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INTRODUCTION.   Chapter One   Chapter Two   Chapter Three   
Chapter Two

My Grandparents purchased a house in London and relocated all of their family into the three-story home.  Soon, after my Catholic mother's arrival, she and my father were married and then children began to arrive. I was the first and then two brothers. One more brother and two sisters were born eight years later, after we moved to Swindon, out in the country.

During Granny's talks, she described the servants, maids, cooks and nurses for each of their four children. As far as I could tell the servants were treated well. I was very concerned for them after I had read a book on slavery, which upset me very much.  Granny, poor soul, listened to me for hours as I constantly bombarded her with questions.

I told her of my wanting to be a writer of books, to let everyone know about the things I had learned. Innocently thinking that no one else might know about these things. One day Granny told me a very sad story, and I could tell how much it upset her to speak about it. She and Papa had gone out to socialize one evening, when they returned home, they found that their youngest baby son had died. His Ayiah, (nurse) was distraught, as well she might be. Frequently, without anyone's knowledge, she put a sleeping draught on cotton wool, under the nose of her little charge.  It helped the child go to sleep and give her, (the Ayiah) some peace.

The child, William, who would have been my uncle, was administered too much on this occasion.  He lapsed deep into sleep, then into unconsciousness and died.  I knew Granny was very upset when she told me this story.

But, my questions were, "I hope you were able to console the Ayiah, she didn't mean for that to happen.  How will she be able to live with herself?  What happened to her?"

Granny stared at me, with tears glistening in her eyes, as she hugged me. She then took my chin in her hands, stared straight into my eyes and said, "Child, you have the spirit of an old woman!"

Her words are still very clear to me, though at the time I did not know what she meant, or if she was cross with me.  She hugged me again tight to herself, and we both cried a little. I knew we cried for William, the Ayiah and for Granny.  I must have been about five years old at the time, as mother had just started me in Primary school.

I was terribly disliked and ridiculed in school being the only 'coloured' child there.  Although my mother was much darker than I, my father was white. He was part Spanish and Welsh. Some of the ridiculing may have been due to my already being able to read and write English.  My mother had spent many patient hours with me, so that I also grew a great love for books.

Across the road from Granny's house, was my school.  Next door to it was the church where I had a friend, who was a priest whose name was Father Jarrott. He was also a friend of my Granny, (who was very religious) and my Papa. I remember Father Jarrott mostly, because he was my very first friend.  Father Jarrott took me into the Church at playtimes. Since I was tiny for my age, he would carry me around, and we lit the candles together.  Occasionally, another priest named Reverend Davey, would help us light the candles too. (Rev. Davey, a bear of a man, remains a friend of mine to this day, though I last saw him before he went to help people during the Tsunami tragedies, Jan 05.)  Father Jarrott told me Jesus was colour-blind and that He loved me.  He would always stand by me, no matter what the other children said or did to me.  I was never to feel alone and Father Jarrott was my best friend during the next three years.

The torment at school continued and around seven years old, I decided to do something about it. I poured bleach in my bath water to turn myself a lighter colour.  My mother walked into the bathroom, and at first she became very angry with me. Then tears ran down her cheeks.  It was the first time I saw her cry (apart from when I was three years old and had fallen into the fireplace, off my hobby horse and burnt my forearm).  Mum could smell the bleach, and it upset her a great deal. And, yes I was pulled out quickly.

Later that day, my mother tried to explain something to me.  She showed me two pairs of shoes, one brown pair and one black pair.  She held them both up to her face and demonstrated the difference in the colours.  I remember seeing that I was definitely not black, and neither was my mother.  She was not even as brown as the colour of the brown shoe.  I just had to accept that children could not tell the difference between colours very well.  Either that, or they were just plain ignorant and nasty.

Generally my life with Granny and Papa was a happy one, with all my family around me.  Mum did not have any brothers or sisters, which caused her a lot of sadness, but my father had two sisters and one brother, who all had spouses.  I also had three cousins. They all lived in apartments located in my grandparent's house, and my uncle and aunties were all trained musicians.  Granny sang, whilst Papa played the piano.  My father was a terrific musician, playing piano, banjo, ukulele, drums and double bass.  He was also a tap dancer.  It was great fun, when they all played instruments.

We always seemed to be having parties and everyone would play and sing.  Christmas's were truly magical for me.  I also remember everyone would jive to the rock and roll records.  Although very young, I joined in, and never imagined that I would grow up to be a professional solo dancer.  It was not a particular wish of mine, but I was a natural, and this solo career just happened.  Professional dancing and performing music was also the reason I managed to keep my sanity, when trauma hit me often, during the next forty-seven years.

My parents took me away from Granny when I was eight years old and I was heart-broken.  My brother Doug was eighteen months younger than me and another brother, Steve, was fifteen months younger than him. It was primarily due to Steve's breathing troubles that we moved away.  The family doctor advised my parents that it would be much better and healthier, if they could take Steve, moving the family out to live in the country.

