One of Britain’s best-loved children’s authors, Allan Ahlberg tells us about his own oddly enchanted childhood lived out in the Black Country during the 1940s.
He remembers a father in overalls smelling of wood shavings and oil, of a fiercely protective mother who cries when he discovers that he is adopted, of life insurance policies (‘£6 if the child dies under age 3′) and fearsome bacon slicers. And of his first days at school: ‘Allan could do much better. He is most inattentive and dreamy at times’ (school report, December 1946).
‘My mother, who was not my mother, I see her now, her raw red cleaner’s hands twisting away at her apron as she struggled to speak. Adoption was a shameful business then in many people’s eyes, the babies being mostly illegitimate. Better not speak of it.’