I have an older brother and a younger sister, as such, was the Child
Psychologist's perfect stereotype of The Middle Child Syndrome. My elder brotherwas allowed to stay up later, to be in charge in the absence of our parents and worst of all, was perpetually held up as a paragon of virtue. My younger sibling was
the "baby" of the house and subsequently had to be deferred to and treated very
To add insult to injury I had also been born a tomboy. I was always climbing
trees, scrambling over walls, kicking stones in the gutter and playing
football. Dad, who had the unenviable task of cleaning the household footwear
every evening, became increasingly more incensed at the state of my scuffed toes
and heels. One particular evening I was set to work with polish and cloths and
ordered to make my shoes look respectable. It was an impossible task that
later multiplied when I subsequently had to spend hours cleaning both myself
and the kitchen floor.
The next misdemeanor involved several neighbours. Outside every house on our
road was a small patch of grass. Every Sunday afternoon lawnmowers could be heard
up and down the road when everyone tended their plot. The only reason I was
aware of this flurry was because of the lovely smell of newly mown grass all
along the road afterwards. I wasn't the slightest bit aware of everyone's pride
in their little bit of hallowed turf or I would never, ever have dug holes in
some of the plots so that my friends and I could play marbles. Mum and Dad were
extremely angry when some very unfriendly neighbours came to call. This time I
had quite a few witnesses to my disgrace as I not only had to fill in the holes
and scatter grass seeds over the offending gaps but had to pretend to be Worzel
Gummidge every time any birds appeared.
The final straw with Dad was one afternoon a few weeks later. He caught some
boys from the next street in our garden. They were frantically throwing tree
branches and lumps of wood over our garden fence into the adjacement
allotments. They didn't take long to sneak on me by telling Dad I had taken
some of their bonfire wood and hidden it at the bottom of our garden. I tried
to explain that they'd taken some of our wood first but dad wasn't in the mood
to have a trial and jury. Once again, it was straight to bed, no outside
play for a week and I was banned from Saturday's visit to a local park for
games and a picnic.
That night I heard Mum and Dad discussing me as I crept along the landing to
"Can't you try and make her a little more feminine like her sister," complained Dad.
"I'll try and arrange..." said Mum. I didn't hear what she was going to do as my
brother suddenly appeared on the landing pointing to my bedroom.
Saturday arrived and while Mum set off with my brother and sister for their
day's outing I was marched off to work with my Father. I was given a chair in
the corner of his Dispensary and ordered to "Sit there as quiet as a mouse
until I tell you to move!" Funnily enough I quite enjoyed watching Dad mixing
his potions and lotions. He made me think of the wizard in some of my picture
books. At lunch time we both went to the little cafe round the corner and I
was allowed to choose what I wanted to eat. I remember it was cottage pie...and I wasn't made to have any nasty vegetables on the side. I think that
was one of my better punishments as it turned out.
That wasn't the end of my parents' plan to transform me. The following week Mum
said, "I'm meeting you from school so we can go shopping."
"Great," I thought. "Perhaps I'm having some new roller skates or a football."
No such luck. We went to a fussy-looking little shop that I'd often passed without a
second glance. Today I noticed that the window was draped with ribbons, bows and all
sorts of flimsy materials. In the centre was a large doll wearing a pink coloured
type of bathing suit with soft shoes on her feet and a pink band round her hair.
Entering the shop I saw the tiniest lady with lovely pink skin and twinkly
eyes that seemed to crease at the edges when she smiled at me.
"You must be Janet," she said. "Are you looking forward to joining my class on
"Erm... yes," I said, not wanting to upset her.
Some time later I walked out of the shop clutching a pair of pink ballet shoes and
a black costume called a leotard. My transformation was about to begin.
I was hooked from that first week. Miss Baguley, my ballet teacher, told us that
dancers didn't play rough games. We had to learn how to be graceful. It wasn't an
immediate transformation as I'd had such a shaky start but I began to enjoy being
girly and loved my ballet lessons. Suprisingly, I stopped having early bedtimes,
docked pocket money and missed treats, and I even began to like my brother...well..
a little bit anyway.
It must have been about two years later that my "piece de resistance" occurred. It
was in Oldham Town Hall. The lights dimmed, the curtains parted and the audience
fell silent as the door of the large box in the centre of the stage was opened. A
painted doll-loke figure jerkily made her way out to the tones of the music from
Delibes' Coppelia and performed a well-rehearsed routine before returning to her
static position back inside the container.
Everyone clapped and someone even cheered. During the interval I popped into the
auditorium to see what my family thought of my solo debut when I was mobbed by my
fans. Three little girls clutching paper and pens rushed over to me and asked,
"Can we have your autograph, please?"
Of course I obliged. They would treasure that piece of paper when I became a world