The Mother I Never Knew

We are a diverse group of writers shaped by our experiences, this is another autobiographical piece from one of our U3A writing group members. Tessa writes about her mother, the mother she never had a chance to know.

Tessa's Mum
Tessa’s mother

My mother died at the age of 31. She had been a young bride, an abused wife, a mother of four, a WAAF, a lover of some, a prisoner, and at the end, a consumptive. I never knew my mother; I was three and a half when she died but her life had an enormous impact on her four surviving children. The consequences for us all were huge. The expression most used about my mother when I was growing up was “spirited”.

 

My mother was born on October 6th 1917 in Limerick, southern Ireland. She was christened Teresa although when it suited her she could and did, change her name. She was the eldest child of six children. A seventh child died in infancy. My grandfather was with the Royal Engineers based in Ireland at the time of my mother’s birth. My grandmother helped her mother at a guest house near the camp. My grandparents had a long and happy marriage mainly because my grandfather agreed on everything with my grandmother. There was one exception to this however, my mother. Despite her many failings, and indiscretions, my mother was without doubt my grandfather’s favourite child, something that would be tested many times.

 

My mother enjoyed the freedom of the large encampment and in particular the dances. She loved the dances. Actually my grandfather forbade her to go to them and her younger sister was supposed to ensure she was at home on the dance nights. But my mother always managed to sneak out and stand by the door of the dance hall. She was rarely caught and frequently managed a dance.

 

My mother and the family moved to England and to Welwyn Garden City sometime around 1932. She would have been about 15. In 1938 aged just twenty, and three months pregnant she married. She gave birth that year to twin girls. I cannot say if this was an unhappy marriage from the start. I do know from things I have learned as an adult that her husband was a violent man whose drinking would frequently result in abuse, both verbal and physical towards my mother. In 1940 she gave birth to a boy. With her husband away in the army I think my mother; young as she was must have found life very tough and lonely. She must have yearned for the freedom her sisters enjoyed, as they were yet to marry.

 

That freedom came with the soldiers on leave, looking for relief from the fighting. In Welwyn Garden City at that time was a large pub with an even larger ballroom. Dances were held several times a week. My mother would frequently leave the children in their cots, with glass bottle feeders and a roaring fire in the grate, and go dancing. It was reckless but it’s hard for me to condemn her. I have some sympathy for a young woman in uncertain times wanting to have some fun. It was usually left to my grandmother to respond when the neighbours heard the children crying in the house.

 

Sometime in 1942 my mother left her three children in the care of her husband’s sister and joined the WAAF band as a girl drummer based in Chivenham in Devon.  How she was able to do this, with a family left at home I don’t know but I imagine during war time anything is possible. My mother’s life must have changed dramatically. She was in uniform; she had many friends, though most seemed to be men. She came home on leave with stories of the great time she was having. My grandmother kept in touch with the children but at some point, and I am unclear as to when, my mother’s husband placed the twins in to an orphanage, and the boy he gave to friends who later adopted him. During this time my mother changed her forename and linked it with her married surname, gave her status as single and dropped her age by five years. She had a number of affairs judging by the number of young Americans in particular, who came to my grandmother’s house asking for her.

 

In July 1944 at The Parish church of Emmanuel, Compton Gifford near Plymouth she married a 22 year old Leading Airman in the RAF.  He was one of triplets, and was known to my family. Of course my mother was still married. On the front page of the Western Evening Herald dated Monday July 24th is a picture of the happy couple with a guard of honour of airmen and women. Had my mother lost her mind? The wedding certificate states that she was a spinster, aged 22 and single. She had to alter her father’s name to bring it in line with her own and gave his employment as a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Corps of Signals. I’m sure my grandfather would have been tickled pink by that.

 

Whatever happiness she may have felt at this time, was soon dispelled. Her real husband was told of the marriage and informed the police. On leave, and visiting home she realised the game was up and went on the run. She appears to have been AWOL for at least 8 or 9 months during which time she must have had a relationship with someone as I was born in December 1945.  Whether my mother gave herself up or was caught I don’t know. Where she was during that time is also unknown. But at sometime during the summer of 1945 she faced trial for bigamy at the Old Bailey. My grandparents both attended the trial which, with the journey alone must have been quite a trial for them as well. She was sentenced to nine months imprisonment deferred until after I was born. By the beginning of January 1946 my mother’s sentence began at Holloway Prison. My mother never saw me again.

 

She left prison sometime in late 1946. I’m not sure exactly when or whether she had time off for good behaviour. But whilst in prison she contracted tuberculosis. Meanwhile I was in hospital suffering from septicaemia. Because of my mother’s illness I had an extended stay in hospital and didn’t leave until she died in May 1949.

 

The twins stayed in an orphanage until they were 16. Their lives were severely blighted by that experience and neither of them lived happily. The boy was adopted by people who were unkind and at times cruel. I met him for the first time a few years ago and we keep in touch. As for me, well my life has had many tragic moments and times I would rather forget. Most of my childhood is blocked from my memory, and that which I can remember I would rather not. As to my father, who knows? My mother did of course and asked my grandmother if she wanted to know. But she said no.

Tessa Thomson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love Writing Because…

Writing 2This piece is by Val Fish one of our talented Wordsmiths.

I’ve had a love of words and stories since my school days; my primary school report said ‘Valerie has a good imagination’, and a fantastic English teacher at grammar school was a great inspiration to me. English Language was one of only two subjects I was any good at (the other being French).

I was a big Blue Peter fan in my youth, every year I would get the annual as a Christmas present and was lucky enough to win two Blue Peter badges in their competitions.

As I grew older, I entered the world of consumer competitions, having to complete slogans that usually started something like ‘I shop at XYZ because’, in 12 words or less.

I won hundreds of prizes over the years, little and large, among them a few holidays; my biggest successes were the much sought after prize car; a Mini Metro, and a conservatory worth a massive ten thousand pounds.   One of my prizes of least value, but providing much amusement, was a frozen chicken, worth a measly £1.50 at the time. The winners had to go to the store to collect their prize, and we were photographed all holding our chickens aloft.  I did feel rather silly and particularly self-conscious as I was eight months pregnant at the time.

I could go on and on about the wondrous things that I won, but that’s another story to be told.

Although of course, the prizes were great, for me it was more the composing of the slogans that brought me pleasure. Trying to be witty in so few words and to stand out from the hundreds of others was a challenge I’d always relish. Maybe that’s why these days my forte is flash fiction.

As this type of competition began to die out, it seemed a natural progression to turn to creative writing.

So these days my words are somewhat longer, no big prizes to be won; in most cases, it’s simply seeing my efforts posted online, which gives me just as much pleasure

 

I couldn’t imagine not writing; it’s good therapy for me, all my cares and woes are temporarily forgotten. And an added bonus, it keeps those grey cells ticking over, much needed at my age. I like to think I’ll l be writing as long as I’ve still got my faculties, however long that may be.

 

Writing

writing
Putting pen to paper

 

This post is from one of our writing group members. We have all been asked to give our thoughts on writing. We all approach writing in different ways and we are publishing these pieces ad hoc over time.

These are Teresa’s thoughts on the subject.

Writing has never come easily to me. However, possessing a vivid imagination and a peculiar sense of humour ensures a diverse source of subject material is readily available.

Being given a topic to write about focuses my mind and channels my enthusiasm. The Whittlesey Wordsmiths have encouraged and  supported my return to writing.

They could do the same for you.

Teresa Gilbertson

 

 

Whittlesey Wordsmiths will be at the EnGage in the Morning February meeting at the library Monday February 18th at 10.30am free tickets available at the desk

Please give me a Prompt!

Statue at St Pancras Station
Statue at St Pancras Station What is their story?

 

My biggest problem is what to write in the first place. Given a free rein, told to ‘Write what I like’ and I’m lost, the page as blank as my mind.

I have tried the notebook / people watching/ eavesdropping ideas with varying results.

I travel fairly regularly by train and two incidents spring to mind.

My first encounter was, sitting across the aisle from me, a girl with long flaming red hair, she was so striking, I enjoyed conjuring up a character profile for her, and this developed into ‘The Girl Across the Aisle’

I once had the pleasure or misfortune; I’m not quite sure which, to be sitting opposite another girl on a train, on her mobile phone discussing who was going to donate their kidney to her, which she was in desperate need of. Believe me, I got every gory detail. She was either oblivious to me sitting there, or more than likely just didn’t care ( It seems to be the norm nowadays that people are happy to have what I would call private conversations in public, for all and sundry to hear).  My story; ‘The Girl with the Kidney’ is still waiting to be written.

Fortunately in my local U3A Creative Writing group, at the end of each meeting we are given that month’s homework. Even with that much needed prompt; I struggle for ages before coming up with something half worth developing. While my fellow wordsmiths are posting their valiant efforts, the deadline getting nearer and nearer, still nothing.

And then finally ‘Eureka’; more often than not, at three in the morning when my brain has been unable to switch off.

The funny thing is once I’ve started, that’s it, I simply can’t stop, frantically scribbling, editing, re-editing, never quite one hundred per cent satisfied which what I’ve done.

But in the end I have to let it go. My finger hovers over the ‘Send’ key before making that final decision to let it go.

And then spend the next few hours worrying about what everybody’s going to think of it!

 

Valerie Fish

Tribute to Edward Storey, a Fenland Hero

Portait of Edward Storey
Edward Storey 28 February 1930 – Sunday 18 November 2018

I would like to pay tribute to Edward Storey, a fellow Whittlesey resident and writer. I am sure many of our followers will be familiar with his books which brought recognition to our Fenland area, capturing the very essence of our history and culture.

I first contacted Edward over ten years ago when I started to write my own autobiography and continued to correspond regularly with him until this September when his health was beginning to fail. During those years he gave me so much support and guidance, encouraging me to develop and expand my writing. This gave me the confidence to set up the Whittlesey U3A Creative Writing Group which has evolved into the Whittlesey Wordsmiths. Last month we published our first book and I had signed and wrapped a copy for Edward before I heard news of his death.

I would like to express gratitude for his inspiration; to Edward, A Fenland legend, who made our dreams a possibility and then a reality.

Wendy Fletcher

 

This is a link to Edward Storey’s Biography on Wikipedia

Edward Storey Biography Wikipedia

The Photograph was copied from a post on the  Poetry in Presteigne website.

http://www.poetryinpresteigne.org/?m=201608

 

 

The love of words.

Reflections in water of reeds and a duck
Reflections

This post is by Tessa a wonderful poet and a member of our Whittlesey Wordsmiths writing group, look out for her work it is outstanding.

I love words. I love how they sound most of all. I was born too soon for children’s stories on tapes but when my daughter came along we would sit in bed with an ear piece each and listen to books read mostly by actors. I love the timbre of the words. How different they sound depending on who is reading them.  Some stories I prefer to have read by the author, some not. I love how single phrases said by different people can have a different inference. “I need you now”; can sound demanding, romantic or just plain whiney depending on who is saying it.

Most of all I love words that rhyme. Poems are my favourite thing. Writing them sometimes seems trivial because the words come easily. But then I can get stuck on a single word and change several lines and make new rhymes.

The spoken word only becomes harsh to me when spoken not in an accent but irreverently. English is glorious when spoken well. I hate slang, I hate don’t, didn’t, whatever. I hate “did yourself know that” Who are these people who think it is fine to change the English language.

My grandmother always said you could tell the quality of a person by the shoes on their feet and the words in their head. My grandmother knew a thing or two.

Tessa Thomson

FROM READING TO WRITING

An inspiring view
An inspiring view

This post is by Val Chapman a member of Whittlesey Wordsmiths.

I enjoy a lot of different subjects to read about, but if I had to choose, my preference is for psychological thrillers or crime novels, often the gorier the better.
Why is it then, that I have never even attempted to write one?
I know “they” say “write about what you know”, but to my knowledge, I’ve never murdered anyone, and wouldn’t know how to get away with it or solve it if I had, so how could I write a “murder mystery”?
My musings are almost exclusively in the ‘light and fluffy’ section.
I tend to write as I speak, so nothing too taxing there then!
Oh, wait, that may be a clue to the answer to my question!
I’ve never been keen on hard work….
I do admire those people who are committed enough to their craft to travel the country, if not the world, researching, checking, and researching again to make sure any writings are as plausible, and as factually correct as possible.
Maybe it’s because I just write for my own amusement, so I don’t need it to be too accurate or truthful. I just like to have a beginning, a middle, and hopefully an end. I tend to prefer my stories to make the reader say “ahh” instead of “huh?” when they’ve finished reading.
And that’s often how I tend to plan.
Start at the end.
If I have an idea where the story will end, I can plot how to get there.
And I like to be given an idea to work on. (See? Get someone else to do the thinking, -hard work-)
Left to my own devices, I’m not sure I would ever have started this very enjoyable hobby I now have.
Which is why I’m very grateful to all of the members of Whittlesey Wordsmiths. With their encouragement, I’ve really had fun exploring my imagination a bit, and have even started writing a little differently at times. Now, I don’t always have to find the ending first. Sometimes I’m even brave enough to just jump in and see where it takes me.
I even occasionally prefer to write rather than read.
Who knows, I might even ramble on enough to write a whole book!
I just need an idea……………..