Today I thought I would share the first two chapters from ‘Ms’Guided Angel’ which was published in 2010. Its been quite a journey from writing its first words one rainy morning (and I remember that morning well) to now, writing my third book and feeling into what I wish to share. I can often feel quite vulnerable sharing my own story, especially one so personal, however I believe in the sharing of our stories we can begin more easily to find the healing necessary for our cultures.
Here are two chapters, including the ‘Creation Story’ if you feel drawn to knowing more you may like to find the book, available on Amazon or simply be in touch with me with any thoughts or comments you have…..
In the very beginning as the second seed was planted, a daughter began to grow inside the Great Mother. The Great Mother wanted her daughter so much. In her she knew that great things would become. So she nurtured her, but with a vibrant touch.
She knew if she were to grow fully she would need many, many challenges. She would need to expand all of her muscles in her body and heart and mind with a warrior’s spirit. She knew she would have to learn to fight.
Much as the Great Mother loved her precious daughter, so very deeply inside, she sent to her mighty storms, she sent her earthquakes and tore her heart to pieces over and over again, shattering her trust and allowing her body to be bruised and battered.
The Great Mother felt the pain in her heart and body as she watched her daughter suffer at her own doing. But still she persevered for she knew how necessary this was.
She blessed her child with sons and daughters, she blessed her with fine fiery teachers, she made her dance religiously because she knew she would die too soon if she did not.
And as her daughter grew, her body getting stronger, her spirit becoming like the fire and the wind, her mind like a mighty wave on the sea, the Great Mother softened, for she knew the time was right to send her daughter out into the world, trusting in the work she had done.
And sometimes the daughter hated her mother, sometimes she cursed and spat from the fire in her belly. Sometimes she turned away and shunned that mighty force.
But always she came back to rest in the great mother’s arms. To be held and truly loved as a daughter needs to be loved.
And she gave gratitude to the Great Mother for the pain and the suffering, for the strength of her soul. And she vowed to give back all that she had received in the energy and form of unconditional love, happy to give of herself on the path of healing the Great Mother’s wounds.
And with her heavenly father’s approval, love and blessings, the daughter grew great and mighty wings that only a few could see, but when she opened her wings, all who were around her could fly.
And she became one with the Mother and Father, she became Divine Earth and Fire, Water and Air.
She became one with the Cosmos and all that ever existed. For she is love, she is breath, she is the dance.
And where once she believed that life was hard and difficult, the daughter began to see that despite the struggles and challenges, life is actually a great adventure.
This is my world,
My hidden dream,
The one that I live in.
Nobody must enter, and I can never leave.
Though partly only in my thoughts
And often in my dreams,
I know that it exists and to me is very real.
Though the shades are often round it,
Which makes it hard to see,
They must now be unfolded,
And I can be set free.
As a child I had an image of myself sitting on one cloud and my family on another. How did I get there? I had learned to remove myself. To put my awareness in other places; to distance myself from what was going on around me. I could see from this place. I could even watch my interactions with others. I could watch myself dancing, riding horses; anything at all. It was as if I was both audience and actor on the stage. But I was on my cloud alone and everyone else was on the other. I had learned how to be separate; to find a place where I was safe. This image of us on separate clouds is one that has stayed with me all my life.
This life began in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, in 1960 and I spent my first few years in Handsworth. We lived in a modest house with a small garden. My father, John, came from a prosperous family: owning a large engineering business in the centre of Birmingham. Audrey, my mother, had a father who was a jeweller; she was an artist though her work before marrying was as a secretary.
My brother, Jonathan, was a year older than me, my sister, Sophia, five years younger. I always felt they got on a little better with each other than they did with me. I was the middle child, neither the eldest nor the baby. My little sister was very lovely and sweet. I was somewhat jealous, quite a normal thing at that age, but I coped with it and did my best to be ‘a big sister’. I always looked up to my big brother, but I was less sure of how he felt about me: maybe the stroppy little sister who got in the way and was far too demanding?
