Category Archives: memoir

Without Prejudice. Finale

I throw out these scraps as if it’s all there is to tell, but these are mere highlights in my tale of our police. I could write a book, and on every page I’d describe some small or major kindness; the type of generosity of spirit that is too rarely commented upon; far too meanly treated, especially when meted out by the police. 

However, I expect this chapter to be the last, and it tells a story which ended on Thursda, with me weeping from gratitude, even though I had faith that it would happen. It concerns a WPS; S, who had a special interest in my daughter’s plight. She specialises in abuse cases, and she was involved with Laura for a while. During this time we met a few times, and had several phone conversations.. During this period, Laura was particularly unwell. She knew my deepest fear, and she shared it. Rather than pretending that she reckoned everything would be fine, she owned up to the truth; that my daughter was unlikely to survive much longer, and that no professional who was working with her, could understand how she’d stayed alive. She added that in the best case scenario, Laura would be involved in a serious accident which neither killed nor permanently maimed her, but took her off the streets for a few months, where her only choice would be drug recovery. Looking back, I expect she knew, as I did, that Laura had a reputation for running across and back in the path of moving cars. Even with this information and more, hard as they tried – along with the local drugs services, they couldn’t get her sectioned, as they have no authority over the NHS. Three doctors carry out an interview on the patient, and they have to agree that she is putting her life, or the life of someone else, at risk. People in psychosis are often remarkably sly, and more aware than you may expect. They frequently slip through the net. Sometimes they die as a result.  

Coming back to the subject at hand, S’s remarks may sound harsh, but she only told me what I knew to be true, and followed it up with my own secret wish. She was deeply intuitive; she knew that I had no desire to hide from the truth, and thanks to her being open, I felt less alone in the sustained terror of my daughter’s death. It’s true to say that the end of our talk I felt strangely relieved, to the extent that I began to hope that the grizzly miracle might happen, taking Laura’s recovery out of her hands and placing it firmly in the lap of the unwilling, underfunded, oversubscribed NHS., and giving her a chance of a future. If she ended up with a steel shaft in her leg, so be it. Better metal than graveyard mould. That’s how desperate I was to avoid what we all thought was a foregone conclusion until my WP friends gave me hope. 

Laura had not committed any crime; rather, she was chief witness (otherwise known as the victim) to a filthy batch of them. Perhaps due to limited court time (Rule Britannia, Britanna blah blah blah, Britain never, never, never shall be sane), only three were being brought against the abuser, but they were serious. Contact with S ceased to have any professional relevance when Laura proved herself to be too unwell to appear in court. The judge had no choice but to abort the trial in the interests of her mental health – not that it helped; at that point nothing helped. Laura continued to spin in a jerky trajectory that seemed to have only one possible destination. S continued to be privately concerned about Laura’s precarious lifestyle.

As many of you know, in Spring, Laura fulfilled my highest hopes by going into determined recovery, with the support of a kind friend of mine who has since become more to her, leaving all who truly know her dazed, while the addicts of this town continue to be cynical about the changes she’s made.

They haven’t seen her.

I got a thrill when I reflected upon how much better her life is now than mine has ever been – I still do – but one thing was bothering me. The police had not been told, and they deserved to know. On the day I called them to complain about the monstrous man who threatened me with death, the guy who took my call was so accommodating that I explained my quandary. Immediately – even eagerly – he asked me for a name that he could send a message to, pointing out that the police rarely hear the happy endings, no matter how they care and wish to know. I gave the name of my favourite WPS, and although he was in a call centre forty-eight miles from here, in a straight line, he was as good as his word.

On Thursday afternoon, as I worked in the back room of the Oxfam shop, I got a call from a private number, and before I touched the phone, I knew who the caller would be.

She sounded the same as always; warm and friendly. I gave her all the details of Laura’s current life – within reason; I didn’t mention her new clothes or finicky things like that, but she got my drift, and I heard the relief and pleasure in her tone. She told me how many times she had thought about Laura, and dreaded the expected final report on her desk, and it suddenly occurred to me that if the worst had happened, she would have been almost certain to have requested or chosen to be the one to visit me, if she’d been at work.

