Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
When things were ‘bad’ at home my sister Carol and I would be farmed out to stay with relatives. As Carol grew older she remained at home, staying with friends and I would go alone.
Not every weekend (nor public holiday) but regularly, especially during extended holidays like Christmas & Easter. I was young but really? I cannot remember being bothered at the time? There houses were more fancy than ours. I remember feeling welcome or rather I remember NOT feeling unwelcome? There was never any sense of resentment? I suppose it had become kind of normal, for everyone?
I loved it when Colin or Ricky would come collect me. They always had nice, (warm) cars that they drove very fast.
Aunty Lil (Lilly), Uncle Tommy, Cousin Claire and husband Colin, Cousin Pat and husband Ricky, they were always happy to have me. If it was an inconvenience I never ever realised.
The only drama I remember was Claire constantly stressed about my fussy (lack of) eating. My resistance to food and insistence on only eating things like chocolate biscuits would drive her mad. Claire was very strict with what her kids, Marie and Peter ate. No sweets or snacks EVER. The irony, Claire is such a fussy eater herself?
Claire is a first cousin the daughter of my Aunty Lotty (we would say Lott, Anty Lott), Claire lived at 22 Downing Road with us at 32. She lived wer her mum, they shared the house with little Ant, Granda (Peter) said Grandar and the family matriarch Grandma Clara, who was just Grandma. Claire had no dad, she was an accident the result of a one night stand (I have been told). This was a family secret, never said never acknowledged proper ‘secrets & lies’ for decades and never ever fully resolved (for Claire, who will die thinking that her family have withheld the identity of her father.
Dad, took Claire under his wing, he was very kind with his time with Claire. Claire has always felt more like an older sister to Carol and myself, not just a first cousin. When aunty Lott, tragically died (in her thirties) with leukemia, young Claire became even more close to us all. She was very spoilt, compensation for the tragedy in her life? Probably? However, this spoiling did not do her any favours later in life, within her own marital relationship.
Aged 20 ish? Claire met Colin, they married and moved to Leigh, (nearer Manchester than Liverpool), which, might as well have been Istanbul to a young kid living in Bootle. Claire has spent all of her life in pursuit of identifying and uniting with her blood father.
Happy (& Sad)
I have mixed memories of Christmas & Easter, the supposedly happiest childhood times? Like any young child I would look forward to Christmas. The presents, new toys, for most children their favorite time of the year.
We were given £5 each for our Christmas present(s) along with a pillowcase stuffed with stocking fillers and treats – a selection box, an apple and an orange, a tangerine, some smaller novelty toys, coloring books, crayons, the Beano Christmas annual, that kind of stuff.
This one Christmas I chose a ‘Johnny Seven Gun’ as my significant, £5 spend. Johnny Seven – seven guns in one. It cost (RRP) £4.99, I remember asking for the 1d surplus to be spent on a box of ‘caps’ for the handgun, one of the seven wonderous attachments.
The Johnny Seven was head and shoulders the toy of the year.
Demands far exceeded supplies.
Despite desperate efforts, I did not get my Johnny Seven, Christmas wish.
The substitute was ‘The Gun that Shoots Around Corners’. An ingenious toy that fired bright red sponge balls, around corners from a split barrel with a clever mirror attached. Genius. I actually loved it, terrorising dad whilst eating his Christmas dinner in the living room with me around the corner in the back kitchen.
But it wasn’t a Johnny Seven Gun…. like David Perry or Mark Markham or Fatty Philips or Andrew Wigley or the thousands of other (lucky) kids had got for Christmas.
It was the biggest disappointment of my life so far.
My own children considered buying me a ‘vintage’ Johnny Seven for my sixtieth birthday (last year). They are available and are now selling for stupid money (£500)!
Sadly, public holidays were excuses for mum to drink more and to drink more often. The excitement of Christmas was always overshadowed by desperately, unhappy times. Fighting. To be more accurate Mum would provoke Dad that would sometimes end with violence.
It got to a point that I became fearful at the approach of any holiday period. For weeks before, I would not sleep properly as I knew what was going to happen. As mums health deteriorated things became worse, more often with incidents of violence most weekends and eventually this became an any night of the week.
Mum was ill. Always.
I have an overriding sense of this. I cannot remember mum in any other way. Mum was maybe not always ill but she was always ‘not right’. As a child all of my hospital (eye), dentist and school parents appointments were handled by little Ant, she would be my chaperone (nearly) all of the time.
I do remember a couple of (younger) dentists appointments with mum. Growing up, I had an disproportionate fear of injections ‘needles’. Children would have a series of vaccinations, needles. We would form an alphabetical line and receive a huge injection usually in our top-thigh, buttocks area.
After each injection the needle was passed thru a bunsen burner (flame) to sterilize it and then refilled for the next child.
Many years later I worked it out, by the time the line reached ‘R’ the needle had been used 20-30 times and was more like a ballpoint pen! No fucking wonder it hurt and no wonder I was terrified?
I was never regimented enough to look after my own teeth so I did not.
I had poor teeth. So many trips to the dentist. On one occasion I had six teeth removed in the one visit. Coincidently? Mum had all of her teeth removed. She had developed a disease, pyareya. I hated going to the dentist. Those days, for tooth removal it was gas anaesthetic, you would be put to sleep. For fillings it was cocaine injection.
On the rare occasion than mum accompanied me to the dentist, Mum was more afraid than me, (for me). Possibly a hangover from having all of her teeth removed at a young age? I would kick off at the first sign of an injection and she would react. She was incredibly protective of both Caro and I, she could not handle my being so upset, one time, she sat in the waiting room and by the time I came out she had literally pulled every button from her coat.
Little Ant had never married, she was the eldest sibling of seven. She gave up her life to look after Grandma. Ant became the family matriarch. To me she was kindness personified, she became my pseudo mum.
As a young child it was just something that I accepted. It was my life, mum just wasn’t right and mum wasn’t there for me a lot of the time. At first it made me sad. I loved her, a child’s unequivocal and unquestioning love. I wanted her. I didn’t even know why but knew I needed her? But I knew she wasn’t there.
Ant was there, always there. She was the same for Carol, although Carol being that bit older didn’t need her as much. I presume she had been the same for Claire (before myself and Carol were born). She was the same for Claire’s children (in Leigh) Marie and Peter. Ant travelled to Leigh, on the 39 bus, from Brownlow Hill every Tuesday thru Saturday to ‘help Claire out’ for fifteen years.
I didn’t question what was happening, mums behaviour, her illness and Ants response, it was what it was. I didn’t understand. All I knew was that mum was unhappy, she was sad and that, instinctively, made me sad. I wished I could ‘fix’ her.
The older I got the more my sadness, living within the situation, the sadness I felt for her diminished. Instead, I began to blame her. I became angry at her for making my life bad.
I was thirteen when she died.
I wasn’t surprised. It had been coming.
When dad and Carol told me I remember pretending to be (more) upset than I was. Truth is I felt relief.
It wasn’t until several years later that I grieved. Many years later. Unexpectedly. Out of the blue. I woke, in the middle of the night and burst into tears. For hours floods of tears.
Thanks for reading.