Monday, 30 September 2013

My thoughts drop
like a stone in a pond.
Ripples of remembrance
 spread ever outwards.

Spring at Scotney Castle

The hugs, the joy, the I love you's, the jokes, the laughter, me oiking around, saying and doing outrageous things.  There was nothing I couldn't say.

On one occasion coming back from a day out with dad, hawk-eye Linda spied on the arm of the sofa, the corner of a Durex packet.

'Mum, what is this?'

The thought makes me cringe even now!  Did I really tackle her?  Why didn't I turn a blind eye?

'Err... Your dad and I.....' she tailed off

'Come off it Mum, we've been out all day!'

A knowing child... too knowing.  Grown up too fast in this strange rarefied atmosphere.

Oh to be an innocent child; not for me the dice dictated.


Doris always enjoyed a drink, looking back I can honestly say she wasn't an alcoholic.  Alcohol softened the pain, a cure, a lessening of the drudgery of her life and the whisperings behind her back: which she never, ever countered.  How she carried on without ever explaining, I'll never know.

The breakdowns became more frequent, the ECT treatments, a recurring nightmare for her to endure, which she absolutely loathed. Dad and I stood helplessly by,   feeling her pain, powerless to help. At least that was how I felt.  His feelings at the time I didn't know. Only later I realised that he was the root cause of the pain.

Psychiatrists came and went.  Couches bore her weight, although never, ever did she unburden herself.

'I couldn't be disloyal to your father!'

I hear the words even now; the import as to what she was trying to tell, took me years to translate. 

I could say anything; Doris didn't feel able to. Locked in this hell that had become her life.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Our eyes met across a crowded room.

My five year old eyes,
dripped with disappointment.
Her eyes were four hundred
and fifty years old.
She had seen it all before;
she had no expectation.
Whereas I, even in my vast five
year experience
somehow expected more.

Our enigmatic expressions 
 mirrored each other.
Even now, I remember so well,
the great expectation, 
 falling far short.
Cloaked in my innocent's wealth of
knowledge, I felt cheated.

The stay in Paris was the final leg of our holiday in France.
Dad and I went off sight-seeing.  Doris staying back at the hotel to sleep; headaches were a constant in her life.  Even then as a precocious child I thought, what a waste to come to Paris and be not well enough to explore.  

My mother then barely thirty.  Her life slipping by, with just another eighteen years to go.

Doris and Linda returning home from France

Saturday, 28 September 2013

I can feel even now
the shame, even at the tender
age of eight or so;
sent to Timothy Whites
to buy...


I hated the questions in the chemist, I hated the feeling I was doing something wrong.  I hated the effect it had on my mother.

'Do I have to?'

'Yes Linda, you do!'

Looking back, I see now that Doris had an addictive personality.

Preludin, were a means in the fifties to aid weight loss.  And I suppose Doris originally took them for that.  The knock-on effect was a chemically induced high, which I assume was her reason for wanting them.  She cleaned the house from top to bottom.  On one occasion maniacally polishing the furniture, she shot a huge splinter under her thumb nail and out at the first joint.  Carted off to hospital the offending plank was removed.  

She wasn't my mum when under the influence of this powerful drug, which was freely bought over the chemist's counter, for the princely sum of five shillings.  

On these potent pills she found herself in all sorts of scrapes; found herself in all sorts of ways?  Found a path  through the mist of this phenmetrazine stimulant maze, which maybe, just maybe, softened her pain at the role she played?

Hacks were the next big obsession; goodness alone knows what active ingredient she gleaned from the pounds of cough sweets she ate.

The demon drink was only a snifter away.

Friday, 27 September 2013

The little attache case
with letters overflowing
was shut and put in the attic.

Guillermo walked away with sadness in every step.  In his heart he knew Doris would never truly be his.  He married soon after and moved out of the area.

Our life carried on.  Herbert hated what his lovely daughter was doing to her husband.  She felt his disapproval: she knew, he'd never understand. Daily she made him the rice pudding he insisted on having. She loved him and wanted him to know the true story, which she just didn't feel able to tell.  Herbert died never knowing.

