Woodland sunlight I noticed in the New Forest in October 13th, 2012, took me back to July 1967. It was in a wood in Sussex that Michael and I had stopped off for a play en route to Brighton where, the summer after Vivien died, I planned a bed-and-breakfast tour of the south coast with our son.
The photograph I took of that scene could well have been captioned ‘Where’s Michael?’. After our break we travelled on to Brighton to find a bed and breakfast establishment. Of course we had to spend some time on the beach first. Although the weather was hot and humid the sky was completely overcast, so I thought a short time would be safe enough. Not so. After 50 minutes Michael was covered in blisters which required dressing in a hospital casualty department. The nurse there was very understanding and gentle in her explanation to this rather daft Dad that the sun can penetrate cloud cover and blonds burn more easily than people with dark hair. That was the end of our holiday. Michael was safer whilst I was able to receive the benefit of advice from Veronica Rivett, my future mother-in-law, with whom we then stayed.
This was the year that my little boy began Day Nursery attendance, in order to give my own mother respite from sharing herself between Michael and his Uncle Joseph, just three years older. By then I was working as an Assistant Child Care Officer in Kingston. I would travel from Kingston to Wimbledon to pick him up by 6.00 p.m.
One evening I arrived to find him missing. “Where [wa]s he?”, I asked, to be told that he had been taken to hospital because he had had a fit. No attempt had been made to contact me. No apparent knowledge of the history that had led to his admission to the nursery. Perhaps a concerned single father was beyond their ken.
I was able to collect him because he had apparently undergone infantile convulsions following a measles vaccination. There are details of this event that I can’t quite remember. My mother could probably have filled me in, but she is no longer with us.