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POETRY

poems of the month

fish

vagabondage

measuring my face

ostracism

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

leda and the swan

confession from belgrade

gloss on rilke's
ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

the love of pierre de ronsard

imagepoem

 

TRANSLATIONS

 

BETWEEN POETRY AND PROSE

good riddance to mankind

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400 revolutionary maxims

nice men and
  suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

the rich man and the leper

disgusting

art, truth and bafflement

 

SHORT STORIES

godpieces

the three bears

three albanian tales

odorous underwear

a little creation story

 

PROSE

helen's tower

extortion through e-bay

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

are doctors autistic ?

single track in the snow

never a pygmy

against money

did franco die ?

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

a note on the cathars

happiness

londons of the mind
& dealing death to the caspian

genocide

a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

the dog from sinope

shoplifting
in britain & america

this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

a holy dog
& a dog-headed saint

fools for nothingness

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

the visit

 

PHOTOGRAPHS

prelude

 

Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland

houses for the dead

ireland & the phallic continuum

the sheela-na-gig conundrum

french megaliths

a small town in france

western values

 

 

 

 

from

WOMB OF HALF-FOGGED MIRRORS

by

Martha Weir
published 1998


an account of a woman's drifting into Dementia,
in her own words written on scraps of paper - often palimpsests -
to her dead sister and unacknowledged, mostly-absent son, who has presented them uncensored, with notes and explanations.

RECOMMENDED BY THE ALZHEIMER'S AND DEMENTIA SOCIETY (U.K.)


Anthony and Martha Weir
Martha & Anthony on the banks of the Loire, 1981.


 
‘Some bloody woman has arrived to "clean"!'

'Dear ??? - I have arisen!! I wonder why the house doesn't seem to be ours any more. Too many strangers. I'm in bed. Come up and talk to me a little, over a cuppa. I shall stay in bed until the house clears a little. I don't feel sociable.

[overleaf]'I don't remember Christmas at all! Did I hang up my sock ?
Why wasn't I in Cyprus. The people there are so different and make you feel at home. I'm just an obstruction here. Not even a civil word.

A:
- Came down for a little tea:
regarded as an interloper.'
 
'Can't find door. Forget what I'm looking for! Have lost a door - see below.'
 
'I could do with a little wine.
….I'm not sure if I'm alive or not…'
 
'No hot-water bottles. I bought TWO new ones recently…'

'Where are the hot water bottles ? They're always going missing….I wish I was in Cyprus where I'd be warm.
I filled a kettle for my hot-water bottle but I can't find it…'

'Search your beds diligently, and your rooms. I've bought enough hot-water bottles to keep a whole family for the winter.

Later: Found it. I have filled it and gone back to bed. Ate a sultana bun.'

'I am a bit out of the world. I seem to have mislaid a slipper…..there is a hot water bottle shortage again!!!'

'Can't find the bread-knife. There's a bottle of wine in the fridge.
I think I'll stay in bed until Christmas.'

'G:- Have gone for a walk. I think.
Shouldn't be long.'

'It's a funny old world. Am I really in it ?'

'The kettle is in the bathroom. I seem to have mislaid my hot-water bottle.'

'Open some wine for me, dear. And let's celebrate. What ? Easter, perhaps. Or Christmas. Will I be warm by then ?' The "home help" is deadly.'
 
'Some wine for you, dear. I've gone back to bed. I think my blood is beginning to freeze..is there a cure ?'

‘I think that my "brain" is frozen …Don't attempt to waken me in the morn.
I may be in the Other World - but will it be warm ?............................'


FOR SCANNED TEXT OF THE FIRST PAGES OF
WOMB of HALF-FOGGED MIRRORS


CLICK HERE


Click for complete text in PDF


Martha, 1998

After the notes were written; after she had somehow set the house on fire and been transferred to a terrible Northern Irish hospital, from which I managed eventually to get her into very pleasant accommodation for dementia sufferers, which was near to me so I could visit her frequently.