Our house wasn't anything like our neighbours.  My mother had flair, each Christmas we would have something different, never, ever a conventional Christmas tree.  One year, Doris got Dad to find her a large twiggy branch, which she painted white, it was completely unheard of in those days.  She decorated it with carefully chosen different chocolate tree decorations and interesting baubles.  Another year we had trellis fixed to the wall and decorated. Never the same thing twice.

Life in so many ways was idyllic.

The women like hawks, would  watch her every move, ever vigilant of their husbands.  Secretly they envied her style, her clothes, the way she carried herself, her raw sex appeal.


The next man was Don, a lot younger than Doris.  Once again we saw the signs, no letters this time, just adoring glances and Scheherazade and Nat King Cole played on the record player.

Dad and I went out leaving them to it. Happy together, with picnic packed, we explored the countryside. I sat, princess-like on a little yellow felt seat on the crossbar of his bicycle.  As I got older, we stayed on farms, at hotels and generally had a good and honest loving father, daughter relationship.  

Without the spectre of Doris, everyone we met might have thought that all was good in our world.  And it was, although in my heart I couldn't forgive my lovely mum for what she was doing.

As I was growing into a young woman, Doris warned all men of her acquaintance, neighbours as well as boyfriends, that  her daughter was strictly off-limits.  Living close to her brother and his family of girls, she worried that it might cause even more problems as we got older.  We moved away, still in the same  village, a few miles further into the countryside. That was the start of Doris' mental health problems.  She agreed to the move to protect me, at the expense of her health.

Doris never really settled, she constantly went back.  Although our new home was a step up, she didn't like the isolation that came with living in the country.  She had the first of many nervous break-downs.  My father didn't or couldn't understand her yearning to keep going back to visit. Even then, strangely I could see she loved him more than he loved her. That confused me even more... Why, did she do it to him?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

We were all strangely out of date and time
an exotic Bohemian family
in dreary Fifties Britain.

Doris and her father Herbert
were bright, articulate people
with Pitman's shorthand as their second language.

Doris and Herbert on the

Dad a buttoned-up young man from
an affluent middle class family.
Privately educated, he was put into a trade
by his bank manager father.

A toolmaker, who at the ridicule of his fellow
workers would sit at break time in the
tool room reading Dickens.

Over the dinner table at home with his
right-wing parents the conversation would get heated
with Dad expounding the virtues of Socialism,
bordering on Marxism.

The price his parents paid, I suppose, for putting
this deep thinker into the rarefied atmosphere
of trade unions and the injustices of the working
mans' world.

Linda... Daddy's girl

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

His name was
Yes, he was Spanish.
A tall, dark, passionate

 The grand passion swept us all along.
He was such a lovely man completely
madly in love; his presence lit up
our days.

Love letters fell like
confetti through the letter-box.

Lovers arm in arm, they went up to London to see Shirley Bassey, when she was just a raw diamond, unknown.  Doris said she lit up the stage with her animal magnetism. 

The record player filled the house with sexy soulful sounds.  Herbert looked at his wayward daughter with regret; disapproval writ large on his face. Doris knew he did not approve of what she was doing.  She knew she was an object of hatred, she also knew that my father was seen as the wronged party in this strange arrangement.

Her brothers, her friends, neighbours all stood in judgement.  She didn't utter one word in her own defence; nor did she counter any of the awful things that were said to her face, or behind her back.  Stoically she carried on.  

In my innocent way, all I could see was that my lovely dad was being taken for a fool.  As I got older my interpretation was that my mother, who even I could see was a bright sexy woman, was just too much to handle for my studious deep thinking father.  It became obvious to me that this odd set-up was agreed by them both and that was how it was going to be.

Monday, 23 September 2013

'Linda how pretty you are,
you look Spanish!'

Being a small child at primary school, how exciting it was to have one of the mothers say that to me.  I felt exotic.  What I didn't feel was the undercurrent to what that women was actually saying.  It took many years for me to realise the full import as to what she actually meant.


Men always featured very much in 
Doris' life, with three brothers living close by; 
and sharing our home, Herbert her father,
who bought his family down from
Keighley in the depression of the1930's.

