(Family holidays by sea…travelling through Black Country. Night terrors)
The happiest recollections of my childhood were the annual holidays at the seaside, almost always in North Wales.
Once we were settled in and had had a first meal, weeks of unalloyed joy began for us children: except for one daily occurrence. This was bathing. We were taken to the sea in a wooden bathing machine, drawn by a horse on which rode the bathing man…..
The journeys were memorable. The train went through the Black Country, and after dark as we neared home the furnace fires of the factories which blazed up as though out of the earth, confirmed our fears of Hell ---
Already in our minds through our study of the Inferno by Dante (illustrated by Gustav Doré) which was our Sunday afternoon recreation. I owe much of the morbid fears and phobias of my childhood to that book. Even when I was old/
enough to go to parties in our carriage I remember my fear of seeing the sky at night. I never dared to go to bed until the slats of the Venetian blind were turned so as to shut out the sky, and I always insisted on having the blinds of the carriage down after dark lest I should see the sky. I was really afraid of seeing God sitting up on a stormy cloud overlooking the world with a view to punishing and destroying it. A shadow thrown on my chest of drawers by a lamp outside did actually take the form of a wolf and caused me agonising night-terrors. Night after night I woke screaming, only to be scolded and told it was nonsense. I can see that shadow wolf now, and from my point of view it was not nonsense, but real.