In a previous post, I featured a faded 1965 copy of the Daily Worker which my parents had kept because it carried Brother 1’s name, as 8-year-old runner-up in its children’s art competition. When I came across this equally age-yellowed page of the Morning Star (the Communist newspaper which incorporated the Daily Worker in 1966) in the archives, I couldn’t help cringing. The page, from the Friday May 23rd 1975 issue of the newspaper (which is mostly concerned with canvassing for a No vote in the forthcoming Common Market referendum) has been carefully folded to show the weekly children’s section, Discoverers. And there in print is some truly awful teenage poetry, penned by a 13-year old yours truly. I can remember sending my poems to the paper without telling my parents, not expecting them to be printed but thinking it would be a nice surprise for them if it was. I came down to breakfast that Friday to find their faces lit with warm delight and pride, and I glowed with embarrassed pleasure. I experienced some of those emotions again when I found this scrap of paper, which they had kept so proudly, despite the appalling standard of the poems themselves. Suffice to say, I don’t think I inherited my Dad’s gift for poetry! (Click to enlarge the image if you really want to read them – I can’t bring myself to type them out). I can only imagine that Discoverers wasn’t exactly swamped with contributions from young readers of the Morning Star!
The Morning Star itself holds many memories for me, one of which stands out. When I was about 6 or 7 we had a new teacher at primary school; perhaps it was the first day of a new school year. As a way of getting to know us (the implications of which I would not understand until many years later), he asked each member of the class in turn to say which newspaper their parents read. Names which meant nothing to me (nor, I suspect, to any of us) were repeated around the room: the Telegraph, Times, Daily Mail, Guardian, Sun, Mirror (Barnes was a very mixed place back in the 1960s, not the exclusively wealthy area it is today). Mine was the only little voice out of the 20 or so to say “The Morning Star”. I remember this clearly as the first moment in my life when I realised that my family was somehow different from others. As a child, everything around you is “normal” to you until you are told otherwise. I have never forgotten this early experience, reinforced by the reactions of those around me, of feeling “different” from the norm.
I still experience this feeling on a regular basis but I am quite comfortable with it these days! More to follow about the Morning Star, and its impact on our family life, in future posts.