Sunday, 8 June 2014

Nineteen Eighty-Four (as lived by Karl)

Whenever anyone mentions the year 1984, many people will think of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, originally published in 1948. In the novel, Orwell envisioned a future where the whole of humanity was in a permanent state of war, with people completely controlled by the state. Part of this control involved surveillance of the population, with people not always being aware of when they were being watched.

Fortunately, the real 1984 was very much unlike the world depicted by Orwell. I know, because I live through the real 1984 – although I was only 3 at the time. However, during 1984, I myself was under surveillance.

When I was 3 I went to nursery, and the staff at the nursery and my mother would exchange messages about me, in this message book:



I shall now share some of the messages from this book, which offer a glimpse of life in 1984, as well as what 3-year-old Karl was like... [N.B. Most entries aren’t clearly dated.]


Tuesday June 19th 1984

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

Karl has been fine today and enjoyed himself running around in the garden, especially as we had the swimming pool out.

He didn’t eat anything today, so I expect he’ll be very hungry when he gets home. [...]

Love [K]

P.S. Karl has just eaten 1 fish finger and a slice of bread – hooray!!! [...]


Dear [K],

Terrific news about the fish finger – it’s the first time he’s eaten one. [...]

[Karl’s Mother]


So, I can actually pin down the exact date when I first had a fish finger! (And I still like fish fingers...)


Dear [Karl’s Mother],

Karl has been fine today and especially enjoyed himself as we went for a picnic to a park where there were lots of animals. He even ate a cheese sandwich. [...]

Love [K]


22nd June

Dear [K],

[...] You might find Karl a bit tired and ratty today as he refused to go to sleep until after 11 o’clock last night, very unusual for him. He was up at his usual time as well this morning so he might feel like a sleep later on.

See you later,
[Karl’s Mother]


Nowadays, going to bed at 11 counts as an early night for me...


Tuesday June 26th

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

Karl has been fine but was upset for a lot of the morning. Perhaps he was just extra tired.

Hope he’s happier this evening.

[K]


Thursday July 19th

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

Karl has been fine today. He still isn’t eating anything for us. You said he liked egg. How does he like his egg? Have a lovely evening.

Love [R]


20th July

Dear [R],

He likes his eggs very softly boiled and then mashed up in a bowl so he’ll eat it with a spoon. Do let me if you persuade him to eat one then I’ll know not to give him one for his supper.

[Karl’s Mother]


Dear [Karl’s Mother],

He did not eat his egg dinner time.

Have a lovely weekend.

Love [R]


Oh dear, looks like I was a very fussy eater. These days I very rarely eat eggs, and then only as omelettes with lots of cheese. (And only free range eggs.)


Dear [R],

Karl came home from nursery yesterday saying he’d eaten some baked beans when he was with you. Did he? If by some miracle you manage to get him to eat something can you let me know, then I’ll know not to give him so much for his supper. [...]

[Karl’s Mother]


Hello [Karl’s Mother],

[...]

Karl didn’t eat anything, as usual, yesterday. He wanted some rock but [R] said only if he’d eaten some baked beans. Of course he didn’t so he went without rock, much to his disgust.

We didn’t manage any miracles at lunch time today. He picked up his knife and fork, and cut his chips, but didn’t attempt to eat them.

[M]


Now, I want to call a point of order here! Earlier this year, I watched a TV series called “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo”, which was a panel show which looked at so-called facts, and tested to see if they were true. The above messages imply that 3-year-old Karl told a lie about eating baked beans. However, one of the facts tested (and, apparently, proved) on “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo” was that 3-year-olds can’t lie (even when they’ve been naughty) – their brains haven’t developed to the point where they can lie. However, 4-year-olds could lie. At this point I’m about 3 and a half, and so I may have reached the point where I could start to lie. However, I think the jury’s still out on this one...

(Although, if it turns out that I did eat some baked beans, I want my rock!)


Dear [R],

I’ve Karl’s medicine with him again today. Can you give him a dose at 11.30 and again at 3.30, thanks. We’ve found that if you call it his “special Calpol” he has it without any trouble. [...]

[Karl’s Mother]


Hello [Karl’s Mother],

[M] here. We had cheddar cheese slice (puff pastry with sliced boiled egg, cheese and tinned tomatoes) for dinner. As usual Karl wouldn’t eat. After we had all finished I sat with him and fed him a very small piece and he ate the lot!

As a reward he had half a wafer biscuit. He knows that if he eats some of tomorrow’s dinner he will get the other half of the biscuit. You never know, it may work!

He has had quite a good day otherwise.

See you soon.

[M]

P.S. He had a fish finger and half a slice of bread for tea.


