Saturday, 20 November 2010


By 1987, when I was nearly 37, the children and I were forced to leave our lovely Kensington home where we had lived for 9 years. My ex husband had asked me to sign an agreement for him to have a £10,000 overdraft the year before, using the house as collateral. As the children and I were the only occupants, but the legal stuff was in my x husband’s name, it was necessary to have my written blessing. Little did I realize that this loan was open-ended. He built up debts which far exceeded the initial £10,000, and therefore his bank called in the loan and the house had to be sold to pay for it.

A developer who saw a great deal, offered to buy the house in order to make a major profit by spending £100,000 on it for renovations and selling it for £3 million. I had no say in the matter, and my ex husband agreed to the offer as he had to pay his bank of as soon as possible. Bear in mind that we did not own the house. We were sitting tenants and paid rent. The Prudential who were our landlords, offered to sell us the freehold at a reduced price and so we made a “back to back deal” with the future owners. On the same day that we sold the house to the developers, we bought the house. The profit we made was approximately £100,000; (£50,000 to my “ex” and £50,000 to me and the children).

The children, my dog and cat had to leave the house within 10 days. We packed up, put everything into storage, and had nowhere to live as there wasn’t enough time to find anything. Not only that, but there was no £50,000 house in
London waiting for me to move into and I was unemployed so could not get a mortgage. I had no help from my “ex” and in desperation; we had to move in with my mother. Alexandra was 9 years old and Finian was 12.

This was not a good time for my mother as my father had been diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s and had only just moved to a nursing home about 3 weeks prior to our onslaught. My poor mother!

We literally crammed into my mothers’ house with little room to move, and I had to get a job in order to obtain some kind of mortgage so that I could afford to buy a house for us to live in.

I found a menial job for the purpose of getting a mortgage which was only for that purpose. Once I got the mortgage, I lost the job, but at least I was in a position to actually get the mortgage.

I found an ex council house on an estate in Putney. It had 3 bedrooms, a front and back garden and was surrounded by large trees. Perfect for a dog, a cat, and 2 growing children. I feel very blessed that this house came to us, because if the truth be known, I think my mother was being driven crazy by the chaos my family bestowed upon her. We weren’t exactly relaxing to have around!

After being at my mothers’ for 7 months, we finally moved out and into our new home. It was great at first, but Finian was feeling very unsettled from the vast change in our lifestyle since Kensington. He was at an impressionable age and was feeling the pressure of kids in the new neighbourhood who resented his public school accent. Not only that, but the school fees where the kids had been going to for the last 5 years were not being paid for by their father. I had paid several terms when necessary when I had been working, but now; even I could not pay the fees. Hence, even though Finian was just starting to take his pre GCSE’s, the school contacted me to say that neither child could continue to attend the school. I was devastated as were the children.

Alexandra was less affected by this catastrophe as she was only 9, but Finian was at a critical stage in his school career. So my mother came to the rescue and paid for him to at least stay long enough to take his exams.

I had to send Alexandra to the local State school in the middle of a term which was, at first glance, quite sufficient. But after only a few months, it proved to be unbearable for her. She has always been a loving, affectionate child with no affectations whatsoever, but because she had a public school accent, she was teased no end by her piers. There was a rather vindictive kid, who obviously had a chip on her shoulder, who threatened to beat her to a pulp on a daily basis for being a “snob”. Alexandra was so traumatized that she refused to go back. She had never had dealings with violent children who threatened physical torture. I went to the school to try and sort the whole thing out, but the headmaster was so unhelpful and ineffectual and unsympathetic that I decided then and there to take her out of the school immediately. It was not fair on Alexandra to suffer because I could not give her a stable life that she was used to. So I borrowed money from my bank in an overdraft form, to put her into the local private school which was the cheapest one I could find. I actually got a bursary which saved our lives and I cannot be more grateful to them. Thank goodness there are decent people in this world. They completely understood my predicament. When children go to state schools from an early age, they are fine and become successful if they persevere with their studies, but if you are yanked out of a certain environment and put into an alien one, life can be very traumatic. I have nothing against State Schools whatsoever, but it depends on the individual’s circumstances and in Alexandra’s case, this was evident.