MARTHA IN THE SPECIAL UNIT:

'I didn't think you'd know anyone in a place like this.'

‘No-one has escaped and there have been no beatings-up that I'm aware of.'

‘What will you do if I starve to death ?'

‘My two legs belong together but they seem to have forgotten it.'

‘This place is dreadful. The sun never shines. How did you know to find me here ?'

‘I think the nearest town must be Limassol...'

‘One day they'll be taking me away from here to a loony bin... I don't think I'm quite All There.'

‘Maybe I'll run away.'

‘I don't know if I'm dead or not.'

‘I remember when this place was just a swamp.
I don't think I'll get out of here alive.'

‘What is the road at the end of the drive ?'



After she, inevitably, developed pneumonia and, cynically pumped full of antibiotics by the minions of the pharmaceutical industry - despite her Living Will and my protests - Martha lingeringly died.

VISITING MARTHA IN HOSPITAL:

‘I want to cry...
I want to cry.
You're so healthy, and I'm soon going to die.'


Martha, 1976, at prehistoric Portal Tomb "The Labby", County Sligo, Ireland


and at a French megalithic tomb (Baugé, Maine-et-Loire) in 1978

 


home page

 

scanned text of the first pages of

WOMB OF HALF-FOGGED MIRRORS

notes in lieu of communication

by Martha Attram

collected and edited by
her son

~

Dissident Editions
Downpatrick 1997
ISBN 0 9520451 4 I

This text may be copied in full or in part, and distributed by whomsoever,
as long as the original author, Martha Weir, whose moral right to authorship of this book, is herewith asserted and acknowledged.
Since it was published during her lifetime, I altered her surname to a mirror-version of her first name.


FOREWORD

THE MESSAGES


FOREWORD

These notes were written by a woman in her late eighties who suffered from complete short-term memory loss.

The loss of short-term memory was greatly accelerated by two unnecessary operations on the bowel correcting a gross and nearly fatal mistake in a first operation for a prolapsed rectum.
This was followed by a fall into a trench when on holiday in Morocco, causing a broken shoulder which prevented her from driving her car and from playing golf.

By the time her shoulder healed, the cumulative effect of the shock to her system had begun noticeably to addle a mind already slowly sliding into repetitive behaviour, lethargy and forgetfulness.

Her consciousness was like a house, half of which had collapsed or been carried away by a flood.

The notes, written on the backs of envelopes, old Christmas cards, junk mail, phone bills and any scrap of paper, tissue-paper or cardboard to hand, began when her ninety-two year old sister, who was still very active and alert, first went to hospital.

Two unmarried women with diametrically different personalities and dispositions, they had lived in the same house continuously for fifty years.

For the preceding twelve, Martha's sister, Marcella, was partially-sighted and registered blind: she could read nothing, due to displaced retinas.

It was only after I threw away a couple of dozen notes that it dawned on me that they would continue and that I should keep them as a unique record from a woman who always had a communication-problem.

The notes are all undated, but are in spasmodic succession from Autumn 1995 to May 1997, written when she felt lonely and/or confused and/or miserable. Some are palimpsests, with ink overlaying pencil, or felt-tip pen overlying both. Most were written at night, addressed to myself, her unacknowledged son, because she had decided that I was still living in the house (which I left when I was 25).

But some are to no-one in particular (perhaps even to the Home Helps - one of whom she, with justification, referred to as The Slut), and several addressed to Marcella ("Girlie") were written after her sister's death.

During the time that Marcella was in and out of hospital and respite care (umbilical hernia, broken femur, and, finally, dislocated shoulder, with a background of bronchitis from which she eventually and painfully, strugglingly died) Martha showed interest in her sister only in the messages left (and mostly written) on a formica top in the kitchen, and was prevailed upon only twice to visit her.

