After her divorce from our father Mum took us to live in the Isle of Man for a year and a half. We cleared Stoke-on-Trent in a midnight runner and journeyed over on the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferry. The flit was in aid of ‘getting away from it all’- our destination was a pub and Pleasure Gardens in a small town called Ballasalla. Henry, our Spanish stepfather, was to manage this for a friend of his, Larry the Greek, who had a Triumph Stag which blew up an engine every six months (this was apparently what they did); Larry taught me to make moussaka, the one he put together in the kitchen there remains the best I’ve ever had. I think he was the first person I ever saw slice potatoes on a mandolin. There was a river adjacent to the pub, and a wood nearby with a rope swing over a vertiginous incline into which we frequently fell and with scramble paths for bikes where we could break our collar bones. The pleasure facility was called the Rushen Abbey Gardens; day trippers came to eat the famous local strawberries which, in truth, were imported from Liverpool every day. I was thirteen then and, in a conceptually intact motif, was allowed to work thirteen hours a day in the canteen; Henry had some story that for me to work longer than this was illegal as they could only pay a child of my age a certain maximum wage and thirteen mutliplied by seven days a week was the threshold. I did not mind, I had access to a fridge full of choc ices which is a short cut to making friends when you are a new kid in town.
This picture below has emerged from Mum’s photos. It’s my sister on the ferry over (the midnight runner turned into a daytime crossing).
‘Who is that with her?’ I asked Mum.
‘Just somebody who was on the boat, duck,’ she replied.
‘You look good in that shawl,’ I said to Diane.
‘That’s not a shawl it’s a poncho,’ Diane replied.
‘I was always crocheting them for you, wasn’t I?’ Mum said.
‘Yes,’ replied Diane, ‘I was right into them.’
Diane goes as the ginger Macy Gray, age 6