I could so easily have been soaking her clothes with my tears.

I held myself in check while she asked me to send Laura her warmest regards, and wish her the very best for her future. I kept it together while she said she hoped she would see my daughter in Barnstaple some day, and have the opportunity to speak to her now that her tragic mask of killing addiction has been flung onto the motorway that leads to her home in the city, and crushed by a million cars; now that he had finally silenced the wild cacophony inside her head, and returned to health – except that she didn’t word it quite so colourfully.

I said goodbye to S, who had once considered applying for a transfer to the City, where the would be more promise of promotion, but changed her mind when she realised that city police have less sense of community; she’d have less opportunity to apply the personal touch, and to work in a close-knit way with her colleagues who were less friendly than those in this country town. That’s why she stayed.

I put down the phone, and cried tears of joy. I knew how much her wishes would mean to Laura, and they meant a great deal to me.

The complex mix of emotions that rose as I was writing this post have exhausted me like no other I can remember.

I’m so tired that I can hardly stand. Maybe I’ll sleep on my sofa tonight.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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The Author of my Being. Part 4

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…The continuing story of the trauma that threaded its way into my life when I reached puberty. Click on the links to read Part 1, Part two and Part 3.

WARNING! ADULT CONTENT

I recently turned eleven. Thanks to my mother’s gentle tact, I’ve bathed by myself since the start of pubescence. Now both my sister and I have more space to splash.

I lock the door against invaders,
but the peace of security evades me.
I imagine prying eyes, spying through the frosted window,
dribbling at my prematurely curved body.
I hide my breasts and genitals beneath clean flannels
that my she-devil nipples and the wilful triangle of hair
are concealed from peeping-toms,
and also from me.

I could soak and scrub all day,
but it won’t change the way I’ve become.
It won’t make me clean.
I can never be Me again.
It’s a cruel error,
this forced, false femininity;
this stealing of self.
It’s the end of everything.
Please Lord, if indeed God you be,
let me be a boy.
Let me be me.

I want to wake up free from this monstrous body, throw off my vest and run in the fields
unencumbered by the trials of Eve, but I don’t know how to strike a deal. In my panic, it doesn’t occur to me that a boy must eventually morph into a man. Recent events have made me less sure than ever of whether I like men.

Smashing up against all of this angst and agony, is the worst secret of all, one that often creeps up on me when I see my father’s photographs, and whenever I am alone in the bath. It’s a  humiliation that I try to press down, but I can’t. It thrums in time to the pulsing of my blood, a tantalising tickle way below the belt, lurking low in the belly, beneath budding flesh.

A flimsy flannel may cover up the sight of that rebellious part of me, but it cannot desensitise the site.

The beat is taking me, strumming deep inside,
I try to block advice from some devilish guide
plagueing me with vile and wicked temptation
to stroke and to probe the inner inflammation.
Apalling visions are swishing in my head
of naked women kissing in a sweat soaked bed.
I abhor the excitement which billows within,
insisting that I execute a dark, exquisite sin.

The thrills explode, but as the water grows chill,
I’m chagrined and angered by my weak lack of will.
I wallow in disgrace and I’m sure of one fact
It can’t be normal to commit such an act.
I’ve a nasty suspicion that I’m to blame,
For my father’s iniquitous act of shame,
and not only that, but the juvenile attack
is starting to feel like an earned comeback.

More ignominy awaits. My mother, with her kind sensitivity, has left it as long as is practicable, but one evening she brings the subject up, in as casual a manner as she can muster:

“When we go to town tomorrow, I’ll buy you a couple of bras.”

Heat presses against me, insinuating itself beneath my skin. My heart is hammering. I taste metal, a flavour that’s becoming familiar to me. I knew there could be no remission, but this feels like proof; the final nail, hammering into the coffin of childhood..

“I don’t… I can’t… I… All right,” I reply.

Her eyes slide in my direction, assessing the situation, then look quickly away. She knows I’ll shut shut down or hide my agony behind a mask of anger if she shows too much kindness or empathy. A brief sentence is all I’ll allow. I deal with unpleasantness in my own way. I don’t like soppy stuff, it’s for weedy girls, who burst into tears and let mum cuddle them and make it all better. My problem can’t be resolved, and expecially not in that way. I mustn’t show weakness.

