The absolute terror of my early childhood


One of my earliest memories is of dreading bedtime every night when I was a small child of two or three. I should explain that back then we lived in a four hundred year old Flemish farmhouse, which is still on the farm to this day. I know because one of the first things I did when I came back to Beccles was to cross town to walk the mile and a quarter from the town sign to touch the southern wall of the house I called home back then.


Its only heating was from the ancient coal-fired range in the kitchen and the heavily sooted open fireplace in the living room. While it had electricity and running water, we all used to wash ourselves in a tin bath in front of the fire. As for the toilet it was a soil closet which dad used to empty every couple of days, digging its contents into the vegetable garden. Which probably accounts for my abhorrence of vegetables to this day! When the wind blew the old house positively creaked and groaned like an old sailing ship as its ancient whitewashed rammed earth walls and thatched roof were buffeted. The old place used to have a cellar back in the sixteenth century. Thank god it was filled with sand and sealed up otherwise I would probably have found my way down to it, never to be seen again!

The larger of the two windows of what used to be my bedroom is in the western wall, looking out onto the back garden. A much smaller one is high in the eastern wall above where my bed lay. It looks out on the farmyard from beneath the eaves. But it was far too high for me to climb up to back then. My bed’s headboard was closest to the door in the southern internal wall at the top of the stairs, directly opposite the priest hole. But that’s a story for another time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

For me bedtime was always at seven-thirty pm, after listening to a comedy program like Hancock’s Half Hour, The Goons or Take It From Here on the radio. Then it was the climb up the stairs to bed, dreading what I knew was to come.

After mum had tucked me into bed and closed the door, I lay on my preferred side, my left. This meant that until my eyes closed I was looking across the bedroom directly at the western window. While I was still fully awake there was no problem. But when I started to drift off, sooner or later my terror would begin. To my mind the window grew in size. The more it grew, the louder I screamed.

For many months my parents took it in turns to try to comfort me when I screamed at the top of my voice, by turning me over onto my right side facing the wall. Or by holding me while reading a story in the vain hope of my falling asleep. But it was all to no avail.

Then one night the problem was solved. As usual within a few minutes of being tucked up in bed, the window began to grow in size and I began to scream. On hearing me, both mum and dad burst into the room just as a heavy truck passed by the house. Every time this happened the old house shook because it was built directly on oak floor beams set in troughs on the ground, just as Anglo-Saxon houses had been, thousands of years earlier. Combine the house shaking with the fact that because of its great age, its internal upper storey floor beams had warped, meant that whenever a heavy vehicle passed close to the thick southern wall, my bed slid gently downhill on the bare oak floorboards towards the western window.

After dad had stuck wedges under the bed’s legs to counter the problem, I slept the sleep of the innocent from then on, until my tenth year when we said goodbye to the farm and emigrated to another farm in New Zealand.

I’ve often wondered why my parents didn’t make the connection earlier between the nightly passing of an HGV and my bed being vibrated across the floor, making the window appear to grow, scaring the living daylights out of me?




14 thoughts on “The absolute terror of my early childhood

  1. Hindsight is so better than foresight. LOL. When we lived at the turkey farm, my brother and I shared a bedroom upstairs – it had one window which was the invisible divider of our joint bedroom. He had the south end, I had the north end. I never screamed but I got scared several times when a scratchy tapping sounded on the glass. Our beds were against the outside wall and only the window separated our so-called headboards. I accused my younger brother of the shenanigan but he denied it. We finally discovered, when the wind blew from the northwest, the tree outside our window, to the north and basically out of view, would bend and stretch, allowing the tips of the branches to scratch the window. It all stopped when the tree was cut down. Well, not really – my kid brother would try to imitate the sounds to scare me.

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      • I try to avoid doors and windows but at this house the bed is either between 2 windows or on the opposite wall. So, opposite wall it is – and when I sleep on my left side I face the open bedroom door which opens to the hallway with the living room arch, 2 other bedroom doorways and the main bathroom. Need I explain how my heart reacts when the grandchildren come to stay and they stand at the doorway to awake me in the middle of the night?

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  3. I had the experience of someone trying to break into my rented room in a boarding house, when I was a young woman. To this day, I only feel safe if I can sleep facing the door & close to a window to escape through (which is how I got away before he busted the door and got into room) –
    Over the years, and through visits to the chiropractor for torso/rib cage pain/back pain, I always seem to injure/move my ribs out of place….
    I just started going to a new provider, and after having ‘ribs put back in’ each time, I finally asked, “I seriously do not know how I continue to have ribs out of place! I’m not even doing a lot of physical work just now, mainly computer work” and she said, “Are you a side sleeper?” and I said yes, sorta (half stomach, twisted to see the door, otherwise, I can’t sleep- LOL) and she said,
    “That puts pressure on your ribs, they have to shift or break – so they shift. I’m a side sleeper, so I have to have my ribs put back in place every so often, too.”
    All these years, when told ribs out of place, I could quickly think back to ‘of course, I moved that heavy stump and was at odd angle” or “yeah, the wind rather got that outsized piece of sheet rock away from me”, etc., etc., Turns out, until I learn how to sleep differently, it will just need some ‘maintenance’ every once in awhile – LOL

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    • I sleep on my left side. Have done ever since I can remember, half on my stomach. I know, I know! Yes I’m putting pressure on my heart which has an irregular beat. But I’m still here in my seventy-second year…

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      • LOL – – Yup – there are things I do that every provider in modern medicine AND traditional sources tells me is ‘bad for my health’ – (omnivore, bread is the staff of life, imbiber, nicotine addict, push my limits until what needs be done is done, etc.) to me?

        Life is too short even if I live to be 120 -to learn, explore and do what all I dream of –

        … and too long, sometimes, to spend it being miserable trying to adopt various ‘improvements’ that just – are – NOT – me – – ๐Ÿ™‚

        Too many other wonderful ways to spend my time than to try to pursue the illusion of immortality – ๐Ÿ™‚

        I’m under no illusions concerning my mortality – I have glimpsed the doorway 3 times in my life – and once during which I was blissfully unaware/have no memory of – (surgery that held surprises for the surgeon, who got me through it, nonetheless) –

        There have been times when I was so weary from the many challenges/burdens to carry here in material world, work to be done, etc., I was rather mad at those who said “Stay with me, stay with me” – even though they were just doing their job – –

        I try to improve my soul, aspire to be good of heart & mind intentions – but on the ‘keeping my physical body alive forever’ advice fronts?

        Meh – maybe I will, maybe I won’t – I don’t yearn to live forever other than in hopes what I work on today, will have some positive ripple affects down the line? Who knows? But looking young, being perfectly in shape with western vision of ‘health & beauty”? Seriously, I find a body worn through lifetime of service to be beautiful – ๐Ÿ™‚

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