Near our house there was a wood, small but accessible, which we would visit for walks. I remember large, black, iron-railed fences and gates, silver birch trees, but little else: probably the only view I could manage at that age. Until recently, I didn’t remember much about that home: my bedroom vaguely and some of the dreams I had there. There were some wisps of which I could not quite get a hold of, but they made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I could just about remember some dark presence in my room, the image then of a white bird and little else. I did not know whether they were remnants of dreams or real memories or a mixture of the two.
I am told that I started having terrible tantrums when I was six months’ old. My mother blamed it on me falling out of the pram onto my head: trying to escape even then. Escape I did, though, usually into a dream world. This was a world of animals and fantasy and a great white bird that carried me through the sky, which spoke to me and cared for me. My dreams are still full of my bird; I can smell him and feel his soft white feathers beneath my fingers. In later years, my bird was also a white horse with huge wings and the smell of horse would be strong and very familiar. My bird and my horse were so powerful, able to carry me over huge distances, through cloudy skies, across great meadows and lands I had never known or seen before. Later, this dream world would be my salvation; my way of coping; surviving.
We moved into a new house in Solihull, I was three years old I grew into a difficult child, so different to my brother, who was such a good boy. I remember our big garden with huge poplar trees at the bottom of it. That’s where the fairies lived. I knew this because my mother told me so and that they could only be seen if you were very good. I never did see them, and decided that what I could see were goblins. They were much more fun, so by the time I was five, I had accumulated many guinea pigs.
I was quite a pretty child with ginger hair and a little frown, which gave me a curious and somewhat serious look. I would dress up from the large drawer under my mother’s wardrobe. She had kept many of her old dresses that she had danced and partied in. I imagined myself to be many characters, ladies of importance, angelic goddesses, anything I could conjure up in my mind, I became. Life in the moment would become a stage and I could be anything I wanted to be.
My mother found me very difficult; she had so wanted a ‘good girl’ and did everything in her power to try to make me one. I would embarrass her in front of her friends and she would make a lot of excuses for me. As soon as we were alone she would scold me severely and lock me in my room for long periods of time. My father was much more lenient and gentle, but quite absent emotionally. He did not seem to know how to cope with me, but sometimes he would play in the garden and he helped me learn to ride my bike. Mostly I loved to sit on his lap whilst he read me stories. I loved stories and being close to him. I would take one of his biggest woolliest jumpers to bed with me so I could be close to him even when he was not there, sensing his smell and his warmth.
I wanted my own way a lot of the time and managed long-drawn-out fits of tantrums if I didn’t get it. My mother wondered what she’d done wrong, and sent me to school. I was expected to do just as well as my brother, so my mother insisted that I learned to read and write at a very early age. I absolutely detested school and being told what to do. I loved poetry and collected poetry books, reciting poems and doing my best to learn them off by heart. I was soon writing my own little poems. At school at the age of four and a half, I found it too much and did not enjoy the process. School was not going to be easy for me. I did not fit in. I tried to make some friends but never really succeeded. I was never anyone’s best friend, only ever second-best: adequate if no one else was available. I decided that I didn’t much like other children anyway while part of me did want to have friends and be popular. I suppose all kids want that, but I didn’t know how to respond to an overture of friendship and only succeeded in pushing people away. So after a few abortive efforts, I hung out by myself. I would invent imaginary friends who became very real to me: far more real than the other children or teachers at school. I could never understand what made certain girls popular; they seemed to me often not very nice and rather boring. Nor could I work out why other kids disliked or ignored me. My few attempts at joining in were rebuffed.
I began ballet classes when I was four and continued well into my teens. Despite not quite being the material for the perfect little ballerina, I was good. I passed my exams with honours. One of my certificates read ‘has lovely carriage and a pretty expression which should not be restricted. Very clear placing and good feet. Very good presentation and feeling!’