If I was a weedy girl, I would probably be pleased to have reached this landmark. I no longer know what I am, but I’m not like the sissies in the village nearby, with their busty Barbies, frilly skirts, and pink hairslides.

“You’ll be more comfortable in a bra,” she murmers.

It’s evening, so I can’t run off to my world at the bottom of the field below my house, but when I go to bed I can plan how my first conversation with Paul will go. I see him, sprinting through the field towards me, his hair bouncing. In a moment I’ll reveal myself…

The next day, mum and I go into a low-key shop, a shop that’s not brazen about its bra display. I can’t look at the bras. To me, choosing one would be like selecting which type of lethal poison to take when you have no wish to kill yourself. Mum rummages around, then picks one up and asks me if I like it. I’m several feet away, trying not to look like someone who’s being bought a bra, so I mutter that it’s fine. I’m too embarrassed to try it on, so she guesses the size, gets two, and says that if they don’t fit she’ll bring them back and get a different size.

At home, I obediently go to my bedroom and try on one of the bras. It’s a horrible white pointy thing – this is 1966, and horrible white pointy things are fashionable. It feels uncomfortable, but I was expecting that. I can’t bear to look at myself, so I don’t know whether or not it fits. I take it off. I only plan to wear it for school. I go downstairs, where mum is trying to look indifferent.
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“Do they fit?” she asks.

“Yeah, thanks mum, they’re lovely” I say, attempting to sound keen.

As it turns out, they don’t fit. Anywhere. I endure months of increasing itching and chafing before mum risks suggesting that I may have grown out of my first bras. We go through a slightly different routine, with a marginally less painful result. My mother, without fail, does her best for her strange, repressed boy-daughter. She has many difficulties in her life, and, however it may seem, I do my best not to be one of them, perhaps with less success than I would hope. Wanting to please me, she asks me if I like the style of my current bras. I don’t want to her to feel she’s failed in any way, so I say yes, thereby precipitating the purchase of exactly the same ugly, uncomfortable style. The fit is little better. I come to the conclusion that the mistake of my birth is worse than I thought. Not only have I inadvertantly been made into a girl, but my shape has been inaccurately designed.

Still, I think, at least this time I didn’t have to go through the discomfiture of being present when my mum bought the bras.

My father has taken to covering up his disgrace with fake jollity, adopting a hail-fellow-well-met attitude whenever I’m present. This is an in-between time in our relationship; it could go either way. He could apologise, and make whatever dumb excuse he may please. All my life he’s been a hero to me, so I’d be eager to forgive him, but in addition to being sexually driven, he is proud, arrogant, and selfish, so there’s little hope for real repair, and anyway, maybe I’m in the wrong, too. I’m the one who’s turning into a filthy monster. What he did could be partly my fault.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Author of my Being. Part 3

… The continuing story of the trauma that threaded its way into my life when I reached puberty. Click on the links to read Part 1 and Part two.

I would like, at this point, to introduce you to The Author of my Being. The link below makes interesting reading – and viewing; even for me, although there is no information of which I was not already aware, and no photo which I haven’t seen. I grew up surrounded by them.

Remember, the photos you see are pre-1955… many of them are a little risque for their time. I believe the originals of the prints on this site are in the posession of my sister, but I have others.  I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. They form an important part of my history, and who knows, they could even be valuable. I keep them hidden well out of reach, as some of them depict adult family members.

Dear reader, please say hello to a charming, intelligent and likeable man. I say this without a trace of sarcasm – he was all of those things, and so much more…. Here is a link to my father, the eminent photographer:

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↓ ↓ link ↓ ↓

,ANTONY BASIL

↑ ↑ link ↑ ↑

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Beyond that, I’ll keep this post short…

A while ago I was looking for images of one of my daughters, when a photo of me surfaced. My dad, having been a renowned photographer, before he gave it up to become a toil on the land (all of which you know, if you clicked on the link), gave us each a Brownie 127 camera. One of my brothers must have taken the photo, which was captured just as I was stepping out of our kitchen door. The expression on my face made me cry. I looked at that photo so many times over the years, wondering at my expression. I never made the connection before. Suddenly I knew; it was taken just after my dad had deflowered my mouth with his tongue.

