A privileged childhood. It is a tricky word as many people these days associate it with class, creed or colour. It is why it was so refreshing to read an interview with Peaches Golding, Britain’s first black woman lord lieutenant. Peaches grew up in South Carolina and has slavery ancestry but she married a British man (they bonded over a passion for poisonous snakes) and has spent many years in Britain. The position of Lord Lieutenant is a position founded by Henry VIII and is largely ceremonial – she becomes the Queen’s representative in Bristol.
In the interview, she stated that she wanted to talk about the privileges that come from books on the wall, a dedicated place to do homework and parents who believe in education. These privileges transcend class, creed and colour but are absolutely vital to the future success of children. They are aspirational in the extreme and yet we so often take them for granted.
Her words made me think about the things that I took for granted growing up that are truly privileges. For example, my library card. I can remember the pride I had when I could get my very own library card. It was orange and I practised signing my name so many times so it could be perfect. Then when I grew up enough, I was able to exchange it for a yellow adult card and all the books in the library were open to me (at which point I discovered Harlequins). Several years ago, I was struck at how lucky I was to have an excellent library when I heard Sharon Kenyon speak about her experiences growing up and how she lived for the library and how having reference books made it possible for her to go to college as she couldn’t afford the textbooks. It is why in the past I have fought to keep my local library. I am a big believer in the power of libraries.
The first place I ever drove on my own was to the local library, once I had my driver’s license. And having a driver’s license is another privilege – something that is denied to many, including all women in Saudi Arabia. Hopefully my youngest son has passed the driving test he was due to take as I write this. He has funded the lessons after the initial few, sometimes privileges mean more when you have to work for them.
I may have hated my mother making sure that I did my homework but it taught me many things — such as self discipline and the fact that she did care. It also taught me that I needed to study and learn things. Some of her lessons did not go strictly to plan – for example learning how to quickly and efficiently unload the dishwasher because she was about to return from picking my brother up and I had spent far too long reading but we can draw a veil over such things. The important thing is that she taught me that an education matters.
I could go on and on about the many small advantages I had and took very much for granted.
So when I look about, I did have a very privileged childhood and I am very grateful for it and for my parents who ensured that these things happened. And I am very grateful for Peaches Golding’s interview and how it made me think about what is important. I hope everyone who reads this also had lots of books and reading material in their childhood. And if not, that they do now.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical. Her latest Sold to the Viking Warrior is out now. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk