When I phoned my father to tell him that I’d left university,his response shook me.
‘Well, what are you going to do now. You can’t come home’.
I wasn’t too shocked by his reaction. ‘Home’ was a hellish place, where my father lived with his violent mistress, and where I was never welcome. I had spent five years at boarding school, managing to find friends to stay with in the holidays, to avoid ever staying there.
From the age of sixteen to eighteen, Dad had allowed me to come home to study for my ‘A’ Levels, much to the fury of his girlfriend. She had been violent and abusive to me; and I would lock myself in to my room to protect myself from her. My sudden, unwanted presence would cause her to become even more aggressive to my father.
Then, my father suggested something quite strange. He suggested that we meet in his local pub. I had never known him go to a pub, but it was a place where she could never find us.
After a brief exchange, where he berated me for choosing the wrong university in the first place, he handed me some money, and an address of a friend of his in London.
‘Go there. He will help you, and put you up’. I went that night. Straight away.
My mother also lived in London, but I couldn’t turn up on her doorstep. She had made her dislike and complete lack of interest in me clear for my entire life; and had abdicated all responsibility for me when my father – astonishingly – got full custody of me in their divorce case in 1950. The ‘go away and leave me alone’ message still applied.
My father was a curious mixture of libertine and Victorian moralist, and dispensed ‘mixed messages’ in with the contraceptives he gave me, and the sex education advice he expounded. An exponent of ‘free love’ he’d say:
‘Sleep with whoever you want to, but don’t get pregnant’.
Curious advice to give to a rather shy, insecure blue-stocking, who was at the mercy of all and sundry.
I only learned about periods/babies/sex and so on from my schoolgirl friends. No mother ever prepared me.loved me or guided me in the ways of men and the world.
Once again, I really was on my own.