I look as if I am lost, and am looking for a way home.

to be continued…

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Author of my Being. Part 2

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More about the trauma that entered my life when I reached puberty. Part 1 can be found immediately below this post, or you can click on the link HERE.

A few weeks after my father rams his tongue down my throat, a fifteen year old boy who lives down the road lures me into a caravan to “show me something”. Once there, he pushes me onto the bed, pins me down, and tries to tear my clothes off. At first, Im too shocked to take in the nature of his intentions. Terrified, I think my life depends on my escape.

Fear is metal-flavoured. Later I will learn about the chemicals released by the body, which prepare us for fight or flight, but at this stage I know nothing of adrenalin.

He’s underestimated the accuracy of my fierce reputation, and the strength of metal. I struggle free, and punch him a couple of times. He reels backwards, finds his footing. Blushing, and staring at the floor as if in search of some small thing he has lost, he stutters a three syllable apology, which repeats. He’s stuck, and doesn’t try to stop me from leaving.

I’m confident that not even a boy five years older than me will dare cross me twice. I’m correct. I have ways, and I take to making his life as difficult as possible. I’m safe from him, but nothing can exorcise the feelings of rage and shame that hit me again and again, every time I think of the attack. I feel no conscious blame, but somewhere deep inside, I’m soon to start totting up the abuses.

Meanwhile, my father and I are avoiding each other’s eyes. He’s floundering, scrabbling to plan a strategy. I spend a lot of time on my own. I’m often to be seen running through the field below our house. No longer is it a joy; merely an escape. When I reach the bottom corner, I crouch down and crawl into my secret, secure space. This den is a miracle of nature, its earth walls dry and lined with tree roots where I conceal my private writings and pictures of Paul McCartney. When I show him my tiny hideout, I’ll invite him in. We’ll sit opposite each other, our feet touching, while I show him all the items I placed here in preparation for his arrival. Everything which belongs to us is here, everything which reminds me of him. This is my shrine to him.

Paul is going to save me. One day his limousine will choose a scenic route to a nearby gig. While passing a gate at the top of the field, he’ll spot the clump of trees close to my den. With a strange sense of destiny burning in his chest, he’ll ask his driver to stop, get out of the car, leap the gate, and eagerly sprint down through the field toward the trees. Like a sprite, I’ll reveal myself.

Only then will he know that the hollow emptiness that has always stirred in his soul was due to the lack of me in his life. We’ll spend the rest of our lives climbing trees together, playing tag in warm shadows and running in the sun. On sleepless nights we’ll talk to each other about our perfect world, our silver voices flowing across the small gap between the separate tents in the field where we sleep.

This is my deepest secret. It’s the reason why I smile as I write in honour of him.

It will happen. Soon. It has to.

Our lives will be serene.
Our love will be clean.

I was ten years old, traumatised by sudden, unwanted changes, both in my horribly blossoming body, and in my  life. I dispised and feared the bulging bits, the blood, the bending cramps, and a future which may be filled with bastards who squeezed me as if I was a squeeky toy. When I was in my den, I lived out a fantasy. At all other times I continued to pretend I was a boy. It seemed like my only defence.

My innocence clung to me as tightly as I clung to it.

to be continued…

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Author of my Being. Part 1

MY DAD. By Jane Basil, aged 8 years and 7 months

My dad’s the best. He can do anything. He can draw and paint, make sculptures and pots,build walls and shelves, and fit doors and window frames. He can answer any question and tell you whatever you want to know. He’s the cleverest dad there is.

My dad’s quite famous and is sometimes on TV. People want to meet him, and talk to him about art. I think he likes the women that come to see him best. They come a lot. 

My dad treats me well and tells me I can do whatever I like with my life. He says the only limit is my ambition. He knows I’m a girl, because everyone says that when I was born he was thrilled to have a daughter, but he lets me do the same things as him. I can help to mix concrete, and put up a course of bricks. I can knock nails in straight almost every time. Yesterday I carried tiles up a ladder, and handed them to him, so he could mend the roof, but today I’m helping my mum in the kitchen.

