*Tell us about someone that has been either an inspiration to or involved in your becoming the person that you are today. Poets and authors tell us about your heroes. Write something in their style. Musicians pay homage to your mentors. Fighters tell us about someone that has been a help to you in your walking the often times difficult path of this life.
Who is my hero, or heroine?
This is such an easy one for me, I have no need to think of any gurus, actors, policiticians, great people in the world and there are many of them.
For me, my heroine is my mother, I have touched on a little bit about her already in this blog on this page, as she is just there always in the recess’s of my mind as an integral part of me. That particular page touches on her journey with chronic pain and being taken away from me by cancer.
But let’s go back a little
I would like to talk a little bit about her upbringing and why she stands out for me as such a pinnacle of greatness in my mind.
I promise it isn’t boring, you might be thinking why on earth why would I want to read about someone else’s mother, I may be biased, but I do think her ‘life’ history rather colourful and it isn’t all doom and gloom, maybe odd but not gloom all the time!
An abandoned baby
My mother came from what some people would call a ‘nice’ family. I won’t use the terminology that my grandparents would have used as this day it just causes uproar.
However, I have learned that where you originate, no matter how ‘good’ that background is supposed to be has no bearing on how someone deports themselves in life, how ‘well’ they behave, how ‘giving’ they are to others, how they govern their own ‘morals’.
The title above would give an image of a baby being abandoned on a doorstep somewhere, this didn’t happen. However, she was ‘given’ be it on a sort of ‘loan’ concept as a baby to the Norland Nanny Training College, which I believe was in Berkshire somewhere at the time. It now has a base in London.
Norland Nannies were and probably still are by heritage the best place to go to get the best reputation and training as a nanny. They are very special nannies and as such my mother spent her early days there being tended to by these students of child care.
I cannot speak for certainty but I can only conjecture this had somewhere in the depths of her mind a kind of influence upon her, in her growing up and in her latter years.
As babies we surely imprint with our mother, her smell, her touch, or to our care giver. When those care givers are multiple it must have some kind of bearing amongst all the other aspects of being in that situation would have had upon her.
My grandmother then sent her to boarding school, she spent holidays and quite a long period of time with other family members and friends and finished off at a Finishing School.
As a child she did see her mother, I am not sure how much. But I know that when she spoke of that period, it was with a sense of awe. My grandmother was very beautiful and glamorous and I think would glide in to my mothers life for a day, bestow perhaps a token of affection and then leave. Neither parents spent a huge amount of time with her.
I know that my mother always found it terribly hard to show physical affection. I am a cuddle monster, I thrive off it. When I would initially go to hug her even before her chronic pain, she would be stiff as a board, as if not knowing how to respond and then eventually would soften and return the hug. I understood this and ascertained her reaction was from her upbringing.
I spent many years being slightly resentful towards my grandmother, wondering how she could just ‘abandon’ her child in such a way and then for both parents to not spend much time with her at all. Of course with no particular answers that made sense one makes up ones own mind as to the answer.
It was not until latter years that I found out a little bit of the reason, though it in my mind does not wholly in any form justify her upbringing, I think it could have been a lot better.
One weekend when staying with my mother we received a telephone call from a journalist. I was the one that picked up the phone, both confusion and suspicion became the result. My mother seemed reluctant to speak to him nor explain why he should be ringing.
It turns out that he was writing a book on “famous crimes in London Hotels”. As he started to touch on the subject it opened up a can of worms. Being like a dog with a bone at times, I didn’t let it go and finally got some answers from my mother.
Any dates and ages are ‘approximate’ as I can never be entirely sure as to their preciseness, but my grandmother gave birth to my mother when she was around 17/18 years old. She was married to my grandfather, however as it turns out, he was not around at that time, he was in prison for being party to the crime that the journalist was phoning us up for.
My grandfather was too of “good stock” (I hear shouts now of objection to that terminology), but hey that is how I grew up to characterize it. However, he didn’t behave particularly well. He was a charismatic, charming and extremely good looking man (I have for reasonable purposes removed the title gentleman).
In those days he spent what seemed quite a lot of his time cavorting around with a ‘gang’ or ‘group’ of men in the Chelsea/Kensington area. One of their ‘hobbies’ was to seduce wealthy married women, take them on a date and stealthily steal their jewellery. The women never chased this up, because of course they were married and would not want their own shenanigans to get back to their better half.