Finian at 13, took his exams, and then was asked to leave the school he had been to since he was 10 years old. Soon after he left, he threatened to kill himself so I took him to my doctor. The doctor gave me some sleeping pills to give to him and accused me of being a neurotic American mother. Within a few days, Finian found the bottle of pills and took the entire lot (22 pills in all)! I had to walk him around for about 9 hours to keep him from falling asleep and really feared for his life. My doctor could not have been more wrong about his perception of the severity of the situation.

Anyway, my mother, once again, paid for Finian to go to a “Crammer” school in South Kensington, to complete his education. This made life a lot easier for everyone.

I decided that it was time for me to take a slower attitude to life and stop acting like a crazed adolescent who acted on impulse and I wanted to lead a healthy, homey sort of life as depicted in Norman Rockwell paintings. The epitome of an ideal family in 50’s America, but in England!

I met up with my old friend, David. He had four children who I had known since each of their births and I adored them all. By this time, David had divorced and he was very keen to have a wholesome family holiday with his kids who were suffering from the recent divorce. We decided to drive to the South of France to camp in two tents.

We headed off in two cars with our tents and cooking utensils clanging away on the roof racks. Between us, we had 6 children, from 4 to 14 years old. I felt absolutely glorious as I had always wanted a large family and this certainly was! David and I at this point were just platonic friends and got on like a house on fire, with the same dreams and feelings of family life as it should be.

His children were absolutely fantastic characters. He had 3 sons aged 12, 10, and 9. His youngest, a daughter, was the sweetest little character and at the age of 4, was hysterically funny and self-sufficient. Having 3 older brothers, made her very self-confident and she was the most eccentric and original little girl I had ever met. The oldest son, James, was the leader of the pack and kept his younger siblings on the straight and narrow. He was the one I knew the best as I had known him since he was 2 days old. He and Finian had grown up together and were like brothers, so in a way, he was like a son to me. I loved him dearly; he was kind, good-looking, and very thoughtful to others. He and I were very close and it wasn’t until a few years later that I realized just how much he meant to me and visa-versa, but it was to prove too late as you will hear later in the story.

The holiday was a major success, and it led to many other camping trips, not only in England but in the South of France the following year. David and I, as expected, became an item after the second year.

His children and mine became even closer and it was as if I had finally got the large family I had always wished for. The same went for David. We were very happy indeed until things started going wrong for David.

He basically, lost everything he owned to his divorce and was suddenly unemployed with very little prospects. He had been trained to take over his fathers’ jewellery shop chain, but it was not to be, as he had been cut out of the will, due to a rather vindictive, conniving mistress of his fathers’ who, on his deathbed, got his father to sign everything over to her. The company was later taken over by someone else and David didn’t have a chance to prove himself. So he attempted other jobs which were not well paid but easy to get in the circumstance. The carpet had been pulled out from under his feet, and he lacked self-confidence as well. As he had no degrees and only knew about jewellery, he felt at a loss and hadn’t a clue about what else he could do. Many people are quite versatile but unfortunately, because of his particular past, he was not. So he did the best he could by getting driving jobs, delivering parcels, doing various courses, and looking for a totally different career. Because of his age, and the competition with other young people, he could not get an equally prestigious job that he had been used to. That is the story for so many people in this country who have been made redundant at his age and who are not qualified as Lawyers, Doctors or Dentists. Nevertheless, we stayed together through the following years despite our lack of money.

The year after we went camping in the South France, my father died. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for the past 10 years and in a way it was a blessing when he died. But he was still my father whom I adored. In the two years leading up to his death, he was like a child, unable to feed himself, unable to communicate, unable to recognize his family except for split seconds, and he was basically not the man I had looked to for advice and comfort my whole life. Here was this man who had been so intelligent, loving, responsible, and talented. At the time of his death, he was a little child once again. I fed him his last meal the day before he died, and for a short moment, when I was spoon feeding him strawberry ice cream, he looked at me intensively and stroked my hand saying, I love you baby. It broke my heart. The next day, my mother and I had a call from the home to say he was dying. We rushed over by taxi and made it just in time to be with him at his deathbed. He was in a coma so didn’t know we were there, but for us it was comforting to be with him when he died. In a way my mother and I were relieved that he was suffering no longer, but at the same time, it was the end of an era. He had been the solid earth beneath our lives and now he was gone. Life has to go on and we were luckily both philosophical about his death but still felt the emptiness in our hearts.