Good feet sounded positive: a great prerequisite for getting through life. I wore black leotards and pink tights with pink satin shoes and ribbons. I was very particular about how the ribbons where tied (the school was strict about that) and I always got it just perfect. Getting the pink seam on the tights down the back of my legs, was tricky for me, as were the white tutus we wore for examinations. Miss Anna Brown taught me well. I liked her, despite her strictness. She wanted good work and I gave it to her. She pushed and expected good results.
I loved to dance and I liked the feeling in my body when I moved. It made me feel awake, alive. It was the first time that I realized, I liked to be seen and appreciated in this safe way.
There were moments of rebellion. I didn’t like dancing with others, preferring to dance on my own. When we had to choose partners, I would hide at the back until every one was paired off so that I could display my talents on my own. It was familiar for me to be alone and uncomfortable to connect.
Ballet might seem rather an unlikely interest for this tomboy, but it was the only dance class around and I just wanted to dance and if ballet was all there was, then ballet was what I would do. I had a need to dance and I had no idea where that came from.
I had two teachers, both Miss Browns, both with high expectations. One of the Miss Browns worked with her mother who played the piano, an elderly, grey-haired lady who used to watch us over the rim of her spectacles. Miss Brown had mousey hair tied up in a bun, was tall and slender and held a wooden stick with which she banged a beat on the wooden floor in time to the music. It was like the sound of a drum and I liked it, wanting more beat, more rhythm. I liked the discipline and the structure and particularly when we could really dance and stretch. I used to see Miss Brown watch me then with a discreet smile on her face and I would smile back as if we were sharing a secret.
Some of the older girls talked about going on to the Royal Ballet School; how they would live there and how ballet would be their whole life. I heard them discussing the auditions and how their bodies would be measured. They would have to be perfect in shape and size and even their mothers would be looked at – presumably as a guide to what they would look like when older. I was horrified and seriously put off any thought of a professional career.
During family gatherings I received attention for my ‘party piece’ as a dancer. Records would be played and I would dance to my Grandmothers and Aunts favourite tunes. Here I was seen and admired. When I began to dance I no longer cared about any criticism or judgement. No dark presence could threaten me; I was self contained and happy. Nothing could touch me. I was with myself completely. I was given praise for my exam results that I did not receive in any other way. This made my mother proud, this was a big deal for me, something she accepted, I danced as much for her acknowledgement as anything.
When I was eight years old my parents decided to move to the countryside, to a place in Worcestershire called Great Witley. My father had grown up in the country and he wanted to go back there. So we moved away from any towns, main roads or traffic, up a long, rough track. White gates marked the entrance to a big, long, white house called the ‘Garden House’, which described it exactly, set amongst cherry trees and gardens, some neat and tidy, some rambling and weedy. The whole garden was surrounded by a huge great wall studded with little gateways. There was even ‘a ladies’ walk’ where once ladies would walk in their finery, sharing their secrets and gossip, flanked by high yew hedges with tall fir trees either end like soldiers on guard.
I loved this house. From the banisters you could slide down to the willow tree in the back garden. There were horses just down the road, lots of muddy puddles, old barns to explore, and, wonder of wonders, the house was set in the grounds of an old stately home that had been burned and left to fall into ruin during the war. Witley Court was huge and rambling, now only housing birds with their nests and trees of every description. In the grounds were huge fountains with stone statues. One was of a mighty winged horse with a huge muscular man astride him, spear in hand. He was rescuing a beautiful princess with long hair from a fierce sea monster that curled itself around her. This was the mythical tale of Perseus and Andromeda. Another had lost its central figure, Flora, Goddess of spring, but around where she had once been, stood mermen bowing in honor. The basins were quite dry as the plumbing had long since ceased working. They made fantastic circuits for our pedal bikes. Once in there my brother and I could race around for hours, daring ourselves to ride around the rims as fast as possible without falling off.
I would climb amongst the horse and the sea monster, finding a way to be right in their midst. I felt very comfortable there, as if it were part of my own world. As my life went on and my story unfolded I would begin to see a connection to this statue, this strong man and the demon that encircled the princess.
