(2017) I realise now that my Mother was ill. Why or with what I haven’t a clue. Something had happened in her past that had affected her somehow, it must have been pretty horrible for her to be how she was. It has been suggested by a family member that I might have ‘an over active imagination’, how everything I remember is how it felt but wasn’t exactly the case. My reply to that was that I must have a pretty sick imagination to even attempt to think things up and lie so convincingly. I write what I remember about the events and ‘things’ that happened to me. An example of my ‘over active imagination’ is being dragged from my hiding place in the toilet, the only room with a lock on the door, into the bathroom, forced to strip, pushed into the bath, my naked mother got in too then I was ‘cleaned’. This entailed being forced to lean over the end of the bath with my back towards her then cleaned around my genitals and anus, internally and externally, with a brush. Not a big brush, just slightly bigger than a tooth brush. The brush was soaped up then she inserted it inside my anus and with a brushing motion made sure I was ‘clean’. As I had now made the water dirty for her I had to ‘clean’ her, breasts, anus and vagina but not inside and not using the brush. No matter how much it hurt she carried on. I was called her ‘donkey’ because apparently I sounded like a braying donkey “it hurts it hurts it hurts’ over and over again. Sick eh! This is just one example of what happened over the years. If you can think up something like that then I feel very sorry for you. I came back to live with my real family when I was just about four. Somehow my school enrolment occurred a year too early. I should have started infant school just after my 5th birthday but I started just after my 4th. Always playing catch up but nothing flagged as wrong, clever eh!
Mother, the 2nd youngest of 8 children and the youngest of 4 girls was born and raised on a farm in West Butterwick, a small village just a few miles west of Scunthorpe. I know very little about her childhood apart from a few tales of hardship. Mother’s family home when my memories begin was a 3 bed semi in Scunthorpe. 53 Webster Avenue, or number 53 as it was known. You could call it a typical Scunthorpe house. Crimson red bricks, crimson red roof and crimson coloured soil. Everything was crimson red even the main hospital on the road adjacent to number 53 was crimson red. How the grass grew green was and still is a mystery to me. Every school holiday and quite a few weekends throughout the year were spent in Scunthorpe. I liked Scunthorpe. When we were in Scunthorpe I usually didn’t have to be ‘cleaned’. If we were staying for a weekend we would all stay at my aunt and uncles house, 74 Reginald road, about 10 minutes from Number 53. I would share the main bedroom upstairs with mother and Dad and my sister had the smaller room to herself. If we were staying for a week or longer my sister used to stay at another aunt and uncle’s house along with their 3 girls. There were a few times, if my aunt was working and Dad and my Uncle had gone for a drink I would get ‘cleaned’ but it was always over quickly, cowardly, in case anyone came back unexpected. Another reason maybe is that unlike ‘home’ in Harrow the toilet and bathroom here were combined. It worked both ways though. I had no-where safe to hide but she couldn’t be found with me locked in the bathroom because other people might need to wash or use the toilet.
1 thing I liked about Scunthorpe is that most Saturday afternoons or Wednesday evenings, if Dad was there, I had him to myself. Saturdays and Wednesdays meant football. United, Scunthorpe United that is. The Old Show Ground filled with mostly male football supporters, a testosterone fuelled 90 minutes of groans, gasps and cheers. Men with flat caps men with no caps, men with long hair men with no hair, some with scarves some without, all united by their football team. “Come on you IRON” “fookin’ ‘ell ref you blind” “OO’s the wanker in the black”. After working long, hard, noisy hours in the steel works they needed a release valve, Scunthorpe United were that valve and I loved it. I learnt the songs so sang along, I learnt the chants so joined in I even learnt some new words but wasn’t brave enough to use them. Hot Bovril at half time sometimes, if I was lucky, a ‘hot dog’ wrapped in a tissue. The tissue invariably turned soggy and stuck to the roll but it just added to the flavor. We would always sit in the stands. That didn’t make sense to me. Why did people sit in the stands that went the length of the pitch and stand in the stands behind the goals. Nearly on the half way line we could see every corner of the pitch except for the places blocked off by the huge steel girders supporting the roof. The seats were long wooden benches which were ideal for me to stand on to see over all the heads and the caps.