Herbert my much loved Grandfather, who I've written about before; was instrumental in me never having smoked, making me solemnly promise never to.  I did, and I never have; so at the age of six or seven, a promise is a promise, and it is one I've silently thanked him for making me take, many times since.

Herbert in a casbah

We lived happily together, me a much loved only child, although Doris ensured I didn't become spoilt.  Many times I've experienced her hands slapping my legs as I ran crying up the stairs.  

'This is hurting me more than you!'  

Is an expression I couldn't quite grasp between hiccoughing cries.  The main frustration of Doris was the fact that one of her brothers lived next door but one to us, and his two daughters were everything I wasn't. Delicate, pretty little blonde haired girls who their mother took great delight in dressing up.  Every night they went to bed in metal dinky curlers, appearance was everything to them.  Whereas my only redeeming feature was my naturally curly hair, added to which I was a roughty-toughty tomboy.  My Aunt after expounding the virtues of her two beautiful daughters turned to me and once said... 

'Oh, but Linda, you do have lovely eyebrows!'

The tensions between the two families came to a head when at my first year at secondary school, my cousin and her friends in the year above me started to tease me.

'Your Mum's got a boyfriend!'

I didn't know what to say, because yes, mum did have friend who was a man.  How do you reply as an eleven year old to those sort of taunts?

Getting home and bursting into tears my father sat me down and said...

'Tell them that lots of husbands and wives have girlfriends and boyfriends which is kept secret.  The difference is, that I know about it and that makes it alright!'

I heard the words but didn't have a clue exactly what he was talking about. 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Carefully, quietly she 
unscrewed the top.
Pulling the cushion out, slowly, 
stealthily she poured 
the bleach down the back of the sofa.
Replacing the cushion, returning the bleach to 
the kitchen, Doris' friend stood completely 
unconcerned waiting for 
her to come in from the garden.
They chatted for a while and then she left.

Doris had the feeling something wasn't quite right. 
Walking into the sitting room she soon discovered 
the mysterious way her friend 
had displayed her envy 
of the new three piece suite.

She told me this story many times as a child, showing as she did, the white stain the bleach had caused:  philisophical in her dismay.

'Why did she do it Mum?'

'I honestly don't know, jealous of me getting new furniture perhaps?'

Whether she ever tackled her friend about her show of solidarity I'll never know.

Doris had this effect on women; they didn't like her.  She had everything; a handsome well educated husband, she had married well, she had a job, lovely clothes. She was glamorous and men adored her. That, I think, was where the problem lay.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Poles walked continually up
and down the ward...
screaming, talking to themselves
manically laughing:
the lino was worn bare by
their pacing.

The man sat opposite me, with elbows resting on the desk, his hands making a steeple.  Not a word did he utter.

'She can't stay here, my mother is suffering from depression; if she does she will surely go mad!'

I talked on, explaining how I felt, all the while feeling he was assessing me.  After what seemed like an age, repeating myself, I just felt I was wasting my time.  

I walked away from his office feeling I'd failed my lovely mum.

'I tried Mum!'

Tears coursed down her face.  

The next day she was transferred to a general hospital from the Darenth Park Mental hopital.

How had she come to this?  Broken in mind as well as body.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Envious eyes followed her,
taking in her hair, with the sheen of
a raven's wing.

Admiring eyes followed her,
taking in the hour glass figure.

Young girls looked at her,
drinking in the glamour,
thinking all the while
that's how I will be when I grow up.

It is so hard for me now to look back and see the mother that Doris was.  To me she was just Mum.  An icon, a special lady, a woman out of her time; a troubled soul.  A saint... No.  Saintly... Yes.  She was the last child of a family with three sons, a much wanted daughter.  By the time she was conceived the genes were running on empty.  The runt of the litter, physically beautiful, physiologically flawed.  As a young girl, she nearly died from Scarlet Fever.  She had a hollow in her back where they drained her lungs of the pleurisy that threatened to drown her.  Never well; beauty shone through the ravages of a body not blessed with strength.