My grandfather was involved in this major ‘hotel’ crime I can only ascertain some time near to when my grandmother was pregnant. So try to imagine her life with this, she was as far as I am aware, unaware of all of his immoral goings on.
Imagine finding out that your husband had been seducing other women. Then to find out he was stealing and to top it off was going to go to prison. This all whilst being pregnant at such a young age. The crime being of media attention must have been overwhelming.
So we move on to my mothers adult years
My mother met a particular man, with whom she fell in love. They were due to get married, and were engaged. But his parents objected to the union, deeming her unfit for their son. The engagment was obliterated and my mother used to say “he was tied to his mother’s apron strings, hence we did not get married”. They did however remain friends.
After this my mother did indeed get married, to it seems a kleptomaniac. Everyone was unaware of his ‘condition’ until he came to visit the family home and stole the household silver. My mother suffice to say did not remain with him.
I often wonder if there was some subconscious attraction there with his ‘personality’ and my ‘grandfathers’, aka her father. But I can only conjecture.
My father way back when met my mother at a party, he said he saw her dressed in leather jeans, long red hair and that was it. She said to me, he used to live opposite and had a really noisy motorbike that woke her up every morning. I don’t think she had any fondness for that motorbike.
In order to marry my mother, my father had to apparently ‘find’ her ex husband to initiate the divorce. She was then free to marry. After several years, I was born.
She gave birth to me on her own, no husband about, I never found out why he was not there, but I can guess.
My father was not working, he was an aspiring writer.
Three weeks after my birth my mother found a receipt in my fathers coat pocket, it was for a ring, a ring she never received purchased with their sparse household pennies.
He was having an affair, he justified it saying it was because this woman paid more attention to his writings and understood him better than my mother.
This used to rile me beyond belief, now being a mother and imagining how she must have felt.
She threw him out at that 3 week period. He took me out occasionally but usually brought me back before the alloted time, saying he could not cope with me. Fatherhood did not come naturally to him.
My mother worked, paid for an au pair to look after me until I could go to nursery. At 3-4 years old we suddenly up sticks and went to the countryside to be with a man I had never met before.
I can clearly remember arriving in her dark blue mini van with black leather seats that used to burn your bum off in the summer. We arrived at a fairytale cottage, greeted by this ‘large character’ of a man who showed me upstairs with my mother.
I was shown the top of the cottage, the attic effectively. He said that his son and daughter used to live up there with the room split in to two. He had taken down the wall and this was going to be my ‘new’ bedroom.
That man was the man who my mother was engaged to when she was 18. She said he eventually grew up and was ready for her. I guess a kind of fairytale romance?
He was the man that brought me up, however life often repeats itself.
My grandmother became an alcoholic, my mother also a ‘mild’ one ie she would not drink to fall down drunk, but it was pretty constant. I was packed off to boarding school, much as she was, and in the holidays quite often packed off to spend time with my father in which ever country he was living in and eventually packed off to Finishing School much to my distress.
I didn’t really enjoy boarding school and felt when I came home I had no local friends to bond with. So I learned to love my own company, my own imagination. I used to spend time visiting the ‘older’ generation of the village, having a cup of tea and listening to their stories, maybe I was an odd child, but that is what I enjoyed.
Being sent away during the holidays also was not an enjoyable experience for me. My father had his own established family, a step daughter a couple of years younger than me and his Austrian wife. The feeling was clear that this was more of an obligation rather than a joy, hence I was more than happy to return home.
Moving forwards to the end
My step father was a huge character, very opinionated, eccentric and yes rather difficult to live with. He was an author and restored antique furniture. My mother a house wife, baker at times to various places and a writer herself.
They both suffered many years of chronic pain, for reasons too lengthy to go in to in this post. But it made for a difficult life in their latter years, but having no known origin like me it made life even harder to understand.
Throughout all my mothers difficulties however, she was always there for me. Even when both father figures in my life denounced me from their lives, she remained a constant. When she was in the final stages of being gripped by cancer she would check after me completely selfless to the end. The nurse said to me, “Your mother won’t go until she knows you are going to be happy and safe”.
So today, I give tribute to my mother, my heroine and it is valentines day, what a fitting day to give an expression of love, even to someone who has moved on to hopefully a better place.
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