Hello [M],

I’m glad Karl ate so much yesterday, he had a good supper as well. [...]

[Karl’s Mother]


Hello [Karl’s Mother],

I’m glad Karl ate some supper, he must be going through an eating phase. He ate some of today’s dinner. He had a Hawaiian croquette (one of our soya meals). [...]

[M]


As you can see, many of the messages were concerned with what I was (and, mainly, wasn’t) eating. I’ll skip most of these sort of messages now, as there’s a lot more to get through!


Tuesday

Hello [Karl’s Mother],

[...]

Tomorrow we are going to Beconsfield Model Village. Then coming back for late lunch. If you want to send any pocket money it would be appreciated.

[A]


Wednesday

Dear [A],

I’m sending 35p for Karl for pocket money. If he seems rather familiar with the place it’s because we went there last Saturday! Have a nice time.

[Karl’s Mother]

P.S. He likes the trains!


Yes, little Karl did like the trains! When I was a little boy I loved trains, and went several times to Beconsfield Model Village, which I believe still exists. It was a large, open air, model village which had lots of model trains going through it...


Hello [Karl’s Mother],

Karl had a lovely time at the model village. He wanted a postcard of the train, and he also got a badge. [...]

[A]

P.S. His change is in the envelope.


Hold on a minute! Let’s look at this again. In 1984 you could buy a postcard AND an badge AND get change from 35p! You wouldn’t be able to do that now. That’s inflation for you...


Wednesday 3rd [October]

Dear [R],

Karl asked for Frosties for breakfast and then wouldn’t eat them. Then he asked for toast and wouldn’t eat that either, so he’s in the doghouse!

All the best,
[Karl’s Mother]


Tuesday 29th [October]

Hello [Karl’s Mother],

Karl ate all his dinner with help. He played in Playhall this afternoon, and this morning we all made little cakes.

Have a lovely evening.

Love [R]


Friday 7th December

Dear [R],

Could you tell [A2] about Karl’s stammer please? I don’t think it’s anything to worry about but I’d like to know what she thinks about it.

Have a nice weekend.

[Karl’s Mother]


Hello [Karl’s Mother],

Karl saw [A2] this afternoon and said his stammer is normal in children his age who try to say too much all at once. [A2] said it’s best to let him finish what he has to say. [...]

Love [R]


To this day I still have a slight issue in trying to say too much at once, with me stumbling over my words. Although, this now only tends to happen if I feel there’s a good chance that I’m likely to be interrupted before I’m allowed to finish what I’m saying, and these situations tend to arise when I have a lot in my head which I’m trying to get out of my mouth...


Tuesday 8th Jan [1985]

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

[...] This afternoon we all went in the garden and had snowball fights and rides on the sledge.

Love [L]


Friday [8th March, 1985]

Dear [F],

[...]

As you can see [Karl] has new bag which he would like to take to nursery with him instead of an old carrier bag. Unfortunately his message book doesn’t fit it so would it be OK if we bought him another one that would?

Have a nice weekend.

[Karl’s Mother]


Dear [Karl’s Mother],

We all love Karl’s new bag, and he’s been very busy showing it to everyone!!

[...]

As I’m writing this, Karl is telling the other children and [A{3?}] the story of Thomas the Tank Engine!!! Very entertaining.


This is the first written evidence of me being a storyteller. By this time I was 4 years old. I’ve always loved telling stories, something I still love to do to this day. What started as me retelling the story of “Thomas the Tank Engine” (there’s that love of trains again!) to everyone when I was 4, in a “very entertaining” manner, would eventually lead on, 22 years later, to me starting to write first drafts of entire novels in just a month. (And to who knows what else in the future...)

Unfortunately, we’re going to have to leave little Karl here, because here’s the final entry from the message book, from the same day:


Dear [Karl’s Mother],

[...]

Yes it will be fine for you to get a book that fits his nice new bag.

Have a good weekend.

[F]


And that, I’m afraid, is where this message book ends, and I don’t have the one that replaced it. But, for me, it was nice to have this glimpse into what part of my life as a little boy was like, and a hint of the early signs of my love of telling stories. Do you have any records of the early parts of your life? And, if so, how do they relate to the person you are now?

Right, I’m now going to be a good boy and go and eat all of my supper!

1 comment:

kirstyross85 said...

Believe it or not I have - somewhere upstairs - the first poem and story I wrote age 6 for my MOCK SAT's in year 2! they were both put on the wall at school and then sent home at the end of the year. For some reason they are both written diagonally over the A4 page but I actually filled 2 sheets! I will have to see if I can dig them out and share them with you - the poem was about Fireworks x