When Finian was 17 years old, he became epileptic in a major way. He started to have “Grande Mal seizures” which are the most violent of all fits. Once he had been tested for the cause, the doctors told us that it was most likely caused by the serious health problems he had when he was a baby. He had a heart operation when he was 14 months old, and had to be resuscitated twice during the operation. Also, when he was 11 months old, he contracted a serious case of Measles and had to be put into an isolation hospital because they could not get his temperature down below 106 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 or 5 days. He had to be wrapped in ice, have hourly muscular injections, and be blown to bits by a fan. For both of these horrific incidents, he had several febrile convulsions which are normal under the circumstances, but something lay dormant in his brain which didn’t come to the fore until puberty; my poor son. It wasn’t his fault.

This catastrophic malady was to be an immense thorn in Finian’s side until this day. I felt helpless and terrified like never before and the whole issue of Epilepsy has made me a nervous wreck. But even worse, it has affected Finian’s entire life and future.

This is how I see it. You have a baby and he develops into a living, breathing person with a personality, intellect and emotions. Your child is an extension of your own soul and life blood at the beginning, but as they grow, they are no longer “yours”. They grow up, and they are still your baby, no matter what age they are. Even though they are adults, when something life threatening happens, you still think of them as your “baby”. When someone has an epileptic fit, they are helpless and rely on other people to help them avoid accidents during the seizure, and to console them when they come around from unconsciousness. It is very frightening to them and they are indisposed for at least 24 hours. But you, as a parent, look down and see your child who is suffering. They are no longer an adult in this state and you revert to motherhood in order to comfort them. No one can imagine the pain and suffering that a mother feels when her grown child is completely vulnerable and helpless having had an epileptic fit unless you have experienced it first-hand.

Well, he had many fits over the next few years, too many to mention, but it made his and my life a misery. Every time I heard a bang, I jumped out of my skin. Every time he went out, I was on tender hooks, fearing I would get a call from the police or a hospital saying he had had a fit somewhere and had been hit by a car in the middle of the street. It made me quite neurotic and I lived the next few years as a nervous wreck. I cannot imagine what Finian felt because it was his life that was ruined, but as a mother it was also disastrous.

1993 was probably one of the worst years I had ever had to deal with emotionally, apart from when my father died. Duncan Browne, as I mentioned earlier on, who had been the love of my life, died of Colon Cancer. He was 46 years old and in the prime of his musical career. I had been totally and completely in love with him since the day I met him at the tender age of 19, however as I mentioned before, I felt I was not pretty enough or interesting enough to win his heart over. Two years after I got divorced from my husband, I had a “one night stand” with Duncan after a dinner party I gave at my house. It was 1982, eleven years before his death. As far as I was concerned, it was the best sex I had ever had in my entire life, but I expect I was just yet another conquest that Duncan had. He was such a womanizer that he had probably been to bed with more models, pop singers or actresses than I had hot dinners. This didn’t matter to me at the time because my dreams had come true and at least I had experienced in real life, my 13 years of fantasies. I know he really liked me as an old friend, and I know he had a great time that night, but I also know he was not in love with me like I was with him. After that, I only saw him once more and eleven years later, I heard he had died. From that day on, I drank like a fish, ate to comfort myself and over the next 8 years, put on 5 stone in weight. There was no reason for me to look good or care for myself as far as I was concerned. My desire to get him to fall in love with me was finally over and there was no point in looking good any more just in case I were to run into him on the street and start a full blown love affair. He was gone. So I had to get on with my life regardless but with a hole in my heart as big as the Grand Canyon.

In 1994, I got a fabulous job as a PA secretary at the Coca-Cola Headquarters in London. I thought my life was finally taking a turn for the better. It lasted 4 years and proved to me that I was really worth something in the working world.
However, at that time, I had acquired the taste for Bacardi and Coke. For the first time, I started to drink alcohol with a vengeance. I wish to God that I hadn’t even started down that road!

Remember I had never been into alcohol until the age of 43. Why I started to drink at this age, I haven’t a clue, other than the fact that I had no other means of pure escapism from reality which I found more and more painful to endure. Drugs were out of the question as far as I was concerned, and yet I still felt a void in my heart. I felt that I could not be happy unless I received some sort of outside stimulant and instant gratification at the click of a finger. My life had been so eventful before and now I felt that nothing exciting was ever going to happen again. I realized at this stage that I was a junky for excitement, drama and fantasy. There had been a flood of dramas up until this point; and then there was a lull.  Hence I became a Rum and coke alcoholic.

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