Marcella, a founder-member of The Women's League of Health and Beauty in the nineteen-thirties - who at the age of 89 completed a 10-mile charity country-walk "within the required time" died at the age of 94 with all her teeth.



The publication of these messages

is dedicated to the memory of

Samuel Beckett.

 

 

Couldn't wait up any longer. Call in on your way up.

Any news ?

TO G. [Girlie=Marcella] Couldn't find a hot water bottle for your bed.

Your friend (I've forgotten her name) phoned. Sorry there's nothing but empty cake-tins and the larder's bare. Sorry about your bed. Don't know where the h.w. bottles are.

TO A. [Anthony] I'll be up betimes - big washing to do. Leave the car keys if I don't see you.

I'd like to wait up for you, but it's cold. Bring me up any ‘news'.

~

I've gone to bed - It seems the most sensible place for me to be this cold night. See you a.m. If you're not too late, call in to say "Hullo". I'll probably be reading.

M.

~

Anthony: 22.15 - I meant to wait up until you came in,

but it's so cold that I've gone to bed, with hot-water bottle. (Sorry, no supper!) Call in and bring me news.

I'll be awake. I shan't rise before 9 in the morning. I'll wash clothes in the morn. I hope.

22.30 It's so cold that I've gone to bed (frozen) but speak in to me. I'm sure I'll be awake. Close outer front door. I don't know where all the H.W. Bottles are.

Check greenhouse door. I may do the washing if I get up in time and if il fait beau.

Sorry for all the notes - just to keep in touch.

~

I've had tea and toast, which will serve me, adequately, until morning.

0715 But - I can't find my hot water bottle! and I'm cold.

~

Lovely morning!

Came down for a hot-water bottle, but can't find one, so have returned to warm (?) bed.

~

I'll go to the Hospital to-morrow, some time. Ward nº... ?

[Probably mid-morning:] I forgot to turn your blanket on! Sorry. Where are the car keys?

~

I'm in bed. It's so cold, and I couldn't wait up any longer - but waken me if you have any news of Girlie that I should hear. Plans for to-morrow??

[overleaf] I may not be coherent - I'm talking to myself ! but I like to know what's going on around me.

*CAR IN GARAGE, I HOPE.

~

To Anthony: I've gone to bed - cold & lonely! Put the car in AND CLOSE THE GARAGE. Any news re Girlie?

I'll be responsive - if only half awake. Sorry for all the scribbles.

~

[By the time of the first notes, her car had been sold three years. Her sister could not drive. (When Martha drove her car, I rode a motorbike. It was only after she stopped driving that I bought an old banger and took to four wheels.)

It had been at least two years since she had last operated the washing-machine or baked the delicious morning rolls which uplifted breakfasts in my rural home some 25 miles away. In recent years Marcella had done all the cooking, and Martha did the washing and made her own breakfast and breakfast-rolls, grinding dark-roast Java beans for coffee which she never offered her sister. She watered hersister's wine, too!

By this time she had ceased entirely to handle money: Her sister did all the normal shopping. I provided the coffee and the wine and I arranged for her to pay the hefty electricity bills by direct debit, following her sister's complaints that Martha paid for nothing.

Always aloof and independent, Martha was too proud to ask for lifts from friends to the golf club where she had also played Bridge, so her friends abandoned her. Her mind was, in any case, too addled to play Bridge with them any more. But her sister's social life intensified, with visits to old friends and the nearby Northern Ireland Blind Centre.

All my life Martha had dressed lightly with V-necked blouses. She had a summer duvet on her bed all year. But, as the notes show, she began to feel cold even in bed with the electric blanket on, and the whereabouts of her water-bottle became a constant concern.

Sometimes I found it on the hot-water tank, sometimes under her bed. When the weather got cold I put another duvet on her bed.

But her coldness was also due to her getting up or staying up in the small hours of the morning when the heating was off - and/or turning off the heating. In many or the notes 'cold' is code for 'unhappy' - at not being in control of her life, and refusing to admit it.