If words just said how much I cared,
no need for poetry
If words were the only key to my heart
there would be no need for touch.
If you could reach inside me,
My darkest paths and grief,
A velvet bed you’d find there,
Silken skin and love.
Beneath the grey stone shadows,
A hunger lies for you
A thousand lives of longing
Knowing this is true
If I could show you
divine unending love
If I could wrap my body
in your arms and kiss your lips
If I could make a difference to every aching moment
Beside you I would give my life
Enriched in healing peace.
There was so much more to this mansion and fountains that I used as my playground. I was feeling something here, creating a relationship with grey stonewalls and pillars. I felt a connection to the stone, touching it, feeling its coldness, where had it come from? There were dungeons to explore; long winding tunnels into the depths of the earth surrounded by bricks some that were falling in onto the tunnel floor. I would feel afraid of the darkness but too curious not to explore them. There were all manner of rooms in which to play ‘let’s pretend’. This was my stage where I could create and re-create the story of my life. There were summerhouses and an old orangery, although the orange trees were long gone. A baroque church with magnificent stained-glass windows, clock tower and a crypt were still standing. The church was still maintained and used regularly for services. We, as a family, soon became part of the congregation. Much to my delight, my father became the churchwarden, caretaker of the vestry and clock tower, and holder of the keys. These were enormous, heavy iron things to match the great oak doors that led into the church. Being baroque, it was ornately gilded and there were paintings on the walls and ceilings by famous artists. There was even a mirror so the ceiling could be admired without cricking one’s neck. Along one wall were arranged large wooden boards with old photographs of the people who had lived and worked in the great house and which charted the changes that the building had undergone. But I liked it best as it was now, fallen apart and the best adventure playground any child could imagine.
This was my very own fairy-tale castle, my own land of goblins and giants, little people and animals. There was even an escaped convict who had taken refuge there and lived down the deepest, darkest tunnel. I called him Barney and I took him food and water and chatted with him when he needed company. Sometimes he just sat in a corner grumbling and complaining, but I didn’t mind. He had a very long beard and a mass of dark curly hair. I thought him rather scruffy but I didn’t mind that either. I never told anyone else he was there.
As we settled into our Garden House, we got to know the neighbors and began to accumulate animals. My parents liked the idea of the ‘good life’, so we had lots of chickens, a goat for milk and then a few sheep, keeping them in the field at the back through a little gate that led away from the ladies’ walk. The sheep had lambs and I was able to help out at lambing time and I could milk the goat, gut and pluck the chickens and collect eggs by the score. Then came the bees and their hives and an endless supply of honey. We had two dogs and some white doves that made rather a mess outside the back door, until they had a coup built for them a little further away. Rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils and even stick insects made an appearance, but the hamsters were less successful: mine fought and killed my brother’s and then died.
My father continued to travel to work back in the city at the family business. Then the subject of school arose: where would we go? It was decided that my sister and I would attend a convent school in Kidderminster, about an hour’s drive away. I dreaded the thought as I had not liked my previous school and a Catholic convent seemed somewhat weird as we were all Church of England, but if my parents said it didn’t matter then I figured it must be all right. I was very curious about nuns and monks and any one devoted to the church or religion and liked to ask questions and talk about them. Once when out walking with my grandmother and passing two nuns on the street, I was especially curious as to why they wore black boots under their dresses. My grandmother could not give me an answer, so this question stayed with me for many years. I wondered what else they wore under these habits.
The reality of going to a convent, of course, was different. I found it difficult from the start. Again, I found it impossible to make any real friends. I was a naive country bumpkin with ratty hair and not particularly clever academically. In fact, apart from being able to read, write and enjoy poetry, I had little interest in other subjects. Art held an interest and I would draw fantasy pictures usually related to my dreams. Within them there was often a green vine that encircled the pictures, tall towers that it grew around and slim elegant trees that held spirits of ghostly women with long flowing hair, tall elegant bodies always draped in this vine that traveled though out the picture.