Dad’s in the studio side of his workroom doing stuff I can’t help him with.

My mum’s lovely and ever so kind, and cooking’s all right, but it’s for girls. I’m certain there’s been a mistake; I was meant to be a boy.

>

I’m ten years old.
Naked women crowd our living space,
their painted shapes pressed against framed glass,
or shaped in oak and in clay, arranged just so, on every flat space.
Shelves bend beneath the weight of fat albums
brimming with glossy breasts and hips, captured in Kodak Bromide.

In the workshop, chippings curl beside finest chisels.
Deep within an oaken block, another naked form
waits patiently to be unpeeled by her master’s eager hand.
No more than a coy shoulder is yet revealed.
Her eyes have not been created, and cannot see the devan,
where a lady lies, and the camera clicks.

My mother speaks gently of the aesthetic beauty of the fleshy curve,
making no mention of lascivious urges.
I see no trace of bitterness on her face,
or guess at any untold ache.

I’m too young to think of lipsticked kisses,
of tangled tongues or stolen intimacies.
Too young to place the scent of my father’s sins.
I think he’s the best; I bask in his praise
and revel in every task he sets me.
He seems to silently accept that I need to be a boy.
Maybe he sees that it’s better this way,
as girls are prettier than me

To my shame, my body is changing.
I can’t stem the growth, or the flow of blood and time.
All the same, I feel proud when my father suggests photographs;
he’s taken no pictures of me since I was three years old,
and even then his act was unwilling.

I choose a bulky jumper to cover up my determined bumps.

After a couple of clicks, he wants me to take it off.

He’s my father, so where’s the harm?

(A lifetime later, I still blush when I see what he has done to me. My blouse is a shiny sky blue, and he has made me pull at the hem, exposing the shape of my breasts, and look down, as if I am admiring them.)

Next, he wants me to remove my top. I love this man;
if it were possible,
I would stand naked for him, but I can’t.
I’m embarrassed, but there is something else,
something very wrong.
I try to grab it it, to find a diagnose,
but I feel dizzy.
My ears ring, making me stutter as I utter my refusal.

I’m hot, and something is dying. I can feel it in the air.

His game lost, he selects his consolation prize.
He chooses disgusting French kisses, and a grinding grope.
I see his eyelids droop as he considers the ultimate crime,
but he crushes the idea.

With a sneer he says
“I think you enjoy being kissed like that.
I think it makes you feel good,
but you’d prefer it with someone younger.”

I can’t speak for horror and lack of oxygen.
I feel nausea rising.
Grasping the door handle, I stagger
out into the fresh air and spit.
I spit and spit,
but the taste of my father’s iniquity has spread
to my gut. It has filled my lungs
and is making its way to my heart.

I

am

ten

years

old.

Without warning, war has begun.

There will be retribution for my denial of his will.

There will be revenge that he dare not steal his filthy thrill.

He will bend my childish spirit and redesign my mind.

>

I chose not to include images, as none would be appropriate, except the photos he took of me, and my scanner won’t let me upload them – perhaps it’s concerned for my modesty.

to be continued…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Panic mode

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At first it was cannabis. Some say it’s not a serious drug, but it hit my two younget children like a disease that races to the bloodstream and keeps on running.  Neither of them had reached sixteen, so the risks were greater. Within a few weeks my son was a stranger who seemed to hate me, and my daughter had receded into the distance.

They became obsessed with the drug, and it was impossible to keep them safe. They rebelled against all rules disappearing in the evening, and trying to stay out all night. It was often hard to track them down. Once we found them at 3am at a party on the beach, stoned out of their heads, and it was difficult to get Paul into the car to take him home. We tried grounding them, but they still snuck out.

Each time we couldn’t find them I panicked.

Later, the police suspected Paul of dealing, and chased him whenever they got the chance. Usually he was too fast for them, but one night he was caught, and landed in court. The criminal justice team got involved, but it didn’t solve the problem. He began experimenting with any drug he could lay his hands on. He became addicted to cocain, and sold it to pay for his toxic fun. I was scared for his welfare, but he didn’t care. He dealt with the cocaine problem by replacing it with heroin.

