never saw him again… I can’t remember the girl… she was handsome and I was jealous. I’d love to know what happened to Billy.                    Louise was killed… getting off a bus… unfortunate.                    Donald… my brother… Second World War he designed an aircraft… a nice huge one… famous really for it. He remembers all the stories.

We were left to do the play on our own.  I don’t remember the war at all. Just the men who came back… we felt, more or less, the memory of the war… the people who got discharged… people were very cruel to them.                    I’m very sad today… I’ve just found out my friend has died. I don’t know who he was… they just said your friend Monroe has died… a friend… a naughty boy… he was 65. That’s what they said… isn’t it sad that I don’t know who he was?

Billy Easton… I can see him now… short… very short… wavy hair. We were playing in the street. That day, two men, I remember, two men passed me on a cart… with horses… mother pulling me along the street to school. I was so fond of Billy… my first boyfriend. Billy gave me a kiss… that was the only fire we had… mother was always trying to make a little bit of money… she thought I was going to die. I came back the day before Christmas. Aunt and Great-Uncle bought the dolls house… he was an American man… an older man… the doll, I think that I’m right in saying, had an American name. My lovely doll’s house… she gave it to the schooool……………

I remember my confirmation dress… my teddy club badge. Mother was very cross that day when I spilt the powdered egg… we didn’t have much money… difficult for children… no other dress to wear. She broke my doll’s head because I spoiled my dress. An accident. Mother took me to school that day… and left me.

Billy disappeared… tubby! What happened? Billy didn’t last long… he was short and fat and I was tall and thin… didn’t have much money.

Did I mention about the fleas jumping off the bed? When she took the covers off the bed you could see them jump out.

What happened to my husband? I think he’s still around… Monday we met… Friday we went to the cinema. I don’t know that I ran with him. Not Donald… his name was William… William. On the Friday we went out to the pictures… what did we see? Something about… a good film… then we went for a walk… somewhere… he kissed me… we walked… and we went for a longer walk… and a longer walk… and we rested in a field and then he kissed me.