I have kept her original punctuation and spelling.

The tilde ~ indicates a separate piece of paper, and each new paragraph indicates a separate entry.]

It came apart in my hand. Can it be mended?
I did not drop it. I've returned to my warm bed for a spell, with a cuppa.
M.

- Bonne Nuit.

I couldn't cope with the baking tin at this hour.

Put TEA on the shopping list. I won't need nothin' till the morn - if then!

~

To Anthony: I'll boil dish cloth demain. If I'm spared thru this cold night. "My resistance is low."

Sorry for all the notes. I'll wait up until 22.00 [scored out]

23.00 h.

Gute Nacht at 2300 h.

[The times given may or may not have been correct: she kept forgetting to wind her trusty Russian watch, and sometimes changed the clocks in the house to agree with her stopped timepiece.]

~

No need to arouse me. I prefer breakfast alone. Your plans for to-day?

I may need the car to go to Belvoir [The golf club]. Leave the keys.

[There is] NO COFFEE!!!!

~

Good morning!

That's a raw-looking morning: I've gone back to my warm bed - with a cuppa tea. I'm scared of lightning.

Hope the car was under cover - wherever it is. Leave the car for me: I have plans, too - and remove washing: it doesn't add to the décor.

Washing in bucket? Supposed to be wet or dry ?

Hang it out.

~

Anthony, Car in garage, I hope - Call in if you have anything interesting to say.

How's Girlie? Does she want aught?

Good night! I think I'll have to hibernate.

Very little milk, I'm sorry to say. Don't know where it went.

[overleaf] Little of anything (heat in particular)- sorry! Don't know where the milk disappeared to.
Now no hot water bottle!!!

Martha and Marcella Weir
Martha (Mattie) and Marcella (Girlie) in 1984 - 12 years before these notes were written by the former.


I may not arise in the morning - not that it will make any difference. I might as well not be here at all. OVER

[overleaf] Where has all the coffee gone? Haven't had a decent cup all day. Excuse the notes, but I just find out things as I go along! Firstly: where are all the hot-water bottles? I can't find mine, and I'm frozen - cold bed, too. And where has all the coffee gone? Haven't had a decent cuppa all day. I suppose I may go to a café tomorrow !

~

Anthony: Make me a cup of good coffee, and bring a cup with you, & cheer me with news of the big wide world.

~

Can't find a Hot-water bottle & I'm so cold I could weep. So back to bed, cold feet and all, & no toast.

Don't destroy this paper - there's a letter from Ken [her cousin in Canada] on the other side. [dated 1992]

M.

No toast and no Hot Water Bottle.

~

Sorry about the fire. It decided to go out, & I couldn't stop it.

* I'll be down soon (I hope)

(God help us all)

Open a bottle of wine, Ant. (Choose from upstairs)

(repeat) I'll be down soon (I hope) - if I've thawed. OVER

[overleaf] Does one die quickly from cold? or is it lingering? Do you know who has the car? I didn't lend it, but it's not in the garage nor on the street.

DON'T LEND THE CAR TO ANYONE.

~

GIRLIE: Fill a hot-water bottle for me, if you can find one! They (hot-water-bottles) seem to have disappeared. Why should I have to do without a H.W.B. ?

I'm tired of hunting for Hot-Water Bottles. What about a roll-call, to establish how many are in use?

~

A hot-water-bottle is to me a necessity with my poor circulation - so let's see how many are in use, and we'll apportion them! None down here. OVER

[overleaf] Let's have a "roll-call" of Hot-Water bottles.
*** All to be produced for counting - and if you find a hot water bottle in your bed at night do bring it down in morning.

~

Are there any stray hot-water bottles lurking anywhere? I can't put my hands on one, and how I need it! I've gone to bed proper COLD.

