Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Gabitas and Thring

Sometime at the beginning of the holiday we went to some ugly shop in London called Gabitas and Thring where I was made to try on some ugly and uncomfortable bulky winter clothes after I tried on a few things we left and nothing more was said about this shop which was puzzling but that was normal, strange would have been if they had explained what was going on.

It was an odd sort of a holiday in England it lasted too long and it took me too far away from my family and my own background and to this day I do not know why we really had to leave Trinidad. I will never know the truth now, as my parents are dead. My Auntie Jo said they left because they were too foolish to stay, because they did not want the good advice of family and friends.

All of whom said wait be patient the job you want is going to be yours soon but my father decided he would take his little family go across the sea and there he would find a more enlightened life among people who ate cheese on toast with daddy’s sauce and had cardigans with leather patches on the elbows and we all had ovaltine before bedtime.

This was the England of storybooks the England that was only kind to a small ten percent and a poor fellow from Couva like poor old dad was just not in that 10 %. They liked to tell me that they moved to England so that I could have a good English education. They did not give me a good English education instead they put me into a quick succession of schools, in total I went to 7 schools.

First a convent school in Hendon, London. This was where I finally heard the plans which went like this: my father was going to be returning to Trinidad after Christmas when my mother would be going over to Germany, in fact they were going over there right there and then to be near the family, they would see me at Christmas time.

When I got to the convent school in Hendon I recognized the ugly clothes I had to try on at the beginning of our holiday and to my horror they were my new school uniform, with a bewildering amount of shoes which were for a variety of occasions. There were indoor shoes and outdoor shoes plus slippers for the boarder’s section and of course Sunday shoes as opposed to weekday shoes.

At St Joseph’s we all were permanently carrying round shoe bags with our lots of shoes. Me being at a convent school as a boarder somehow fitted in with my parents rather sad pretentious aspirations for the good life in England. But sadly they quickly realized they could not afford this expense and because they had taken me from school before the 11 plus exam I now did not qualify for free entry into the better schools.

I was put into some of the worst schools ever, in the Secondary Modern system where no one cared if you learned anything as long as you were present and quiet. After this shock and finding that home was now hell where three people tried to live with each other without any proper communication or even any real desire to be together it seemed. Plus we were so isolated and they did not encourage me in making friends.

They did not encourage me to do anything apart from that I had to always where possible sit with them downstairs. Hobbies or studying were not things they tried to stimulate at all. In fact sitting upstairs apart from for the purpose of doing homework was considered odd behaviour, my place was at all times with them.

So I would have to sit night after night downstairs and hear their silence interspersed with my mother or my father having a veiled go at each other or her mainly carping about something, always somehow suggesting he was not quite up to it.

My presence did not mean I could say anything because it did not, no I was just there because that was what families did they sat in silence until the next row broke out. It always had me sitting on the edge of the sofa, probably so that if I had to run I could be out of the door in seconds, I am sure its contributed to my back problems, as I still tend to sit on the edge of seats.

Strange they never tried to encourage me to do anything, there was no perspectives for my future just dire talks about how difficult it was going to be if I did not pull my socks up, that girls and boys who did not do well at school would not have such a good life and then again they would talk about a good marriage with a professional man.

And if they referred to any plans it was always in the negative as in of course you will never go to university or of course that won’t be you doing whatever it was because you would not be good enough. Never any sort of encouragement never any positive reinforcement, wherever possible they always focused on the negative.

All this was really hard to take there was no perspectives for the future. I felt quite desperate; things flared up at my 16th birthday party where to my horror and amazement my mother insisted that I have a party at home. I had not had a birthday party since we left Trinidad in 1962.

She also said that I could invite some friends, this had me really apprehensive and nervous, I mean it seemed like a nice idea but what would it be like on the day? And what would they be like, would they be in a good mood or would my father suddenly have an attack of the blimps. Oh well trying to be wildly optimistic that this was a sign that I was being taken abit more seriously at home I invited some friends to come by on the 17 march.

All seemed to go well until there was some debate about the type of music and the volume then it turned abit sour when my dad decided to do his draconian bit and decided that not just the music would have to stop but the party too, there was pandemonium when he ordered everyone to leave right away.

As well as the guests leaving so did I, when they did not see me I went out of the door. I was really upset felt really let down and betrayed, I headed off to the nuns place to see them and the old ladies I got to know through the volunteer project from school. They were shocked at my distress but not surprised as they knew my home situation, they did advise me to let them tell the police where I was.

The cops came down to speak to me, they were very understanding and the woman cop told me that if I had tried to run away at 16 that I could be made a ward of court which would last until I was 21 and would entail lots of unpleasant court appearances etc. She told me I should be sensible and wait until I was 18 as there was little to nothing my parents could do then, as it was legal for me to leave at that age.

So for the last two years at home between 16 and 18 I had been counting the days virtually before I left home as soon as I legally could. Which I did the very next time there was a major crackdown on me being a normal teenager and wanting to go out and enjoy myself, I think it was all because I went to see Jungle Book with some friends who were unknown to my parents and therefore the personification of evil to them.

This then triggered off a huge row which I independently resolved by going to school the next day and then doubling back after they had gone to their work I then put some bits and pieces in a couple of carrier bags and fucked off.

They did find me as a schoolmate from college grassed me up by phoning my parents and telling them where I was in Reading. Screaming and tearful scenes followed at the coffee bar I was in when they turned up, my mum even called the police but they refused to do anything when they heard how old I was apart from turn up to check that I was alright which I was. My mum then made a big scene by screaming and shouting that things would have been different in Germany!

Everyone laughed their heads off, she then made it worse for herself by saying very loudly she would have got some action from the police in Germany, and they were obviously not capable of doing their jobs properly, at this point the police stopped any communications with her and they obviously decided they had been more than professional enough and left for their station away from the abuse of this strange mad German women.

My mum seemed oblivious to all laughter from the clientele in the coffee bar who by now were very sympathetic to me she now stormed out of the place dragging my poor father with her and screaming abuse at everyone most of all the police. She was accompanied all the way up the little alleyway by the loud laughter from everyone present.

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