The London air was so smog-filled back then, it created a health risk for him. I had become used to wearing a smog mask, but I still remember how creepy it felt not being able to see much distance in front or around us, due to the thick greyish black smog. Some days there were beautiful blue skies and sun, but I don't remember that happening often.  It rained a great deal and could be very cold and snowy in the winters. Even at that age I loved to live in North London. City life suited me as I loved all the hustle and bustle, especially 'people watching.' It was fascinating how different people could be from one other, Not only in appearance, but in their attitudes and the way they dressed. I soon made it my business to come back when I was older!

Once we left Granny's house, my life changed drastically.  My mother was Catholic and ended up having six children.  In order to help her out, I was called upon to do a great deal of the housework.  As the eldest daughter, it was only fair that I helped her as much as possible.  However, I wished we had servants as my parents used to have, so that I could have more time to myself.  It was not easy looking after all of the other children, while both parents alternated with night shifts.

Mother worked as a nurse, and father was a toolmaker.  He also had a part-time job as a security guard, carrying money and wages around in a van.  I was never allowed to go out with friends or have any time to myself. I was kept a total prisoner and servant of the house.   If I disobeyed, my father would punish me severely.  If he lost his temper, he could not control himself.  At those times, he would give ‘back-handers,’ or take his belt and hit me.

Mother hated his cruelty to the children, and defended us whenever she could. In a way it made things worse, because he got us back when we were alone with him. His warnings in public were ‘pinches.’ He would twist the skin of our  forearms, (Chinese burns) and look straight at us daring us to cry out or move away.  He also used another technique, especially when the children were really noisy, woke him from his sleep or broke something. He made us stand in the middle of the room with our arms held up level with our shoulders. We could not drop them, or he would hit us across the legs with his belt.  As a result of this punishment, we all became quite muscular in the arms. 

To this day, I cannot remember anyone being naughty enough to warrant even half as much punishment as he administered to us. Except when the older brother, got hold of a gun and started shooting people in the legs as they walked past our fence.  All that talk and stories of father going out with his father, hunting in the jungles, gave the two older boys their love of guns.  Although they were both boxing with a local boys club, extra trained by our father and very successful in competition, they were still very keen on shooting. They were bought Diana 'air guns' each, and they target practised with their pellets, when not shooting at people.  I enjoyed shooting the cardboard targets, and didn't know of the older brother shooting people.  Not until the police came and found the sawn-off shotgun! Bringing our family name in disrepute, was just the beginning of the troubles with my older brother!

I did love it when father played piano though, as he had a similar feel to Jerry Lee Lewis, and played all that kind of music as well as blues. He was really good playing Glen Miller music too. He showed me how to play three types of boogie. He played totally by ear so, I had to also. He had a ukulele which he showed me hoe to play by putting my fingers on the strings, and then making me group them on another set of strings and so on. He would play piano, like Basin Street Blues, or St Louis Blues, and I would have to play ukulele, counting one to three, one two three, etc., Then change to the correct chord he had shown me, although I did not know the name of the chord I was shown. Later this progressed to me singing Shirley Bassey songs.  From nine years old, all this was happening and sometimes I quite enjoyed it, especially on the days when father had patience with me. I had to sing; Big Spender, Love me or Leave me, I Who Have Nothing, and some Tom Jones songs and Ella Fitzgerald songs too. I never felt I did any of these songs justice then, but it was good foundation for me, as I've been able to sing them well since. Jiving and swing dancing was very enjoyable for me, and I was proud of the way my parents danced at their rock and roll parties.  I soon learned to jive, and appreciated the way father was so good at it, just like the American GI's I had seen on films. He was the only one I could dance with like this.

Though my father was a cruel man, he could be kind when we were ill. Whenever I suffered migraines and vomited in the toilet, he used to hold my forehead tightly to relieve the extra pain it caused.  The problem was how rapidly he could change from one extreme to another.  We were all scared to let ourselves have a good time in his company. If we did something that tried his patience, he would hit any part of us he could reach. The main reason for his temper was in his not being able to handle or accept the difference with past family finances.  Not that we ever needed anything we couldn't buy, and we holidayed often too, but it seemed the 'luxuries' had to be far less.  Father missed his own personal 'batman' as he called him. The servant who would draw his bath, take his clothes out and even dress him.  I realise now how difficult it must have been to adapt, but my mother was managing perfectly well, so he could have tried harder.

He thought it was all right to beat his children since he was beaten as a child.  Mother told us that our father behaved this way, because he used to be a boxer in the RAF, (as well as being in the forces band) and also had been a semi-professional boxer, fighting at Haringey Stadium, in London for extra money.  Mother said all the boxing had made my father a bit punch drunk.  He was impatient, had a very bad temper and suffered almost constant migraines.  Mine started back then, from childhood too.

It was hard to tell if my brothers, Doug and Steve, were really keen on boxing or did it to please our father.  They were enlisted in a youth boxing club, and made good names for themselves. I used to 'practice box' with my brothers, and they never held their punches back. They thought I was tough enough to take it, and it helps one get quick reactions.  I would have loved to have been a boxer back then.  It was also a way for me to get my suppressed anger out, especially using a boxing bag or sparring, but girls were not allowed to box at any level then.


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CLICK here for Chapter Three {Childhood Discipline and Running Away}

Copyright ©2015 Donni-Jay De-Ville Entertainment and Publishing Company and its licensors

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three