[overleaf] Search your beds etc., and I hope some one will find me at least one; otherwise I'll freeze stiff! What a 'to-do'! over some one's carelessness.

[Her sister was in hospital at this time, and there were three hot-water bottles being mislaid and found by Martha. I and my helpmeet Malcolm visited frequently.

Home helps came in to rake out and light the fire and to give her a snack. One ("The Slut') would bring her up a boiled egg and sit at the end of her bed for half an hour cheerfully chatting. Malcolm and/or I made tasty vegetarian evening meals, while the home-helps brought undated chicken or ham sandwiches.

Because home-helps seem to be fixated on feeding the inactive old, and because of her absent short-term memory. Martha sometimes had three or four breakfasts a day, and started to put on weight - so much so that when the next episode of getting dressed occurred, her slacks did not fit her. At one point we found her out walking with her slacks sliding down her legs. We went out and bought six nice pairs of size 16 in charity shops.

Her behaviour tended to form episodes. For weeks she would be dressed only in pyjamas and a dressing-gown, whether she was in bed most of the day, or up and about, or up and about most of the night. Then, for several days, she would get up in the mornings and dress herself, and occasionally go out for walks. In the periods when her sister was at bome, Marcella would persecute her for not getting up, and would complain bitterly at ber constant, infuriating rendition of ditties such as "Just a Song at Twilight", "Among my Souvenirs", "All my life I'll be your Valentine", and her favourite, "Count your Blessings".

They found each other hard to bear. Marcella was driven to distraction by Martha's constant reading aloud of the headlines and the advertisements in the local free paper.

But Marcella went, or was taken out by friends, somewhere five or six days a week, giving Martha plenty of space, if she got up, to indulge in other compulsive behaviour, such as constantly wiping formica surfaces with a cloth. She had no sense of time and, if her sister was not close by, never knew where Marcella was when her friends phoned. Even when she had been away for weeks, in hospital and respite care; even after the funeral, Martha would say to anyone who phoned: "Girlie's gone out somewhere."

Sometimes she turned off the heating, but generally the house was warm, especially when the fire was lit, as it was nearly every day, even in the cool Irish summer, when the following batch of notes was written.

While the neighbours at one side kept unforgivably aloof, and never once came in to see how either sister was (let alone a hospital visit), Carol next door on the other side (who, as Marcella observed, 'didn't have her troubles to seek' with sons expensively brought up in the unappealing image of their boorish father, who worked in Dublin and came up at weekends) kept a watchful eye and brought in treats and meals, and reported anything untoward to me. Neighbours three doors up were also extremely kind and supportive.]

Gladys Wilson, Social Services, rang with all kinds of personal questions about you, me and Anthony, etc. I think she's connected with Earlswood Home [a respite home where Marcella stayed for two weeks] - Well, I'm not going into a Home - at least for some time. So discourage her.

[overleaf] Miss Wilson called again! Who the Hell is poking their noses into our affairs ? When I'm ready for a HOME I'll make my own arrangements (for a place in Cyprus). Discourage Social Services on my behalf.

~

[Social Workers suggested first that she might like to go into a residential home, then, realising that she would have to be drugged to be got there, suggested a 'little holiday' - i.e. a week's "assessment" in an institution. These "assessments" so disorientate the old that they become permanent, of course. Martha's idea of a 'little holiday' was a nmonth in Limassol, so they gave up on that, too.]


If you could lay hands on a hot-water bottle for me I'd be very grateful. Can't find one, and I'm frozen! Back to warm bed!

0850. I think "Social Workers" just nosey old things. Keep them away from me. I certainly will never contemplate a home here.
***Why can't I just be left in peace in my own bed and surroundings. When I'm ready it will be the Miramare Hotel in Limassol among friends (and no social workers in sight, just nice friendly Greeks).

I've had a cup of tea and returned to bed, miserably cold. Don't need anything - unless you can find a hot water bottle. Some have disappeared. the things that disappear - incredible !!!