When I found out about his habit I panicked and confronted him. He denied it, I handled it badly and we ended up quarrelling.

A couple of months later, I learnt that Laura had fallen into the same trap. I panicked, but didn’t let Laura see the state I was in.

Ten years on I’ve lost count of the many times I’ve panicked; rushed around like a fool looking for a cure for my children’s addictions, and trying to help them out of dire situations that they got themselves into. I’ve had gun-toting crack dealers holed up in my attic, heavies threatening to smash my door in, or smash Paul’s face in, and a couple of times they did. I had to mop him up. I’ve been threatened, bullied, conned and robbed by him. I’ve had to turn him in when he was on the run, for his own protection. I’ve refused to smuggle drugs into prison to prevent him from getting a beating. I’ve watched my daughter turn into a skeleton, witnessed her in the grips of screaming psychosis, seen her running in front of moving traffic, been told that her organs were breaking down, and she would die soon, and sometimes I rose into panic mode, while other times I sank silently to the floor, curling up until I could cope with the agony.

I’ve panicked many times over the past fifteen years, but when the worst thing of all occurred, I kept my head. If I hadn’t, my son would have been dead that first time he OD’d. He’d stopped breathing, and I resuscitated him until the paramedics came. I watched as they tried to save him. When the first shot of adrenalin went in, it didn’t work, but I was calm. When the second dose produced no result, I stayed calm. After the third shot, the paramedic told me that it was the last one she could administer. If it didn’t bring him round there was nothing more they could do. I held my breath, but I didn’t panic.

The seconds ticked by. Four paramedics stood in the room. I sat close to Paul’s feet. Across the room were two of my daughters, and my fifteen year old grandson, who shouldn’t have had to see his uncle like that. The room was silent, waiting for a horrific proclamation. Nobody breathed.

My son lay, grey and motionless, on the sofa. Time slipped away, as  he lay still, and we waited.

It happened do fast that we were all thrown backwards. The paramedic who was tending to Paul nearly lost her footing when he leapt into a standing position, inadvertently pulling the canula out of his arm, sending blood spurting up the wall. He stared around him, terrified. He was shouting incoherent accusations at the room. It later transpired that he thought he was being raped, but I had no sympathy for his terror. I didn’t panic. I just screamed blue murder at him for frightening me so much by nearly dying.

I didn’t panic three weeks later, when he OD’d again, but I wouldn’t say I’ve become immune to panic. However, I’ve learnt to control it when it hits me.

The Daily Post #Panicked

©Jane Paterson Basil

Free love

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They called it free love,
as if it was a store giveaway – a sample to get our juices flowing,
tempting us to pay an exhorbitant price
for the full package.

They called it free,
like there’d never be a debt to pay.
For some there may not have been,
but others paid
in shame, discomfort, and broken dreams.

They called it love;
that intimate act used for the purpose of reproduction or fun,
which hitherto had been a dangerous occupation
for those who didn’t want children.
The pill made it an everyday game
to be played with whoever was available, vaguely hygienic
and sporting a twinkle.

They called it free,
but some of us felt obliged to give it away
to prove we weren’t frigid,
or afraid to rail against the aging status-quo,
or gay –
as if it mattered anyway.

They called it love,
even as they flailed, naked and indifferent,
between questionable sheets or by the gritty evening shore,
questioning whether this was the best they’d ever feel,
making fake orgasmic noises to conceal a failure
to be as they ought – or maybe that was just me.
There was no ecstasy in what I gave away.
I sweated unwillingly;
my aped eagerness a brave or cowardly act.

They called it love,
and fearing loneliness or disdain,
I partook at every disappointing opportunity,
but my heart was always loyal to yours.

They called it free love.
It’s true I was free with my body,
but you were the only one for me, the only man
who loved me enough
to wait until I wished to give myself freely,
even if that day never came.

Only you
recognised and soothed
the broken child
inside me.

Your love was truly free.

xxx

©Jane Paterson Basil