I traveled on the school bus mostly; sometimes my father took us in the car. It smelt of stale cigarettes and to try to fit in and be like the others, I would have a few drags on the odd fag that was passed around. It did not appeal to me, I did not like it, could not see the point but I was attracted to impressing those around me.
Once off the school bus and walking up the stony track, I could relax and be myself, passing on the way various horse’s, donkeys and other livestock. One of our elderly neighbors was the very proud owner of ‘The Duke of Worcester’, a fine great horse, over 16 hands high. I loved him and he seemed quite fond of me, even letting me put my school straw boater on him. On one sunny afternoon I took great delight in watching him take a large bite out of it, waving it around before dropping it on the ground, a large piece missing from the rim and covered with saliva. Reverend Mother would be quite horrified.
But always the rebel and totally anti-school uniform I was rather proud of my ‘new look’ boater. The purple and grey-striped blazer also came to grief. It snagged on some barbed wire and tore from the top of the sleeve down to the cuff.
Expensive uniforms did not really complement country life styles. And there was so much of it: shoes for indoors, shoes for outdoors, white gloves for summer, brown wool ones for winter, most of it was rarely worn and unnecessary. I longed to get home and put on my brother’s hand-me down jeans, my wellies and the old, baggy, blue jumper that Auntie Winnie had knitted for me which seemed to expand a little bigger every day and after every wash.
Horses were my greatest passion and I longed for one of my own but I begged rides on the neighbors’ ponies, particularly a cute little Shetland called Patches; far too small for me but capable and fast. I ‘borrowed’ without asking, one of the gypsies’ horses from the common, mainly at night, to ride around the court or anywhere they wanted to take me. Free from its ropes tied to old tyres, it would tear around as I clung fearlessly to the mane, whooping and laughing for joy. Getting it tied up again afterwards was trickier, sometimes I managed, and sometimes I had to leave it to make its own way back to its companions.
Then came the wonderful day when a pony of my very own arrived. She was a grey mare about 14.2 hands high, a pretty Arab with beautiful eyes. I called her ‘Mist’ and fell in love with her at once. She was in foal when we got her and she also had broken wind, which meant she huffed and panted after exerting herself, but the fitter I kept her the easier it was for her.
We soon became completely attuned to each other. I had little use for saddles and bridles; an old rope head collar would do and off we would go. “Up to the Church”, I would say, and off she went in the right direction. She knew when I wanted to go faster and when it was time to go home. We rode whenever it took our fancy in the day or night, and when Giselle, her little filly was born, she would come too, following at her mother’s side. We rode in places we shouldn’t have, crossing boggy land and fields, discovering new and unused pathways had great adventures together. Our favorite place to go was Witley Court grounds. The paths there made good race tracks and the stone walls excellent jumps.
The court, as well as being my own riding arena and playground, was a place of public interest. At night, cars and motorbikes would park outside and courting couples sneaked in to meet behind the hedgerows, or in the tall grasses and unkempt gardens. I knew the best hiding places and I saw what went on, but I was too young to have an interest in the physical goings-on, which rather repulsed me. I resented their presence in my private world. Mist and I had other plans. She, the lightest grey with long flowing mane and tail, I in my white jumper, long rats-tail hair and mad shriek, were out to scare. We would gallop about, trying to convince the intruders that we were ghosts, so that they would leave and not return and we could have the place to ourselves again.
I was very possessive of this old, dilapidated place. I didn’t like the other visitors or the builders that began to work there, to repair and ‘make safe’ for the tourists that flocked to see the ruins of what once was. They couldn’t see it as I did, the creatures that I had populated it with, or the faces of those that had died there and haunted its rooms. Who else could see its grandeur; feel its pain and loneliness? Only I could hear the secrets and stories breathed to me by the very rocks and stones. Mist and I would listen to them in the dark.
