parents

I was a late arrival in our family – my mother was 42 when I was born – and both my mother and my father were remarkable people, each in their own way. Their own story stretched back to their first meeting in 1935 – in a mountain refuge in the Dolomites, when my mother was still married to her first husband – and had taken its course through her divorce, her difficult departure from Denmark, three years of bliss in Warlingham, and the inevitable damage wrought by war and my mother’s nervous breakdown. Not to mention a reunion that was scarred by her conversion to the Catholic faith – which did not recognise their marriage. And yet, despite everything, my parents were together for more than 60 years. And – ‘different’ as they were – I could not have asked for better.

The piper in the loft

The piper in the loft

Long before our loft was converted for the sole use of the son of the household, strange noises could frequently be heard coming from (usually) the front room. The sounds I was making as I learned the fingering for my recorder. The idea came from my mother, who had...

An evening at the circus

An evening at the circus

My father’s job as a sub-editor on the Sporting Life came with a few rather curious fringe benefits. But the one I particularly remember is his annual invitation to the first performance at Bertram Mills Circus. Because we didn’t just see the performance. We also went...

The boy in the attic

The boy in the attic

Triang's model of the 'Princess Royal' - pride of my model railway collection. However much you love a young son, the time will come when you may well wish that he had a place of his own to play... For me, that wish was fulfilled - in spades - as I turned 11. We'd...

Out and about in Woldingham

Out and about in Woldingham

My childhood was - in comparison with what most children today experience - one long adventure. The 1950s were in some ways a more innocent time (and certainly less paranoid). It was quite normal for even quite young children to be out all day, and sometimes a long...

Encounters with mortality

Encounters with mortality

My much-loved Uncle Herman died while I was still very young. My mother - naturally - wanted to attend his funeral. And, with some considerable hesitation, took me along as well. What she hadn't counted on was the open coffin. So what did I see? I saw my uncle -...

Denmark – my motherland

Denmark – my motherland

Visiting my Danish grandmother ('Mormor') in her flat - the portrait on the right is of my Uncle Herman The arrival of a new scion of the Tofte clan - me - needed celebration in true Danish style. But in the early years of my life I wasn't well enough to travel. That...

Life with father

Life with father

Building the Great Wall of China (with, please note, some very early Lego bricks). I'd obviously been reading Wonders of the Past... My father was not like other fathers. For one thing, his job as a sub-editor on the Sporting Life meant that he left home after lunch...

Saving the baby

Saving the baby

Church Road in 1953. My mother - and my pram - are outside number 3. What would you do if your child looked to be dying before your eyes? I think that was my father's situation in 1953 - the Coronation year. He and my mother had been through the mill - over and over...

Mother love – beyond price

Mother love – beyond price

 With my mother, Minna, shortly after my birth - a tiny, sickly baby. To those who barely knew her, my mother (or 'my Minna', as I called her - because my father did!) was 'the perfect lady', speaking excellent, virtually unaccented English.  She always came across as...

The ‘miraculous child’

The ‘miraculous child’

I shouldn't really be here at all. And the very fact that I've achieved the standard 'three score years and ten' is surprising in itself. Because my mother was told - categorically, by a respected Harley Street specialist - that she could never bear a child. There...