“Tidings of Comfort and Joy” (3)

Thank you for your patience.  I shall truncate this post to end the trilogy.

After a few days at the Hostel, my mother had an interview with a young man.  A social worker, I suppose.  I was there, but can’t remember anything of the conversation, just the fact that he kept looking towards me from time to time and had a kind smile.

Mum was given some money and travel vouchers for the London buses.  We left the hostel.  I remember my mum giving the travel vouchers to the bus conductor and I could see the embarrassment on her face.  In those days such State handouts were treated indiscreetly.  Other passengers would have known our plight.  It didn’t bother me – what did I know?

The rest is foggy but I recall that we ended up in another of the interminable dreary bedsitters.  Squalid, no private loo or bath, and just a small gas fire to keep us warm – when mum had the money to feed the meter.  I had a flash of inspiration.   I saw that the meter had a cheap padlock on.  I’d heard of “picking locks“.  Could I do it?  I knew nothing about it.  But my mum used to use hairpins so I got one and twisted it so that it would fit in the lock.  After a bit of fiddling about it opened.  I was so pleased.  Not only had I learned how to pick a lock, but we could now recycle the shilling it required and stay warm.  I gave no thought to possible consequences.  After all, we had to survive, I was protecting my mum, and I knew from past experience that we’d soon be moving on anyway.

I was acutely aware that my mum had changed.  We used to giggle and laugh at silly things.  That stopped.  She spoke little.  She was a shell of her former self.  She could never cook, but could at least make sandwiches and boil or fry eggs.  Now she sat in the corner of the bedsitter crunching on raw rice.  The noise was intolerable.  I used to shout at her to stop.  But she just looked through me and carried on.  That’s when I realised that, for both our sakes, I would have to learn, or try to, cook.

I had become her carer.  I didn’t know it then, but know it now.  Do I resent it?  No.  Never.  Was it part of the formative factors in the depression which would affect me in later life?  Definitely.

Dear reader, I have now to decide whether to fast forward to my Mother’s suicide, or to post again about what led up to it.  Indeed, what led me to the first of my three suicide attempts.  That was when my Mother was still alive, and I was 15 years old.  So often have I regretted that chance intervened, and I didn’t succeed.


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