And I had a few secrets of my own which I could not share with anyone else, especially my family. I could only whisper them back, there, in the dark, telling my own sad, little story. I had been sworn to secrecy, ‘never to tell’. So I didn’t, except to those who I knew would not breathe a word. I felt safe there in the dark. I could hate and shout and cry. This court, these gardens were my sanctuary.
It is an old story and one all too common; a burden that so many people carry through their lives. I was a young girl, my body tender, sweet, and full of passion for life and for adventure. I loved my family and family parties and gatherings. My grandparents were very important to me and we had a close and loving relationship. But as time went on I became confused by the attention my grandfather gave to me. He bought me many presents and gifts, gave me money and took me on wonderful outings. His cuddles became tighter, somewhat suffocating, holding me too close sometimes. When he kissed me, it was on the lips. He didn’t do that to any one else, not even grandmother. He told me I was special, always patting my bottom and telling me I was a good girl.
There was something about the way he did this that didn’t feel quite right. Sometimes I would pull away from his embraces or run and hide behind my mother. She told me off once and pushed me into his arms, telling me not to be silly and unfriendly. He pretended we were playing a game but it didn’t feel like one to me. In any case, I thought, he was too old for games.
My grandparents slept in twin beds and didn’t share a double bed and I wondered why this was. She was older than him and I thought perhaps older people didn’t sleep together but my parents and other grandparents did. Perhaps they didn’t like each other any more? My grandmother was often very cross with him, scolding fiercely, so sometimes I felt sorry for him and wanted to make him feel better. So I would climb onto his lap and let him cuddle me. If we were on our own, he would put his hands on my bare skin, underneath my jumper, or on my legs. If I was wearing a skirt he would let his hand move up my thigh and stroke me. He told me never to tell anyone because this was just for me.
So I became very good at keeping secrets and I began to grow up with them. But secrets kept me apart which made me very lonely. I had to act a part, even with my family and those I loved. This aloneness was very corrosive, making normal relationships impossible. I didn’t understand this at the time, of course, I just felt lonely, not able to make friends. Perhaps that was why I found the intimacy of the lovers in the gardens so repulsive. I wanted to cling on to my innocence, not realising that it had already been taken from me.
We spent quite a lot of time in our grandparents care, sometimes staying at their house and often they would stay at ours, if my parents went away. It was customary for my grandfather to read me a good night story and to tuck me in bed. He spent a long time doing that. It was never just a simple tuck in and a kiss like my Dad used to do. He would sit on the bed talking to me, he would touch me and then sometimes he would pull down the covers of the bed. I usually wore a nightie and he would pull that up to reveal my young, naked body which he would touch and stroke. My breasts were budding and these he especially liked to caress. I was so very confused. With my eyes closed, I could enjoy the sensations the caresses elicited; they were somehow comforting. My parents were never very tactile and I enjoyed the closeness of touching. But this felt wrong, bad; he shouldn’t be doing this. And then when he stroked my legs and my tummy he would pass his hand over my pubic bone his fingers disappearing inside me. This happened time and time again, every visit.
Each year we would have a holiday with my grandparents. We went to the sea side. The sun shone and we romped around in swimsuits, went sailing in my father’s yacht and paddled in the water. We caught fish and sun bathed. My grandfather would treat us all to ice creams and presents. He let me have what ever I desired and I knew I could get anything from him. It was an unspoken agreement. I think he felt very guilty and kept telling me not to tell anyone about ‘our secret’. I wasn’t going to tell: I didn’t have the words.
One day I was upset, I had had an argument with one of the others and it was quite late at night. I was in my nightie and dressing gown. There were no other adults in the house, only my grandfather so I went to see him. He was just leaving the bathroom wearing a dressing gown and slippers. He said to come and have a story before bedtime. He sat in the big chair and put me on his lap. As he read, he kept moving and fidgeting all the time as if he were uncomfortable. I knew his hands were going to touch me on my skin. I felt his fingers. I jumped but he held me still saying I was a big girl now. He held me very tightly so I could not move. I was very hot, I hurt but he held me. I felt sick, lost, not sure where I was. What was he doing, why was I hurting! I became dazed. I knew a world I could escape to.
