My parents have had a rough couple of weeks. They had a flood in their lounge caused by a burst pipe under the floor, resulting in the whole carpet being lifted up and no heating since it happened. They still won’t have any warmth in the house for at least two more weeks as they’re waiting for the system to be replaced. So my Dad has been up in the loft to clear it ready for the work to commence and one of the things he retrieved was a cardboard box which contains old school books that my brother and I had brought home a long, long time ago.
Excitedly, my daughter and I went through it to see what I was like at that young age. What type of pictures did I draw? How was my spelling? But, more importantly for me, what was my storytelling like then? Would I find signs that I’d one day be a writer? Well, there was never any doubt that my imagination has always been vivid, and my books proved that. And I’ll admit that I can over-exaggerate things sometimes… But I never knew quite how much.
So, here it is… the proof. Penny Canvin aged 8 was asked, along with her classmates, to write about what she did at the weekend. My best friend Wendy and I had both gone to a travelling circus which had come to our village. In those days, a circus had clowns and trapeze artists but also live, wild animals performing (yes, i know, but it was ‘normal’ back in those days). So, we both wrote about our day at the circus.
Wendy’s version: Wendy wrote about how we went to the circus, queued for 55 minutes and watched the ringmaster and the lions. A nice story, full of truth, and most probably in her beautiful neat handwriting accompanied with a brill illustration (not that I’m jealous or anything).
Here’s my actual written account of the day. What the teacher must have thought I have no idea…:
One day I heard my mum and dad say ‘We shall take Penny to the circus’. So I asked if Wendy could come and they said yes. We went to my friend’s but her mum said ‘no, you dare take Wendy to the circus, she is mental’. (Now, this is the first untruth as Wendy is most definitely not, or ever has been, ‘mental’.)
‘No she’s not’, I said.
‘Ok’, said her mum Liz and we went to the car holding hands. But my parents and brother had been sick so they went home and we went by ourselves to the circus.
We went inside the tent and got a seat. The circus began. The Ringmaster said ‘Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls, we shall now have the clowns.’ The funny clowns came on and we started to laugh. They threw apple pies (I’m pretty sure these would have been custard pies, but let’s not get picky) at each other and went off. The Ringmaster came in and said ‘A dreadful thing has happened. A man has put some stuff in the drinks and people have fainted.’ All the people let out a big scream and ran out of the tent expect for me and Wendy.
‘I think I know who it is that put stuff into the drinks’, I said.
‘Who?’ asked Wendy.
‘Listen,’ I said, ‘if the clowns were in the ring and the other people were getting ready, it was the Ringmaster who must have done it’. We shouted at the Ringmaster, ‘Come here! You killed the people.’ (Not quite sure how it went from people fainting to being killed)
‘OK, I give up’, he said, ‘I killed them.’ Then I heard Wendy let out a big scream. The lions were out and we ran out of the tent and became heroes (?) but the Ringmaster was killed. We put the lions into the cages.