~

I've had a little tea and cereal and gone back to my warm bed. Should do for a while. Any news? Shall now fill hot water bottle. (over)
If Anthony comes, a little wine in my boudoir would be very welcome s'il vous plaît.

~

Anthony: I didn't know if you'd be late, or if you are coming home at all - so I've retired as it's very cold and lonely. Call in, dear, as you pass

~

I'm in bed. I think Anthony is also. Don't know about the visitors.
[Malcolm and I found this note when we came back one night from dinner with friends.]

~

I'm still in bed. I let the workmen in and they seem busy. I think they'd like to talk to someone sensible.
[This refers to speculative roof-repairers who cleared off when they realised that they were unlikely to be paid.]
I'm too cold to stay up. 'Bed' seems more tempting. Can't find a hot water bottle.

~

These men asked permission to go on roof. I don't know who sent them but I've let them go ahead. I can't check what they're doing.

Later. There's a chap checking slates on roof - he asked permission, which I gave. I'll be responsible. I can't supervise him.

~

ANTHONY: Come and talk to me for a few seconds, and bring me news of your 'goings-on' in the big wide world! (Some wine ?) Even the radio is hardly worth listening to - (maybe it's not tuned in properly) anyway, come up, if only to say "Hullo" - and not to say I'd be better up !!!

~

I may not get up in the morning,as I am feeling bloody awful tonight. Goodnight. M
Funny smell ???

~

I've tried "getting-up" but it's so cold; so I'm back in bed with no hot-water bottle, for a while. Hope to sleep, "perchance to dream". (Have a hunt around for wandering hot-water bottles.)

[overleaf] To Anthony - There's no wine in fridge, unfortunately. Produce a bottle (if you can) - probably from the attic (and open it in my room) [to prevent her sister from having any] I haven't felt so cold - even at South Pole!
Yours miserably,
Martha.

On second thoughts, I'll bring a bottle to my room and you can open it there and we'll "have a party".

[Since it was only after I had amassed a corpus of these undated notes that I decided to transcribe them for publication, I (who have very bad long-term memory and can recall only a few things before last year!) I can't rcmcmber if this was the period when Martha was drinking a lot of wine and hiding thc bottles, which we would find in unlikely places, somctimes half-full. Later, she couldn't get it together sufficiently to fetch wine from the case (which I brought downstairs for her convenience) and open it herself. Remarkably, her sister, otherwise very fit and practical, had never extracted a cork in her life.

I rarely had any "news" that either sister was interested in, since my life as a drop-out poet and painter was pretty well beyond their comprehension. In the seventies and early eighties, Martha had financed and provided transport for my research excursions to ancient sites in Ireland and Romanesque churches in France, Spain and Portugal. Because of lifelong sibling rivalry, Marcella was excluded, and excluded herself from these splendid trips. But when they stopped with the publication of my book on "obscene" sculptures on mediæval churches, Martha's interest in my doings naturally declined...]

~

Anthony, mon cher, You're late! Say "goodnight" as you pass by my door. I'll probably grunt something unintelligible. But at least I'll know you're in, and I can sleep peacefully. 'S true! If you'd been a bit earlier we might have supped together - I don't know what we are doing to-morrow - we usually visit you!! But that's not on the cards - or is it ? Dormez bien, mon cher. Marthe. Je n'ai pas le bon santé aujourd'hui. Toujours le mal de la tête. Excuse the buttery marks. Gute Nacht.

[She had, up to about 4 years before her sister died, driven them both (very slowly) the 30 miles (48 km) to my remote, rustic and decaying old farmhouse for vegetarian lunch and crisp white wine on Sundays.
Although Martha's spelling was generally impeccable, her grasp of French was tenuous, and she never learned to use the second person singular, nor, of course, terms of endearment.]


...if you would like to read more, ask for a FREE COPY of the published book

or click HERE to read the entire text online.


