It is !946, I am in our kitchen with my sister Iris she has just finished knitting a sort of jumper and I am trying it on for the first time. All is not well.

“Look at you, Alan, how could anyone think that you would ever come to anything standing like that”?

‘And another thing, why don’t you have your hair cut, it must get in your eyes”.

These are cruel words to say to anyone, leave alone to an exceedingly tall and skinny fourteen-year-old boy with a voice impediment.

But that is my sister Iris, she doesn’t beat about the bush.

“It’s the way you hold yourself, you are not making any effort are you”?

“Dark green cardigans with big white buttons are for old people not for teenager’s” I say.

“Teenager’s, where do you get all these American slang words from, anyway it’s not a cardigan it’s a smoking jacket”.

“A smoking jacket! I don’t even smoke”.

And so, the afternoon drags on, I start to stammer, and my eye begins to twitch, a sure sign of stress.

Let me introduce Iris, aged twenty-four, she is the second eldest of our family of eight children—she is treating me as if she is my mother. Soon I will start my first job, and she has taken it upon herself to ‘Sort me out’ and to make me stand up for myself. To Iris clothes will make all the difference.

I am quite happy as I am, admittedly, my mates are always somebody else’s best friends. I just hang about hoping to be picked to do something with them. This is the fate of any-one who is shy and a bit odd. It isn’t my fault though, As Iris says, it is just the way I stand. 

Being tall is usually something that short people would like to be, and they are always very upright. But when you are fourteen and over six feet tall you try to make yourself shorter, and this can make you stand in a rather odd way.

Now, seventy years later I am once again in a kitchen with my sister Iris, she is over ninety—and still behaves as if she is my mother.

Since I retired, I have been putting together a scrapbook with photos and stories of our family. Iris is going to tell me of the early years. I have heard bits of it mentioned from time to time but whenever it came up my mother would change the subject.

The story that my sister tells me will soon have both of us in tears. I have taken her words and fashioned them—with a bit of fictionalisation into one of my scrapbook stories.

It is a long story and I will post in parts.

Author: madeinchertsey

Born in 1932, this is a collection of stories of my childhood growing up in Chertsey, and some stories of my later life.

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