How could I do anything else but fit in, this of course takes away experimentation and learning from mistakes. Learning from my mistakes was rare, I was not allowed mistakes I had to be perfect at all times.
I had quite a strict regime at home, it was all planned and laid out the only thing that never got planned or discussed was what would I be doing, how would I make a living. They never ever discussed with me what might be a good idea or how to get there.
I was lying asleep in my bed by the window having a wonderful dream about swimming very far out at the beach it was a wonderful feeling just me and the water and the sky and sun. The sun seemed to be getting brighter all the time this was when I gradually became aware that I was slipping out of my dream and that I was not fast asleep anymore.
Today should be the day the bananas were ripe enough by the sound of those birds. With this thought in my mind I leap out of bed determined to be the first to pick a ripe banana. I jumped up and out of bed and hurried out of the room half way to the bedroom door I blink, and then blink again and shake my head very vigorously then as I look around and notice things, it all comes back to me again.
When I was in primary School my father used to tell me lots of stories about all sorts of things, some of the stories were about Trinidad. According to my dad at various times the ships of a whole bunch of countries had just sailed up at one time or another, invaded and declared they owned Trinidad, the first to take over were the Spanish then the Dutch had a dabble but the French became the new power and after them came the English.
One time he also told me how and why Trinidad’s population was so cosmopolitan, it was he said, a story of pure practicalities, the settlers had practically killed off all the local Carib Indians with the common cold and other European diseases.
Additionally there was indentured labour from Ireland, England, and Scotland as well as a plentiful supply of convicts who were shipped off for life. As well as a good cross section of other nationalities who were looking for a new place to live.
As a kid growing up among such a mixed population I thought everyone knew people from all over the world. When I was a little girl I used to ask my father where I was from he used to tell me that I was a quarter Irish, a quarter Scottish, a quarter German, a quarter French, a quarter Spanish, and a quarter Indian, a quarter African as well as a quarter English.
That must make two, but how could I be two people when I was only one person. A very strange story, just like a lot of my father’s stories which I really enjoyed and most of which I totally believed too, like the story about my two German aunts.
They did however have a fruit orchard and they were always very busy making jam and preserves and baking just like in his story; and their large interesting cellar was full of these jars. Whenever they had visitors they would bake a huge amount of fruit pies, cakes and tarts.
The two old aunts were once part of a large family but their five brothers as well as their beau’s had all been killed in the First World War. After that their parents made them stay at home and look after them until they died.
My mum did tell me the story about the poor old tantes, which rather excited my tender feelings, and I recall crying when I heard how cruel their parents had been to them. No wonder they were abit eccentric.
My life with my parents Erika and Pelham, two of the many victims of ww2, and both with massive personal problems was neither heaven nor hell but usually somewhere just between.
It certainly was not romantic like that very famous opening sentence in Daphne Du Maurer’s novel Rebecca “last night I dreamt I was in Mandalay”.
As quickly as the clouds came so they could go away too and it became quite a worrying as to when they would happen and why, because as far as I could make out the black clouds could descend at any time without any warning, life became very scary indeed.
Food became a nightmare and mealtimes already difficult became pure torture and I would sit there dreading my mother giving me a bigger piece of anything especially meat as this would provoke some sort of reaction from my father, the explosion of anger would invariably be directed at me.
While we were living in Trinidad my parent’s problems and behaviour was tempered by the fact that we had lots of people around us there. My dad’s family were large and he had a lot of friends, both family friends and his own, as did my mother and I, there were always visitors around either family or extended family, in Trinidad extended family also means friends of the family as the adults are always addressed as auntie and uncle by the kids.
My mother was suffering from various traumas from the war and my father while not immune to all the effects of the war in Trinidad, was also fighting the effects of living in a colonial culture.
Once he was in England years later he realized quite how not the right type of white he was, as none of the people he had met out in Trinidad wanted to know him or even us, my mother and I. Of course once we were in England I became quite used to being referred to as the German woman’s daughter.
For years I have wanted to write about my life, and for years I have been speculating about the opening sentence. Which means that this lack of opening sentence has dominated my life for many years and for years now I have been looking for the perfect opening sentence. And there it was right there in front of me all the time.
So writing is not easy, but even more so, when I take each idea and dismiss it as too fanciful or not enough detail or what ever hundred and one excuses I have ready for not proceeding with the project.
In 1968 we had a real holiday, we were going to drive to Spain and stay in a rented apartment in a seaside town on the coast just down from Barcelona. It was called Calafel and was situated on the Costa Dorado.
Once we got to Calafel all seemed to be wonderful, the apartment was nice, a basic holiday flat with all the usual amenities. Even unexpected entertainment when my mother on examing the kitchen, tried to light the cooker in order to cook our first holiday dinner and nearly succeeded in blowing herself up in the process because there was a gas leak.
The next day the sun was shining brightly and all was well. Until my mother got annoyed with the people downstairs because they were too loud and were always cooking on the balcony.
Then a funny thing happened, the day the people downstairs were packing up to go, they came up to our landing and smilingly handed over a bottle of wine and some local dried fruits & nuts and a box of sweetmeats to my mother and father and said goodbye with much smiling.