I find the sound of a heavily-laden freight train comforting: as an infant, waking in the night, I would often hear the diesel locos labouring along the line across the fields, hauling thirty heaped wagons of coal from colliery to power station (Ferrybridge and Drax), and thirty empties back. You can easily tell which, from the engine's tone.

One of my bedroom windows faced the railway; the other, the tall victorian school. One sunny morning, before I had begun school myself, I took it into my head to go there and see my sister, who must be inside. The school was the furthest thing I could see from my bedroom, and thus the limit of my four-year-old world. I toddled along the lane, past the crumbling concrete wall, past the hawthorn hedge bordering market gardens. Reaching the school, I saw a porched door, peeling and iron-handled. It was so hefty I could scarcely shift it. Inside was a cloakroom, a whole class's coats hanging far above my head. Then there was another door, and the sound of recorders squeaking breezily beyond. It dawned on me that if I cracked it open and peeked around, two dozen faces might be staring right at me; so I crept away, goal forgotten.

Across the road, wrought-iron gates guarded The Limes. A brace of spaniels, giant hounds half my height, menaced me with barking as I passed. Beyond the line of lindens the red brick residence was flanked by tennis court and lawns. Its high wall shadowed our lane, almost to the vicarage, as I strolled home. Our house, standing whitewashed above a disused quarry and capped with a quirky dormer, was never out of sight; my world had not got any wider that day.