It was at a Scunthorpe home game that I first saw ‘football hooligans’. Scunthorpe v Barrow, a Saturday afternoon game. Scunthorpe scored, I stood up and cheered along with everybody else in the stadium. Smiles on peoples faces, cheering, clapping and singing then a scuffle. I was lifted off my feet by Dad as someone flashed past climbing to the back of the stand towards the directors box. Amidst swearing and flailing fists. A man I’d never seen before shouted from the pitch to Dad ‘Give little ‘un ‘ere Nah’. It wasn’t a request it was an order. I was passed from stranger to stranger until I was next to the pitch. Where was Dad? What was happening? Swearing. Raised voices. Was Dad Ok? “DAD-DAD” ‘don’t worry ‘eez alright, we got them fookin’ buggers little ‘un. Look there ‘e is, eez fine’. Where was I meant to be looking? Fresh, loud chanting came from behind the goals “IRONIRONIRONIRON” a tribal war cry. All I could see was a big huddle of people then Dad calling from a distance. There he was safe in a different part of the stand away from the fighting. Police Officers came rushing into the stand batons drawn. After what seemed a long time but was probably only minutes a group of people were escorted out the stand, I was passed back up to Dad and everyone sat down to carry on watching the game. It hadn’t even stopped. What had just happened? Like a doll I had been picked up and passed man to man away from the flailing arms. I wasn’t scared, instinctively I knew Dad wouldn’t let me be hurt and neither would these other men. I was one of their tribe. I was ‘a little ‘un’ with a red and white scarf round my neck. Their tribal colours were red and white therefore everything was done to make sure I was safe. Safe.
I’ve no recollection of Dad talking about or even mentioning ‘the in-laws’ My memories of Grampa are pretty hazy. Grampa had had a stroke so wasn’t very active now. He had worked on the railways as had mother before moving south. My uncle, John, still worked on the railways. The railways was in the blood, British railways that is. I remember standing on Grampa’s foot once and getting a good clobber round the ears but I don’t think I was clobbered by him. He was a large man, very broad across the shoulders and when he did speak it was with a strong north country accent. His words were slightly slurred so very difficult, for me at least, to understand. Always wearing a dark suit jacket and sitting propped upright in the back room settee I felt as if I was being watched, silently appraised. As a youngster I was pretty weedy. Not tall and pretty skinny. Was I being sized up to see if there was any chance, no matter how small that chance may be, that I too could work on the railways?
Granny was one of the nicest people I have ever met. She lived to be 104 the oldest person to have ever lived in Scunthorpe. While she was alive not only her husband but 4 of her children died. It is said a parent shouldn’t have to attend their children’s funerals, to outlive half of your offspring must be devastating. I cannot imagine how she must have felt but she always looked calm on the outside. Granny was one of those people who even though they look old don’t they don’t appear to visibly get older. When I was born she was 66 just 2 years younger than Dad when he died. Her chair was in the corner of the back room alongside the settee giving her a good view of everything that went on in the room. “John the fire needs more coal” “they don’t go in that cupboard they belong in the drawer in the kitchen” Nothing escaped her even though during our visits she was always in the small kitchen or ‘the scullery’ under the stairs making tea or baking cake. Granny Freear cake was the best. Dark brown and filled with fruit and nuts. Oh the joy of getting a slice of Granny Freear cake with a cherry in it, pure taste bud Heaven
How did my mother become the monster she was with the parents she had? What made her do what she did? How could someone have such lovely parents and grow to be the person she was?
(1962) When I was allowed to come back and live with my family in Harrow I was given the small bedroom at the front of the house, the same size but much lighter than my old room in Bath. There was a window similar to my old window but this overlooked a road not a petrol station. During the day it was quite quiet but at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon it suddenly became very busy. Not only busy with cars but lots of people walking past after their shift at Kodak had finished. People of all sizes and ages, ladies as well as men. From my sisters bedroom at the back of the house I could see the big Kodak factory and the high chimney stack. It was visible from most places in harrow. Kodak was where my mother worked. She was a typist in the personnel department. In the morning she would be all flustered with a ‘get out the way’ or a whack round the ear. For some reason if possible she didn’t use her hands to punish but something from the kitchen. An oven glove in the right hands, makes a good and painful ‘thwack’ noise when it connects properly.
My sister is 4 and a half years older than me so she was at junior school when I arrived. One morning after breakfast I walked into the back room and was met with “get out I’m getting dressed, MUM”. There was an electric fire in the backroom and as ‘we’ didn’t have central heating, if it was invented by then, my sister used to dress ready for school in front of the fire. All the room doors downstairs were glass, not modern safety glass as today just 1 big pane of glass. I was lifted off my feet and thrown through the door by my sister. My back hit the glass and it shattered instantly. The force of the push propelled me across the hall and I landed in the cupboard under the stairs. I heard Dad’s voice calling to make sure everything was alright but the first person I saw was my mother. She was furious, not with my sister but with me. I had broken her best wine glasses as I bounced off one of the cupboard shelves. Shouting, grabbing hold of my front, shouting, infuriated that I hadn’t considered where I was going to land, deliberately breaking her best wine glasses. Dad came down and I heard him gasp as he asked “Is that blood? God he’s bleeding.” Luckily for me it wasn’t blood but the liquid from a jam jar full of beetroot, I’d even managed to break that, how clumsy. Nothing would stop my mother shouting, her only worry was how would she be able to replace the wine glasses as they were part of a set. Dad tried to intervene but to no avail. He went to work, my sister was ready for school, I was picked up off the floor and sent to my room to await mothers return from dropping my sister at school. When mother returned for the first time I was ‘cleaned’ inside and out. Aged just under 4 I was anally violated by my mother and my genitals cleaned. Aged just under 4 I was introduced to and had to clean every part of my mothers body. It was the first time of many times. Always the same, me first her second. Why?
