Monday, August 03, 2009
We were forged, my brother Robert and I, in the unique foundry of our family; the emotional forces at play washing over our psyches, shaping our souls--wounding and warping some places and sowing deep sensitivities in others.
We share a history of 56 years and never tire of recounting stories over and over again that make us laugh. We are, for each other, at any moment we need one; a confidante, mirror or a support.
As Mum and Dad's relationship was fraught with deepening unhappiness, Mum fixed her emotional focus on us; working hard to create "home."
Dad added fun to our childhood with a "magic wand" that would draw him irresistibly, to places on the rug, underneath which we would find pennies. He could also produce pennies from behind his ear and we loved it when he held us enthralled by such tricks.
Long walks across fields and the Clent hills with Dad, gave us a love of nature and it was Dad who could be enticed into a water fight or by throwing down the gauntlet, into a war of tit for tat jokes such as leaving hair brushes in beds or marbles inside shoes. It was from him I learned the fun in just "being silly" and playful.
He taught us by his habits and example, to have a love of reading, to love music and poetry and to see that every argument has more than one side.
But at night, when we were tucked in bed, we would often hear Mum and Dad's voices raised in anger and anguish down below. We would lie awake, tears trickling down our cheeks, wishing that they were happier with each other.
When I was 5 and Robert was 3, we moved from Romsley to Hagley, where we lived for three years in one of a row of tied houses on Lord Cobham's estate, where Dad worked as a woodsman.There were 3 happy years, until all of the employees on the estate that lived in the houses were told that they were needed for German prisoners of war who had stayed in Britain after the war. It was 1958 and we were homeless. All of our belongings were put into a cart, which we pushed down the road to our grandmother Lucy's house.
First Mum took us to Holland for four months but then we lived for a year in one room in this house.
Lucy lived with Dad's step father, Peter, in an old school house just down the road from our old house in Hall Gardens .There was a large, old kitchen with a big, square, wooden kitchen table and an old fashioned kitchen range, which Peter sat beside, smoking a pipe. Off the kitchen was a scullery, where dishes were washed, and outside, down the path, was an outhouse.
Another door led down to a cellar, which was a place of terror for me because Lucy told us that a dragon lived down there. She seemed to take delight in instilling fear in us and also told us that Marley's ghost could be heard thumping his way around the house at night. At the time I don't think I knew who "Marley" was, but my imagination needed no details to run riot.
Lucy wore her long hair braided, with the braids pinned around her head like a wreath. I remember watching her, fascinated, plucking chickens at her kitchen table. She often told me that she didn't like little girls; only liked little boys. I don't remember taking this personally, since I could do nothing about it.
Four stone steps, worn with age into a dip, led up into another smaller room, which led to a small hallway with stairs. Off that hallway, on the ground floor, was the room in which we lived and slept.
Our furniture was all in that room. Robert's and my beds were kitty-corner in one corner of the room, and Mum and Dad slept on the floor below our beds. I was frightened by one of the pictures that hung on the wall above my bed. It was the portrait of a woman and her eyes followed me where ever I went. At night, I knew she was still there in the darkness, even though I couldn't see her. Because we were scared, I used to hold onto a piece of Mum's hair and Robert would hold tightly onto one of her hands. I'm not sure how she slept!
At the end of that year we again went to Holland, for 3 months this time. Dad wrote to the Bromsgrove District Council and said that because of our desperate living conditions his wife and children had no choice but to go to Holland, and finally, a council house was available and we got it! In April of 1959 we moved to another little Worcestershire village, called Alvechurch...