READ ENTIRE TEXT ONLINE


2003: I discover that Martha almost certainly did not have
Dementia, but, more likely,
Pressure Hydrocephalus,
an easily-cured condition which most doctors
don't bother (or are unfit) to diagnose.

 

Anthony Weir
Anthony at the time of Martha's death.

 


PART OF THE BACKGROUND


The story of my adoption has resonance with that of half-Ghanaian Tim Brannigan, adopted by his own mother in catholic West Belfast. But I am pinko-grey and was brought up in a more-or-less protestant, middle-class part of East Belfast in the 1940s - more than a generation earlier.

I had always been told I was adopted. I was rarely curious about my biological mother, and almost never about my 'mythical' father. Indeed I did not realise that I was lacking a father until my 'aunt' (who lived with her sister, and was a primary school teacher) was pressured to make the mistake of sending me to a fee-paying preparatory school she could ill-afford, in order 'to rub the corners off' me. There I very quickly changed from quiet, book-loving, happy child to 'maladjusted' - not because of bullying by other boys, which never exceeded being knocked down by a future Ireland Rugby captain, and pinned by his friends while he pissed in my mouth. No, it was the sneering superciliousness of some of the (barely- or absolutely un-qualified) teachers at "Cabin Hill" who changed me and made my mother's life a misery.

The only good thing I remember about "Cabin Hill" were the masturbation parties that went on in the depths of the ample shrubberies and in 'hutland', an outpost of structured anarchy where boys could build huts out of bits of wood and corrugated iron to amuse themselves in, unsupervised, when they were not being organised in horrible 'sports'. Some of these huts were quite sophisticated, and comfortably appointed.

It was not until I decided, at the age of 39, that I was more sexually and sensually interested in men than in women, that I also decided to obtain my original birth certificate. So I was summoned to London - where I went fairly often, since there were no men attractive to me (i.e. bearded and hairy) in Ireland.

I returned with the knowledge that my younger 'aunt' was my mother. My 'aunts' had taken the news of my sensual leanings pretty well, but my new-found, old-found mother was both distressed and relieved when I presented her with my new information. How I (and for that matter, a lot of other people) had missed the great physical likeness between us, even to the point of us both having identical and rarely-occurring spathulate (broad) thumbs, I don't rightly know. I would even have been able (just) to wear her shirts or blouses, since my physique is that of a herring.

Despite her relief at being able to tell the truth at last, she still refused to give any information on my rapist-father. My mother was frank and honest only up to the barrier of his identity, if indeed she even knew it.

At this point I realised that I had not needed to forge a birth certificate in order to obtain an Irish passport
(I had torn up my hated British one and posted it to Margaret Thatcher), since my mother had been born in the island of Ireland long before Partition.

My mother had been impregnated in her first and only "sexual congress" during a New Year's Eve party at a R+R centre in Belfast, where many Allied troops were kept as back-up. She was a primary schoolteacher in her early thirties, at a country school outside Belfast, where her father had been Principal - as well as Imperial Grand Wizard of the Order of Freemasons. She never saw her impregnator again. She did not even know she was pregnant until about the 4th month. It was 1941. Travel between Northern Ireland and other parts of the English "United Kingdom" was tightly restricted.

But my mother, having tried abortifacients and tumbling downstairs, having tried suicide by swimming towards the Isle of Man - and swimming back again - through her mother's connections with the medical profession (she had been a midwife), got a pass to go to England for unspecified 'medical reasons'. There, in some discreet but shameful place in Wokingham, she gave birth to me, fully intending to have me adopted. Amongst her family and friends, only her own mother knew the situation.

After I was born, she found that she simply couldn't send me off for adoption. So she parked me in a 'Baby Farm' and joined up as a meteorologist in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, so that she would be on the same landmass, though mostly in East Anglia. Thus she was able to see me once or twice a month, while she simultaneously started the procedure to adopt me herself.

