I come from a typical white working class background.
My Dad did his National Service in the Royal Marines and absolutely loved it. His mother was a Manx and my Dad grew up on the island till he was 11 and went to live in Birkenhead. He was the third child out of eight.
My Dad had a few jobs before moving to London and getting a job on the railway as a signalman.
My Mum is London born and bred. She had one sibling, a brother seven years her elder. Her Mum survived the Spanish flu, Tuberculosis and yellow fever. This left her with bronchial asthma, which kept her bedridden at least five months of the year. She only weighed six stone what with illness and malnutrition because of rationing.
Her Dad had a bad heart so wasn’t able to join up, but he made sure he joined the Home Guard at least. Unfortunately, he died when my Mum was 14.
My Mum was a carer for both parents from a young age, often not eating at lunch time as she had to rush home from school to stoke the fire and tend to her Mum and Dad who stayed in separate rooms as they couldn’t stand each other. That stems from him not sticking to his promise to take on my Nan’s brother if she married him.
The reason behind this is because they were both orphaned when my Nan was seven and her brother, Tony, was four. Tony was already suffering from Testy Fly and having fits and he started to get brain damage. They were separated by two aunts and literally treated as slaves. Ted would get held in ice cold baths when fitting and as the aunts lived in the same house but different flats Nan could hear his screams but was powerless to help.
Instead of taking Grand Uncle Tony under his wing, my Grandpa let him get moved from supported housing to Friern Barnet. Nan never forgave him for that because of the drugs and experiments he was exposed to over there. That hastened his death in my Nan’s eyes.
My early childhood was happy. I had one younger brother who was two years younger than me and I got on with him. We had squabbles but nothing serious until around 1977. My parents’ marriage was very obviously falling apart. There were rows and fights all the time and my Mum had a nervous breakdown. She was on so many drugs. She was claustrophobic and agoraphobic at the same time. Eventually they had a legal separation but still lived in the same house even though they couldn’t bear to be in the same space at the same time. It was so traumatic.
My Mum had a nervous breakdown. She was on so many drugs. She was claustrophobic and agoraphobic at the same time.
My Dad and brother became estranged which made my Mum turn on me because she didn’t think it was fair for me to get love and attention from her as well as Dad if my brother only got it from her. Go figure!
So, my life at this point turned completely on its head. I went from a happy child to a withdrawn and timid pre-teen who had to cook and clean from the age of nine. I shared my room with my Mum who played Des O’Connor and Barry Manilow records all night long with the light on, which triggered my own insomnia. I felt unloved, unwanted and came to believe I wasn’t worthy of being treated any better than someone’s punchbag. This was the start of my downward spiral, my inability to trust even my own instinct, and my belief that I wasn’t worthy of love and respect because if my own parents can’t give it to me who will?
I felt unloved, unwanted and came to believe I wasn’t worthy of being treated any better than someone’s punchbag.
In hindsight my depression kicked in around this time because of this and I have never been able to fully recover from this childhood trauma.
We ended up moving to Luton as there was a 25-year waiting list for council housing in London. Mum and Dad had been living in a room in a private house and when I was born they obviously needed something more suitable. Dad was able to get a job transfer to Luton with a promise of a council house so that is what they did.
Mum myself and brother moved back to London around 1980. My mum had been working hard to get well and was getting better by this time but the relationship between me and her was broken. I felt snubbed by her at every turn. And the relationship between my brother and myself was sporadic and unpredictable.
Sadly, the problems didn’t stop at home. I was picked on relentlessly in the last two years of school and right up until the last day I would get followed home by four chanting bullies. On the last day, I turned round and just told them to grow the fxxk up. I felt able to do that because I knew I wasn’t going to be trapped in the same environment day in day out. Once I’d done it, I felt I had lost out so much by not doing it earlier. Buy hey, hindsight.
My relationship with Mum got worse and was particularly bad when she had a partner who was a control freak. My life was a living hell.
I moved to Birkenhead to my Nan’s and was then moved to an aunt’s place and then to an uncle’s house. Wherever I was, I found it difficult to stay there as I couldn’t sign on and was finding it hard to find work. So, in the end I moved back my Dad’s house in Luton.
I applied for the army and got in and I felt like things were finally looking up after lifetime of never being accepted for anything I ever wanted to do. Like at school I wanted to do mechanics, not home economics and German not French!
I was 17 by then and starting to make friends and go out and live.
This was not to last however. I met someone on one of my weekends out and things went from bad to worse quite quickly. He was a glue-sniffer but I didn’t know that until I was “in love.” Not that I was a total stranger to addiction myself as I’d already become a binge drinker although I wasn’t aware of that at the time.
I tried a few times to end that relationship especially after he attempted to strangle me one time, but everyone around me that should have protected me, including my Dad, convinced me to stay with him. My only way out was to move back to London.
So there I was, a 17-year-old girl with no job and nowhere to call home. And that’s how my adult life started out.