Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
My Sister Carol. My big Sis.
Carol put up with me. She tolerated me. She had no choice.
My older sister, 4 years older, for much of the time, Carol had to fulfill many roles including looking after me. She was forced with assuming responsibility for much of my day-to-day life. Some activities were shared with mum’s oldest sister little Ant who would deal with the more adult aspects. Ant became our surrogate mother. Carol was my babysitter.
Ant did the dentist, hospital and doctors’ appointments (of which there were many). Carol was responsible for keeping me entertained, out of harm’s way. Carols life was not just her own, she was allowed very little time for herself, to be with her friends. I was a permanent, ever present fixture, ‘Carol, where are you going? Take John with you’ became the family mantra.
On one occasion I remember trapping my fingers in a door, she was trying to sneak out of the house, without me, to spend precious time alone with friends. In her hurry to avoid me she (accidentally) closed a door on my hand trapping my fingers for which she received a savage reprimand. Even though I was young I remember feeling guilty, for that. It had been my fault, I knew that she had not meant to hurt me, she was mortified when it happened.
Despite me making her life a misery I had a real sense that she deeply cared for me, that she loved her little, pain in the arse, spoilt brother. If I was a misery to her then I was just another on a long list. Mum was (when corpus mentis) strict with Carol. About everything, what she wore, her time, who she was with, everything.
After mum died, for a short time, Carol’s life improved, all of our lives improved. As she was (inevitably) forced into assuming more and more responsibilities, those of a mother, a housewife, her life became even worse. Once she spotted a way out she jumped at it.
Consequently, she moved out and into a flat aged 18. She had a (good) job with HMRC, quickly gaining promotion, a boring ‘desk’ job but well paid with excellent career prospects. She had money. Whilst holidaying in Corfu with her friend, Cathy, they met a couple of guys who were sailing around the Med in their own small sailing boat.
She fell in love, with one of the guys, Eric but, I think more so with the life he had, the freedom it offered, the complete opposite to anything she had or could ever imagine having? Eric, lived in Australia, working a carpenter, building houses. A londoner, a ‘cockney’ who left home himself aged only 21 and never went back, travelling (driving) working his way around Australia, twice! He would work for six months then meet his friend in the Med and they would spend the next six months sailing.
Carol returned home, quit her ‘Customs’ job, packed her things and went back to the Med to meet them. They travelled together, her cooking and washing for them in return for ‘a lift’. When they returned to Australia she came home for a short period and then she joined Eric, in Australia. I was 20 when she left home permanently, for another, (better) life on the other side of the world. Like Mum and Dad, Eric was considerably older.
Despite her terrible situation, it must have been a difficult decision for her to leave her Dad, and brother, her small family. I have no feelings of resentment for her decision. I do not, and never have, questioned or judged her decision to leave. It was 100% the right thing to do (for her). She has resided in Australia for over forty years now although part of her still regrets her choice.
She gave me many things including the foundations of my own musical DNA. Carol liked music, loved to dance, an accomplished ‘ballroom dancer’, she had broad musical tastes and allowed me access to her records, Joni Mitchell, Carol King….. I discovered Tamla Motown, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young via her eclectic record collection.
As ‘kids’ we were close we had to be there for each other. As teenagers we were never really close. I had created a busy life for myself, working seven days a week, early till late and then of an evening striving for a career as a musician and I was in a committed relationship. Carol likewise, she had a good day job, she had good friends and an active social life, she enjoyed live music, dancing and a busy night job as a barmaid in a trendy city-centre nightclub, the ‘it’ club of the late 70’s & early 80’s, where the footballers of both Liverpool and Everton frequented. We both had busy lives and didn’t really have any need or (spare) time for each other.
I had been gigging, arriving home in the early hours. Both Carol and Dad were asleep. Carol, returning home earlier, from a night out had removed her knickers and placed them in a pint-pot (my) pint pot, beer drinking glass! She had left them, on a shelf, in the glass, with soapy water, to soak. I wasn’t impressed. When I kicked off about it the following day, she thought it was funny, no biggy?
As a young girl approaching her teenage years she was a little awkward, unconfident probably much to do with our difficult home life situation. Suddenly she transformed from a caterpillar, to a butterfly. She was not tall, average height, medium build,curvy with large breasts. Her long brown hair and her large breasts became her (a) ‘feature’.
She was popular, had many (good) friends, she made friends easily, people wanted to be her friend, she was not selfish, a giving person not a taking person. She was intelligent, naturally clever, inquisitive, a quick, proactive learner and very capable, organized When she passed eleven, she attended Bootle, Grammar School for Girls and forged a handful of life-long friendships.
One close friend, Susan Abraham, attended Sixth Form at the Boys Grammar School, that I attended. I liked Sue, I had a schoolboy crush on her, she came on holiday with us to Butlins, my happiest childhood time. Later, I was struggling to find a job, Sue was working for HRMC and she ‘engineered’ a job for me, I remember having to pretend like I didn’t know her during my interview, funny as fuck. Sadly, Sue died of cancer, leaving a young family, Carol was traumatised.
‘Boys’ (and girls), found Carol attractive, she was attractive, bubberly, fun. Late teens, I remember her having plenty of admirers, boyfriends – Kenny Jones, a drummer, Ernie, a very cool dude (reminded me of the Fonz, he wore a long black leather coat).
All of her boyfriends were ‘lookers’ had nice cars, jobs, money. Ernie, bought me my first (bar) drink (actually it was a free bar). We were guests at our cousin, Linda’s wedding, Ernie, trying to get in the good books with Carol, making friends with her kid brother, provided me with drinks, alcoholic drinks during the night, all night. Bottles of Babycham. He had asked me what I wanted to drink? I was allowed a bottle of Babycham at Christmas, a sweet Champagne Perry fizzy drink (5% proof). I had drank it previously and liked it he was happy to oblige. I drank maybe five, I remember being quite tipsy, and I liked the feeling….. like Mother like Son eh.
After his stroke Dad moved to Australia to live (and die) with Carol, her husband Eric, and daughters, Emma and Sarah (her family). When he died (unexpectedly), I travelled to Australia (alone) for his funeral. I hadn’t seen Carol for ten years? We spent the first night, (all night), reconnecting. We had so many things in common? Now adults, our approach to important things such as religion (for example – she and I had broken with family culture and never had ‘our’ children Baptised). Many of our ‘Life’ choices that we had made were similar. Despite being apart for so long, we had much in common.
We talked about Dad, how much he missed my son Aubrey, how guilty he felt about leaving him (us)? We talked about us growing up, the good and the bad. We talked about little Ant and hatched a plan to use what little money dad had left, to pay for her to visit Carol. We talked about Mum, how strict and how unprepared she left Carol for life. Mums birds and the bees talk with Carol – Sex, you don’t enjoy it but you just have to get on with it, once on (his) birthday and again at Christmas, just lay back and think of something nice. Poor dad.
Carol has lived with so much tragedy in her life. Mum, then Dad, herself, (several miscarriages and a stillborn), followed by her breast cancer, her husband Erics (cancer) and now me (cancer). All of which has left a toll on her.
Thanks for reading