She brought me to Belfast in 1942, where I was nurtured mainly by her mother and her sister, until she was demobilised in 1945. I was, as I have said, quite a happy and a thoughtful child - until interfering males (mainly my right-wing uncle who was a doctor, and my scheduled role-model) advised my mother to send me to the preparatory school mentioned above, and then the very poor-quality Public School (which referred to itself, risibly, as The Eton of Ulster), to remove any 'effeminacy' incurred through an upbringing by mere women.

Fee-paying schools seem to have been set up to rob children of individuality, choice and independence of mind - though some, such as the wonderful Rudolf Steiner communities, try bravely to combat the normalism of the hideously education system, so wasteful of minds, intelligence, creativity and enthusiasm.

As a result I became a rebel, a drop-out, a rare non-Catholic Irish Nationalist, and eventually a fierce critic of western civilisation and its disgraceful 'Western Values'. Despite this, and the inevitable crises and storms, my mother and I got on very well. I couldn't care less about my father, who was probably Canadian, possibly French-Canadian, given my seemingly-inborn francophilia. For me, 'father' is just an unfortunate biological term. My mother was mother AND father to me, and I have yet to meet a male with her quiet bravery and integrity.

The only time in her life that she had sex with a man, it was rape and impregnation...and a Big Problem. There was no way she could be a schoolteacher with an "illegitimate" child (as if any child is "legitimate" in our hideously overpopulated world!). As for me, I have an obsession with telling the truth and being totally straight with people. This must be because some unconscious part of me picked up on the big lie that surrounded me, and from which I was unable to escape until I was 40!

It is men who, for me, are 'other', and this is the reason for my sensual orientation. I dislike places where men congregate, I loathe sports and all 'macho' things. Needless to say, I am a strong feminist. My mother was only one of millions upon millions to have her life ruined by a man's stupid lust.

All my life I wished to be black - much blacker than Mr Brannigan's charming white-coffee-colour. (Why do the pinko-greys who so risibly call themselves "White" designate coffee-coloured skin "Black" ? Are they blind as well as stupid and racist ?) He is the colour all humans should be. I am a non-heterosexual shoplifter and empathiser with people who, out of desperation, join al-Qaïda. If that defective organisation blew up abattoirs and concentration camps for pigs and chickens, I would join it tomorrow.

All my life I have identified with beggars, dogs, and underdogs. I wonder why ?

I remember being upset at my milieu's meanness towards beggars. An old woman used to come to the door every 10 days or so, and she would merely be given sixpence (probably 50 pence in 2010 money). She was referred to merely as The Old Woman. One evening she called when I was alone in the house, so I brought her in and sat her in front of the fire and gave her tea and half-a-crown. My mother arrived while she was still warming herself by the fire, and displeased by the smell the old 'shawlie' woman gave off, got rid of her very quickly and told me in no uncertain terms never to do that again. Which is one reason why I never refuse a beggar. And since then I have brought people from cold wet doorways and fed them and let them sleep on the floor (which many sans abri  prefer to a bed).

I remember being fascinated by a scissors-grinder, whose nose ran continually and conveniently upon his portable, pedal-operated carborundum-stone.

If there had been Roma in Belfast, I might have 'run off with the gypsies', the nearest thing to the 'negro' figures - such as Epaminondas - and tricksters - such as Brer Rabbit - that I read about.

The combined experiences and insights of Tim Brannigan and myself would cover a very wide spectrum, most of which would be unimaginable to the 'normals' whom I (though certainly not he, a dedicated conformist) despise.

 


Where I was born in 1941 - a wartime 'Maternity Hostel'.
I had though that its name Folly Farm
was connected with the fact that my mother had to travel from Belfast to Berkshire
in order to have her illegitimate child
(whom she adopted in 1942 and brought to her mother and sister in Belfast)
.
But, at the age of 73 I find out that I was wrong:
it is the original name of this handsome building.

 

 


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