Hailing from a hamlet in Lancashire, more than likely played a part in my desire to travel. Located, 5 miles to the North East of the grimy mill town of Blackburn, Osbaldeston could not be further away in terms of an idyllic setting to bring up your children. Higher Commons Lane, was home to some of the richest folk in Lancashire, our family were (fortunately) not amongst them. How different my life would have been, had that been the case! The Mitton's were possibly the poorest people in the hamlet, residing in a 16th century rented cottage "Sykes Cottage",at a cost of £6 per week (although this was waivered because my mum did the milk round for the neighbouring farm). This may sound fantastic, and probably would have been if the toilet were not outside and the house actually had a bathroom, instead of a sink in the kitchen that lifted up to reveal a bath.
From outside, the cottage looked just perfect and the large front garden certainly made up for the lack of heating and consequent dampness. The garden and the lane that fronted our house were our world. My sister and I would venture up and down Higher Commons lane, passing such landmarks as Lassie the farm dog on her wall top perch, the oak tree that I once got stuck up for hours (although the lowest branch was only 3 ft from the ground), and the hedge where my sister was bitten by a bat (which we nurtured and later released, only to find it upside down drowned in the paddling pool the following morning). If we went in the opposite direction, we would cross the babbling brook, where I painfully saw my toy hovercraft drift from my grasp, and beyond to the shed where I drank liquid from a very old bottle and caused a panic in the Mitton household resulting in the doctor rushing to our house. I only lived in Sykes Cottage for the first 6 years of my life, but these were the formative years and hold extremely fond memories for me.
During those 6 years, the sheer isolation of the place taught me many things. First and foremost, it taught me to be alone, as I wandered around the garden creating my own entertainment. I learnt to find pleasure in the intricacies of life. The joy of watching the seasons change, each season providing new attractions for an inquisitive young mind. Maybe, it was loneliness, that led me to the pleasures of twiddling. A strange yet, hypnotic habit that I taught myself at an early age and continued well beyond the age that it should have ceased. Twiddling, was a name conjured up by my overactive imagination. In the beginning, I would take a blade of grass and split it in two. Not any old grass mind, it had to be exactly the right colour, width and length, which is why only I, could ever pick it. I would then place the grass between my forefinger, thumb and index finger and manoeuvre it in a controlled manner. The pace of the twiddler, determined my mood or was the other way around. At times, the blade of grass would hardly be moving at all and I would feel calm and serene. The next moment the grass would be moving at a ferocious pace and I would feel ecstatic and full of the joys of the world. With twiddler in hand I would spend hours in a hypnotic state of pure zen bliss. Over the years, the twiddler evolved from grass to Iris leaves, Iris leaves to strips of plastic, strips of plastic to Christmas tinsel and finally to rubber bands. Rubber bands, of a certain thickness, were my preference for many years until I finally forced myself to kick the habit well into my twenties.
Of course, my twiddling habit did not go unnoticed and believe it or not other kids at my school wanted in. Maybe they saw the look of ecstasy on my face as I sped up and slowed down with twiddling precision. Jealous of my trance like state and oblivion to the world around me. For my habit was not confined to the privacy of my own space. My twiddler accompanied me everywhere I went, the school bus, the classroom, the playground, the dinner hall. You name it, my twiddler was there. In fact, you can safely say that my twiddler played it's part in me leaving school aged 16 with a very low level of educational achievement.
Such was their persistence to learn the art of twiddling, that I finally gave in and set up my own school of twiddling excellence. Even at a young age, I knew that this was an exercise in futility because twiddling was not something that could be taught, it was an innate feeling -a gift that only I was born with. But what the hell, Claire Mather wanted to learn and I would do anything to impress, the love of my infant school life. So it was, that a bunch of wannabe twiddlers gathered in Sykes Cottage garden, behind the newly constructed shed and the twiddling lessons commenced. The twiddling school was even given a name, a name which only the logic of a 5 year old mind could possible come up with.
Polly Parrot school, may have only run for two 15 mintute sessions over a period of a week but it will forever live on in my memory and hopefully the memories of all that attended.