Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Erratic, erratic, put your hands all over my body. Erratic. Erratic.

My maternal Grandfather died on 12th April 1981. On 31st October of the same year, Nana, Dad's Mum, died. All four of my Grandparents were now dead.

Nana dying on Halowe'en was quite apt, her being a complete witch.

Mum and I had been in West Germany visiting my sister Lorraine and her husband Peter. They had duvets, which I thought were posh compared to my bed of sheets and blankets. On 1st November, we returned to Heathrow. My other sister, Christine, came with Dad to pick us up from the airport. Mum said nothing to Dad. Chris hugged us both. Mum asked her how she was.

"Fine," said Chris.
"Everything alright?" asked Mum.
"Yes, fine."

I didn't know it, but Mum was being both subtle and probing at once. A skill I was yet to learn.

However, all was not fine.

Dad put our suitcases on a trolley and we walked on ahead to the car park. I was always nervous being alone with my Father. Children aren't always good at anticipating behaviour and with my Father's being so erratic, anything was possible.

Some people growing up in an environment of domestic violence say they became used to it. I never did. There was obvious tension between my parents. Even I, a child of nine, could see that. Could feel it. The mutual hatred was always the elephant in the room.

I had no idea why my Father was being so nice to me. Another thing I was unused to. He ruffled my mousey hair and asked if I'd had a nice time. He wanted to know if I'd enjoyed flying. He then kissed me on my forehead. And smiled at me. Something was up. He never kissed me. His smiles were few and far between.

This was something I was used to: the calm before the storm.

Dad put the cases in the car. We had a Datsun Cherry. It was sky blue with a fake wood panel around the rear number plate. Plastic to look like pine. I got in the back seat behind Dad. My usual place. Mum got in beside me. Not her usual place. Chris sat up front with Dad. The engine soon started and we began driving out of the airport car park. No-one wore their seat belts.

Chris turned around to face Mum and I. Looking between the two front headrests, she said, "Nana died last night."

Mum nodded. No-one spoke. The rest of the journey was spent in silence. Not even Perry Como or Val Doonican on the eight track.

We arrived home about two hours later. I recall being in the kitchen. Chris told Mum that Mark, my brother, had left home. He was always at loggerheads with my Father. A dispute over a fried egg had ended in a punch-up. At seventeen, my brother could now give as good as he got. In some macabre way, I'd have liked to have been there to see it. My only memories of the fights are of crying, screaming and Mum, my brother or both with bloody faces. It would be something to have a lasting memory of righteous revenge, triumph over adversity, my Father with a fat lip.

Mum was in the kitchen with me, as was Chris. The kettle had just boiled. Mum was stood near the tumble dryer smoking a fag. Chris was opposite, near the window. I was at the back of the kitchen, leaning against the larder door, about to go in, looking for orange squash. Dad entered from the opposite end of the kitchen. Ignoring Chris and I, he looked right at my Mother, smacked a twenty pound note on the kitchen table with as much rage as I'd ever seen. With saliva flying, he parted with:

"Right, that's it. I'm going."

Mum began screaming and crying. Chris tried to calm Mum with a hug, but arms were everywhere. I stood still, dazed. What was all the fuss about? Dad was always going. He always came back on Friday night or Saturday morning.

It was months later, after hearing divorce dropped into various conversations that the penny dropped. Dad was never coming back. I wasn't happy, wasn't sad. But I did feel a sense of relief. A kind of freedom. I no longer had to worry about dropping a chip on the floor, laughing too loudly or being late for tea.

The years ahead of us were going to be hard. But living in poverty was fair exchange for a life without physical violence and emotional torture.

With the last of my Grandparents dead, my Father could act with impunity, free from scalding words, free from guilt. I have no doubt that the timing of his departure depended on the death of his Mother, the last of his parents and my Mother's parents to die.

My Mother, now orphaned, was without her Father, the only man she could rely on in life, just when she needed him most.


Krafty Bitch said...

Oh, pet! I just wanna hug you to my bosom!

Meet me at the cafe in Bristol. We'll enjoy another almond croissant and hot chocolate and chat all about it! :)

Brian said...

Minge, seriously. I'm a writer and I know these things: you need to write a memoir. You're a wonderful writer and you have so much to offer. Promise me you'll think it over.

Just a Girl said...

That's no way for a child to have to grow up :(

Your Mum did a fabulous job with you.

Mr. Anjou said...

Brian's right, a memoir should be in your future. Let me know when I can pre-order it :)

Minge said...

Hug me, Krafty!

I can't believe you say these things to me, Brian! I wouldn't know where to begin.

She did, JAG. I think she's special.

Anjou, do you think I should mention Dominika?

Bill S. said...

When in doubt about where to start, you can always start by paraphrasing Madonna lyrics.

The March Hare said...

Minge, this new lay out of your blog is pretty awfull! Sorry to say it, but it is. :-( The website of my bank looks more appealing than this. Try another skin, boy!

Also very sorry to mention that Life of Pi is still here on my desk. I'll send it to you a.s.a.p. Promise. Cross my words.

Soon I will post on my fab blog myself as I was mingeling the stars last weekend and scored a world famous celebrity this weekend. Even went to the beach to have some tea with her and then we drove to the museum where there was an exhibition of pictures from her and there were 500 cray fans yearning for autographs. In the evening I had dinner with Viktor & Rolf (world famous fashion designers, a bunch of well knows actresses and the French ambassador. Need I say more? This is one hell of a fab post I'm going to write there! Check it out... XXXOOO Hugs from Holland

Minge said...

Bill - that's exactly what I did. EXACTLY. Are you psychic?

Minge said...

Oh, Dert, what don't you like about it? The colours? I'd have had pictures, but I don't kknow how to add them. I'm a bit simple, you see.

And, gosh, you have been leading a Hollywood lifestyle! We want to hear ALL about it!

The March Hare said...

The colours and lay out are waaay to Windows like. Bill gates gets a hardon on this, I'm sure... ;-)

Minge said...

How do I get away from a Windows look?

The thought of Bill Gates getting a hardon is frightening me. I don't want this.

I adore my iMac.

Rambling Man said...

fucking hell man - i was going to say "write a book" ! and then i read that it had already been suggested - write a book - you have a great talent for letting it flow ...