There is a cloud, a big cloud and I am moving through it, it brushes past my skin, it’s soft and I feel a sort of safety like I am being wrapped up and held in a big blanket. And then I felt warmth in my hands, I saw feathers curled around my fingers and I held tight, I gripped for all I was worth, something pulled me upwards into the sky, I was dizzy but I was going higher and higher into the sky into the clouds. There was a bright light all around me and I was flying. I wrapped my arms around great white wings I felt a heart beating and I was being carried away, far away into the distance. There was no body, no breath, just a lightness and a softness and emptiness all around.
He took me to my bedroom and tucked me in saying goodnight very quickly this time and shut the door. Is this what young women did for ‘older men’.
I was somewhat quiet and distracted for the rest of the holiday and then it was time to go home; it was over. From then on I chose not to go on holiday with my family. I had a lot of animals and it was very difficult for others to look after them. The horse needed exercising, the chickens feeding and the goat milking. I was the best at all of this, so I reckon it was quite a relief to my parents that I was happier staying at home. My maternal grandparents would stay with me and the family would go away and enjoy their holidays. They sent me post cards and brought me back a present.
I was hurt and angry, violated. What should have been a perfect life for a young girl had been poisoned, ruined, spoilt for ever. I decided that I was not going to be bound by the rules and convention and began to rebel.
Though the behavior towards me did not change and continued well into my early teens, it took a long while before I could shake it off and find a real way to escape! The memories of this behavior lay hidden in a dark place within me, as I found my route to escape amidst the dream-time. It would be later on in life, I would realize what had made me become the ‘difficult child’.
A bird, a great white bird came and took me into the sky. As we flew higher, I saw pink castles, lakes of gold and white doves. A fairy-tale land full of goodness, of purity, gentleness and dreams. Here I could be anything I wanted to be. I was beautiful and I shone and I was seen. I loved this place. My great white bird changed into a mighty horse with flowing mane and tail galloping through the clouds with thundering hooves, faster, faster. I would cry, quickly, quickly, don’t stop, don’t stop in case I feel! Energy flying through me and around me. Time and time again.
As a child I often packed my suitcase, walking out of the house with no idea where I was going. A certain need to gather things up and leave. Once I collected many hats from cupboards and wardrobes and filled my case with them. I was out for about an hour walking along the roads, I got hungry and then decided to go home. Was this packing of bags, running away and leaving, a rehearsal for later on in life? I had tried to run away from home a few times, but never got very far and no one noticed. But this time at the age of 14, I reached Liverpool and spent a night sleeping on the pier amongst the tramps and the homeless. A real eye-opener, especially when one urinated, fully-clothed, beside me. After a couple more nights sleeping in cars, the police found me, put me in a cell, and my dear parents, out of their minds with worry, drove the 200 miles or so to collect me. I believe they were told not to be cross with me, as this would only make the situation worse. I was inclined to agree.
It was back to a family who did not talk about our problems or goings on within the family that may have been inappropriate. There was no language for this apart from the language of bad behavior. I was expelled from the convent that I was still attending. I didn’t do the work I was supposed to be doing, was detached and unresponsive to the teachers. They told my parents there seemed little point in my being there. I was asked ‘nicely’ to leave.
I joined the local comprehensive and thus began my education with boys. This school was very different to the convent; I was different and I knew if I were to survive, I would have to learn new tricks pretty fast. I was still young for my age, still a country bumpkin and totally un-streetwise. I tried smoking and drinking, to forget about my animals (at school anyway) and to talk of nothing but how to ‘get a feller’ and the latest music in the charts. I chewed gum and swore a lot. I was surprised at how easily the girls talked about wanting sex, to sleep with a boy seemed to be their main target in life, I joined in the conversations. It wasn’t really me and I felt uncomfortable with this. I was playing a role partly to be liked and fit in, partly to annoy my parents.
