Every year, my parents and my sister would go on our annual family holiday and stay in a caravan in Cromer, Norfolk. One year, the Gibbons family joined us for a day. The Gibbons had three children, two girls the same age as my sister and I, and a younger boy. It rained all day so the nine of us spent the day in the small caravan. As far as I can remember, we played cards.
The boy, who then was probably about five, asked questions during the day, like – Why were we scared of the lightning? How did the funny little gas lights work? Why did Dad win at cards? After each question, Mr and Mrs Gibbons, stopped what they were doing, and answered the boy. I was intrigued by these parents taking so much interest in their child, I enjoyed listening to their exchanges. My parents, however, found the interruptions extremely irritating. “Bloody little nuisance,” “spoilt child,” “they’ll make him into a little monster,” that kind of thing.
I’ve talked about this memory in therapy. My childhood was one to not question, to accept, to believe teachers, to go to Sunday school. I bunked school and Sunday school, none of it made sense. Back then, I knew my parent’s irritation came from a place of envy, and being around difference. They never asked me questions, and I stopped asking them questions, years before the incident with the Gibbons.
In my early thirties, years into my therapy, I tried asking my parents questions again, I was met with defensive, sometimes angry responses. I learned my relationship with my parents, would always have such limitations, but we got on, I accepted this.
Looking at the world now, with my child’s eyes perhaps, I want to know answers that the young Master Gibbons felt able to ask. Therapy allowed me to develop my voice, even if I’m faced with an angry, defensive voice, I will continue to ask.
The more we know, of course, the less we understand, but the process of trying to understand, holds with it, human communicating, striving for what is right and true to each, even if all our truths are different. As a psychotherapist, it is OUR story that is the most relevant in understanding, our story will always differ from the next, even if we are born in the same household, as indeed my sister and I were, our experience was very different, but often the same. I wonder if she remembers this day in the caravan?
If my father hadn’t cheated on my mother, and they’d had a good relationship, perhaps I would be more trusting, believe everything I hear, be content and be a ‘good’ abiding citizen with government guidelines? But when nothing makes sense, I cannot, will not. The questions in my family were never answered, and the world’s questions may never be answered, people die with secrets, but the legacy of the burden (i.e. Jimmy Saville’s victims) will go on for lifetimes. The gut always tells us that something is up, whether in an unconscious, perhaps physical manifestation, or a feeling, all are linked.
London, where I live, moves into a new lockdown. Lockdowns were a term I remember being used by my boyfriend Keevan (partner, No. 31, in my book ‘From Essex to London in 101 Boyfriends’), when he was in prison. How can it be, I am locked up, have been locked up? What have I done? At least Keevan knew when he would be free from his imprisonment and was guilty of a crime.
Halloween, the full and blue moon and Jimmy Saville’s birthday, brought about news of the lockdown, Guy Fawkes night begins the lockdown, we think, if the Tory backbenchers go with it, will it depend on the US election?
Here is my poem and then below, lyrics of a song by Ewan MacColl (Kirsty McColl’s Dad) and Peggy Seeger, it’s a beautiful song, I recommend a listen or two.
Scene but not Herd – Liz Bentley
“Moo!” said the solitary cow
“What’s your intention?” asked the drama student with intentions to direct
The Ballard of Accounting – (Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger)
In the morning we built the city
In the afternoon walked through its streets
Everyone saw us leaving
We wandered through our days as if they would never end
All of us imagined we had endless time to spend
We hardly saw the crossroads and small attention gave
To landmarks of the journey from the cradle to the grave
Did you learn to dream in the morning?
Abandon dreams in the afternoon?
Wait without hope in the evening?
Did you stand there in the traces and let ’em feed you lies?
Did you trail along behind them wearing blinkers on your eyes?
Did you kiss the foot that kicked you, did you thank them for their scorn?
Did you ask for their forgiveness for the act of being born
Act of being born, act of being born?
Did you alter the face of the city?
Make any change in the world you found?
Or did you observe all the warnings?
Did you read the trespass notices, did you keep off the grass?
Did you shuffle up the pavements just to let your betters pass?
Did you learn to keep your mouth shut, were you seen but never heard?
Did you learn to be obedient and jump to at a word
Jump to at a word?
Did you demand any answers?
The who and the what and the reason why?
Did you ever question the setup?
Did you stand aside and let ’em choose while you took second best?
Did you let ’em skim the cream off and give you the rest?
Did you settle for the shoddy and did you think it right?
To let ’em rob you right and left and never make a fight
Never make a fight, never make a fight?
What did you learn in the morning?
What did you know in the afternoon?
Were you content in the evening?
Did they teach you how to question when you were at the school?
Did the factory help you grow, were you the maker or the tool?
Did the place where you were living enrich your life and then
Did you reach some understanding of all your fellow men
All your fellow men, all your fellow men?