In my performance-best dress of blue gingham, lace trim and full-frill, my hair brushed and cheeks flushed, I scratch at my violin (I only know one tune) to a full room in June on the other side of the world. A fat blue sponge is my shoulder rest and coloured stickers guide my fingers sharp or flat.
My brother watches and shooshes, as I did when he stood. Poe-faced, he read a poem from home and we all laughed at the quardle-oodle-ardle the wardle and the doodle. But his recitation had such conviction and a concert means we’re leaving soon.
We’ve been the only children for miles in this bleak Birmingham borough, this house full of Quakers and travellers. And perhaps in this whole country, where school is punishment, school lunch detention, and singing on the bus not allowed.
We’ll be six and eight forever in the photos we took. Sitting in train stations, standing by landmarks, pointing beneath street signs of places we’ve been, places we’re headed, and those which remind us of home.
Now we must pack our souvenirs: buttons and badges from the British Museum, T-shirts of Buckingham Palace, of Postman Pat, his Royal Mail van and his black and white cat. The poems we wrote in the laundromat.
We arrived in homemade jerseys, homespun and bark-dyed, we’re leaving now in summer, pale faced and dark eyed.