The need to discover my true self led me towards music. I loved the beat, the rhythm. I especially liked the lyrics and the things that artists sang about. I loved the way music made me feel and when I was on my own I would dance and move in time to the sound. My brother had a radio, record player and tape recorder. I was deeply envious and longed for one of my own. I had a very old fashioned record player and a small selection of 45rpm single records which I would play over and over again. My brother and I listened to the pop charts every Sunday, recording our favorites. We lay there on the floor, bellies down, listening and pressing buttons, trying to get the timing just right. Eventually my grandfather gave me a cassette player of my own, I cried when I received it. I did not like getting presents from him as I grew older, but this I needed so much. I had to have a way of making my music, of taking music into my own space, a way to dance and be with myself.
My first ‘normal’ sexual encounter with a boy of my own age was with Pete, whom I quite fancied, as he was also a bit of a rebel. We went into a wood and had a sort of rummage amongst the fallen leaves and undergrowth, he with his hand down my knickers and trying out interesting but unsavory kisses. I wished he would hurry up because twigs and stones were sticking into me and it was wet and muddy. Eventually he pulled away, evidently pleased with himself, and lit a cigarette as we straightened our clothes before heading home. We didn’t go out again together.
I liked the boys and their motorbikes, and I quickly learned how to get their attention. As sex was the main topic of conversation it became a bit of a competition between the girls to see who could kiss which boy and find out how far he would go with you. I liked Jon. He used to take me round the back of the youth club into the boiler house. I never got much pleasure from these encounters, fast discovering that the boys were only interested in taking it, not giving.
It wasn’t just boys. There were a few girls with whom I shared some intimate moments. It was easier because we were allowed to stay at each others’ houses, in the same bedroom. Once the parents had gone to sleep we would climb into each other’s beds, cuddle up and explore each other’s bodies. It was very innocent and tender and much more loving than with a boy. We would kiss and explore different ways of kissing and to find out what we liked best. Sometimes we just lay side-by-side, touching ourselves in a race to see who could have an orgasm first. None of the adults ever suspected a thing.
It was the trivial things that I seemed to get into trouble for. Once I burned one of my bras, trying to make some sort of statement, which upset my mother when she found out. Once my father discovered me with my hand down some spotty-faced teenager’s pants: a memory that still makes me cringe. But Dad never showed his anger, never shouted or blustered or scolded. Instead he just went very quiet and that was scary in it self. I suppose he didn’t know how to deal with his wayward teenage daughter, bottling up his emotions whilst I tried to provoke a reaction. Looking back now, I can see that I was trying to punish my parents for what my grandfather had done to me, to cope with the feelings of shame and of low self-esteem. I had not learnt from a young age to respect my body. I’d learnt to give myself away far too easily. I, like every other child, had looked to my parents and grandparents to give me confidence in myself, to teach me the difference between right and wrong, the acceptable and unacceptable and to listen to, to hear and to leave room for discussion and reassurance without judging. I needed to trust them to give me encouragement and space to question, to develop and eventually to trust myself. When this is abused, like a plant poisoned at the root, how can we grow straight? However there was always my private world that I could vanish into.
He came to me in a dream. I thought he was my bird, my horse, I could not quite tell. He had feathers and his arms where strong. One time he picked me up and just cradled me as a small child. I was not afraid; I liked his touch, his breathing. As he held me he wrapped mighty wings around me. I felt the feathers warm and gentle on my skin. He told me he loved me and that I was going to be all right. And then he took me into the sky where he promised he would always look after me. Whenever I was lost or afraid I should call him and he would be there. He showed me places I had never imagined before. We spoke in poetry and song. But I was shy and afraid of my voice. He told me that one day I would speak and sing and I would tell stories. When he brought me back to earth he would kiss my cheek and say goodbye and tell me that he was never far away.
from Ms’Guided Angel .. MyVoice Publishing 2010
© Caroline Carey 2010