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Family life

Readers' favourite photographs, songs and recipes

Snapshot: Memories of Glasgow

We didn't have a camera when I was a child, so all my memories are stored in my mind. This picture is of me with my husband and two grandchildren, who are growing up in a very different world. I was a first-generation Asian Sikh, born and raised in the Oatlands area of Glasgow, an experience that still lives with me 50 years on.

Oatlands people were working-class, but with real hearts: we went shopping for the old women who lived alone, knocked on doors and ran away, and held concerts on the stair-landings where you paid with "wallies" – broken china. We lived opposite Richmond Park on the other side of Glasgow Green. To me, it was a magical place where each summer holiday the "shows" would arrive.

I was fascinated by the caravans, with their beautiful lace curtains and lanterns hanging outside. Looking up the steps, you could see inside to vases of flowers on the tables, bright rugs and cushions on the sofas. To a seven-year-old girl, it was magical, watching the Gypsy women with their big skirts and earrings, and the handsome Gypsy boys, who always winked when you walked past.

My parents would take us on one supervised visit to the shows and we were allowed on the safe rides, swings and roundabouts. Waltzers, motorbikes and the big wheel were forbidden because the Gypsy boys stood at the back of the waltzers and swung the cars round as they speeded up. They swaggered about, chatting up the girls.

We were warned not to go to the shows on our own and told the Gypsies would take us away and make us work like slaves in their camps. But we never listened and sneaked across through the park and over the bridge on to the green to explore the shows.

All the latest music blared out from the roundabouts, swings, waltzers, the big wheel and the helter-skelter. The sweet smell of candyfloss and toffee apples and the screams of the girls on the big wheel with their boyfriends made me want to be "white", too, like them – why couldn't I go on the big wheel and stay out late? I used to dream of being kidnapped by the Gypsies so I could work the stalls in big earrings and skirts that made me want to dance. But no one kidnapped me, and every year the shows would come and go. Trishna Singh

Playlist: Me, Dad and County Down

Coney Island by Van Morrison

"I look at the side of your face as the sunlight comes / Streaming through the window … / And all the time going to Coney Island I'm thinking, / Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?"

I walked into the hospital ward and saw my father sitting in the chair, Yeats-like, "old and grey and full of sleep" – a few days short of his 90th birthday. "Dad, I've been on Desert Island Discs."

While I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, Radio 4 rang through our house: Just a Minute, Thought for the Day, The Archers and, my favourite, Desert Island Discs. I loved the music and the romance of the island – and had always wanted to be on the programme.

Years ago, long after I had moved from Northern Ireland to England, I discovered Van Morrison's poem-song Coney Island. As he sang about the places I had visited as a nipper, memories flooded back.

I sat on Dad's hospital bed, pulled out the CD player and pressed play. I wasn't a Desert Island celebrity – I had been invited to tell my story on Radio Derby in celebration of 70 years of Desert Island Discs. Coney Island was my song and this was my story. My dad worked long hours in his own grocery business, hauling heavy bags of flour, serving in his shop and delivering boxes of groceries along narrow, high-hedged lanes around the town where we lived. But come Saturday lunchtime, we would pack a few sandwiches, throw a rug into the Morris Minor and hit the road. Our stamping ground was mainly the coast of County Down.

We whiled away many a summer afternoon digging in the sand, playing cricket, roaming the sand dunes, climbing rocks, eating sandy sandwiches and swimming in the rain. Like Van Morrison, we too were charmed by Strangford Lough. Waiting for the little ferry to take our car across from Strangford to Portaferry was thrilling. Pleasures were simple in those days.

"On and on over the hill to Ardglass." Morrison bought "mussels and some potted herrings" there; we'd head over the hill from Tyrella to Ardglass so that Mum could buy whiting for tea. The fresh fish cooked in butter tasted delicious after a day out in the sea air.

I had told my story and the song was coming to an end. I looked at the side of my father's face as the sunlight came streaming through the hospital window: he had dozed off. It was with great poignancy that I listened to Van Morrison sing: "Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?"

Time waits for no man and my father's days of roaming the County Down coast have probably come to an end. But the places and memories he gave me, captured in Coney Island, are locked inside my head. Helen Moat

We love to eat: Eliza's birthday cake


225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) sugar

170g (6oz) self-raising flour

57g (2oz) cocoa

Four medium eggs

Vanilla extract

Fresh cream and raspberries to fill

Weigh the ingredients and line two 21cm circular cake tins. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark four. Call the midwife.Cream the butter and sugar together between contractions. When the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, hand to your birth partner, who should gradually add the remaining ingredients and split the mixture between the two tins, baking for 20 minutes.

Early one Thursday morning, it was clear the new baby was coming. I woke my husband Neil and 19-month-old son, Wilfie, and together we walked the dog, then dropped Wilfie off with my mother-in-law. Once back at home, it took a while to get through to the midwife, but finally she was on her way.

As the contractions grew longer and more frequent, Neil filled the birth pool. Between contractions, I began weighing out ingredients for a cake. It would be a nice treat for after labour. I got as far as creaming the butter and sugar when the midwife arrived.

She checked me straight away and surprised me by saying I was 7cm-8cm dilated, so quite far along, but still many hours to go if my first labour was anything to go by. I got in the pool, which was bliss. Neil picked up the cake-making where I had left it, adding flour, cocoa, eggs and vanilla extract.

After a little while, he came in to say the cake had gone in the oven. It was 11.50. We calculated it would be ready at ten past. The midwife asked if he had set a timer, but we don't have one, and I laughed as I couldn't see much would happen in the next 20 minutes.

But it wasn't long before I felt a brief "pushy" sensation, which subsided quickly and was followed by a blissful few contraction-free minutes. As I floated in the pool, I could smell the cake and was suddenly starving. Neil leant over the edge to feed me two chocolate chip cookies, bought for the midwives.

Perhaps fuelled by the sugar, I suddenly had an urge to lean forward, and, with a big, quick contraction, the baby's head emerged. A few moments later, the rest of her followed ... Eliza arrived at 12.09 – just in time for cake. Dawn Todd

We'd love to hear your stories

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