What a huge garden was my first impression and memory of my new home. It was huge, not overly wide but about 100 feet long. At the very back, hidden behind some bushes, elder and blackthorn trees was Kodak’s car park. A tall rusty chain link fence formed the boundary between the garden and the car park. During the day there were hundreds of cars parked close to the fence but they were hidden by the bushes and trees. I spent hours out in the garden. It could be divided into 3 very different parts. Nearest the house the grass was kept short and neatly mowed. A large hawthorn tree leaned at an angle across the lawn as if trying to join with the line of hawthorn shrubs on the opposite side. In Spring it was adorned with pinky white blossom which after a strong breeze or heavy rain lay covering the grass like fresh snow. In autumn it was covered in deep red berries, food for hungry birds filling up ready for winter. In the middle section of the garden there was an oblong of soil with an apple tree at one end and a plum tree at the other. The apples were always sour and the plums always woody. Between were rose bushes. None of them the same, each one a different colour. At the end of the garden was ‘the long grass’ as I called it, the bonfire patch and the bank. The bank was a raised slopping area with the trees and fence divide between the car park and the garden. I spent most of my time at the end of the garden hidden from view in the long grass or digging tunnels into the bank trying to get under the cars. As I got older I managed to climb the silver birch tree which hung over from next door. Precariously wedged pieces of wood made a small platform I could sit on and peer across the neighbours gardens. I even managed to climb one of the trees on the bank and spy on the unsuspecting Kodak workers as they parked their cars before work or were going home. No-one could see me. I was invisible, hidden in summer by the leaves and in winter by the rain or frost. No-one looked at the trees when it was cold. If only I could really be invisible, then I wouldn’t need to hide.
Although not having been a full time resident at my parents address in Harrow I was enrolled to attend Pinner Park Infants school just down the road on Headstone Lane. I was always in the correct school uniform, clean and tidy so everything externally appeared ‘normal’. What wasn’t ‘normal’ was life inside ‘home’. Mother was prone to sudden vicious outbursts of anger. Anything could spark her off and I was the punch bag. How different from Bath. This lady, my mother, would for no reason suddenly lash out. A wrong word at the wrong time, not doing something quick enough, at times with no obvious reason and she was off. Violence. Violence unchecked and uncontrolled. Her weapon of choice was usually a kitchen utensil of some sort. A pan or pan lid, a ladle or slotted spoon, rolling pin, whatever came to hand and could be used to hurt. She seldom used her hands though I remember a few times being sent to my room with red hand prints on my backside or legs. No tea or dinner was another punishment. Crying or “I want my Dad” only provoked a further onslaught. I write home as ‘home’ because it was a very new experience for me especially in the early days and months of my return to live with my parents. It certainly wasn’t a particularly ‘home sweet home’. Home to me was my room in Bath, the room opposite the petrol station. In this home even though I had the small front bedroom it overlooked the drive, the pavement, a small road, another pavement onto the drive and front of the house directly opposite. Quite a boring view compared to my exciting view in Bath.
(unfinished, walking from school saying I could come to tea, pheonix collage,rounders, football, mr jones teacher slapping me)
I have spoken to psychiatrists and psychologists about the way she treated me and punished me the way she did but haven’t found a credible explanation yet. Smacking in the ’60’s was considered ‘normal’. It was the speed and instantaneous reaction to use prolonged violence, not 1 smack and finished but to keep on lashing out at me. Not a ladies pitch of shouting or anger but screaming. Invariably I ran and hid in the toilet which was the only room except the bathroom with a lock. For a while she’d stand outside banging on the door telling me what she was going to do to me when she ‘got her hands on me’. Eventually I had to come out from behind the locked door and when I did I was dirty, even if I hadn’t used the toilet I was still dirty. Why did she feel the need to ‘clean’ me the amount of times she did? I can’t think of a reason or another act in nature that a Mother has to, even wants to, invade their young to clean them. Her behaviour, to me, became my norm, violence became my norm. After passing my 11+, a year earlier than I should have, I went to Pinner Grammar school. Being smaller and a year younger than the rest and even though from the 1st year to leaving in the 5th year, aged 15, I represented the school in virtually every sport they played rugby, cricket, athletics 440 yards, 880 yards and the mile and cross country usually finishing 5th in the Harrow schools cross country races. In my final year I was made captain of the Reds (Waxwell) rugby and athletics team but it still seemed fun for some of the others in my year to drag me down the corridor by my hair. The upbringing I’d had was the only way I knew how to behave. I was always small and a year behind my piers until I did eventually grow. I was an angry youngster. (not Finished)