Travelling without moving: a child’s world-view.

The children of Dynmouth were as children anywhere. They led double lives; more regularly than their elders they travelled without moving from a room. They saw a different world: the sun looked different to them, and so did Dynmouth’s trees and grass and sand. Dogs loomed at a different level, eye to eye. Cats arched their tiger’s backs, and the birds behind bars in Moult’s Hardware and Pet Supplies gazed beadily down, appearing to speak messages.

From The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor (1976)

The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor

I can remember when I was too small to see over table-tops (except on tiptoe) and when drawer handles were at face level (I heaved myself up by them to see what was on the mysterious surface above).

I can remember the enormous trees along the road home from the bus stop (and how far that bus stop seemed from home. My legs ached and my feet made little progress.) They towered and flamed like trees from a dream.

I can remember having to stand on a chair to play with washing-up bubbles in the kitchen sink. It was a cut-down version of the wooden high chair that had been passed down through various children.

I can remember being afraid of the noise the bathwater made as the last of it screeched down the plughole.

I can remember the self-imposed superstition of having to get to the bottom of the stairs before the toilet (upstairs) finished flushing.

I think it’s important to be able to remember such things. Especially if you are writing for children.


P.S. Those trees on the route to the bus stop are still there. It’s a small suburban road and they are small suburban trees, even after decades of growth. They live side-by-side in my mind with the vast ones.




4 thoughts on “Travelling without moving: a child’s world-view.

  1. The ability to conjure up childhood impressions and emotions is a precious and rare talent, Julia. It’s one you clearly have in spades but too many people think that to be an adult you have to “put away childish things” and so lose that capacity. Long may you retain it.

    That sense of wonder, of being alive to the world, is one that I try to keep going by practising ‘holiday consciousness’. This involves pretending I’m on holiday in places supposedly familiar to me — I’m always amazed at how much appears fresh to me, as though I’ve never seen it before. Which of course is how it seems to a child’s eyes, viewing it all new and innocent.

  2. Wow, I loved these images. I think I’d like to try this as an exercise with my writing group! Its so visceral and I think helpful for writing to any audience. We’ve all been smaller at some point!

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