Feeling very fortunate.
Laying in the newly erected hammock at the bottom of the garden I was reading some of my mother’s letters to me when I was in Spain in 1970. Beautifully typed – always about 8 pages A4, with accounts of her daily life. Nothing that important but always hilarious except the one where she recounted Brian’s first marriage. Apparently, a neighbour had congratulated her on Brian’s marriage. “What marriage,” she exclaimed in an embarrassed horror. It seems she was the last to hear about this. This was the first of four marriages and where the daughter turned up 2 years after Brian died looking for her father. I didn’t even know he had a child by this marriage.
But it got me thinking about the importance of family and having a sturdy springboard as a starting block to one’s early life. And how lucky I was to have my parents who always supported me and made me feel secure and safe. Despite the bullying at school, by the time I left home at 16 I had bags of confidence – some might say too much confidence. But it stood me in good stead. With so few qualifications I have managed to achieve quite a lot in my life. My over confidence allowed me to convince others that I was capable – even if I wasn’t.
Take my job as a peripatetic childcare officer for Camden. I was 19 and it was my job to go into problem families to enable the children to stay at home rather than go into care. Ludicrous that they gave me this job. I had a warrant card which allowed me to enter premises, the authority to take children into care if I thought they were in danger, and responsibility for exceedingly messed up parents. I had 3 O levels, certificates in typing and shorthand and had worked as an au pair. And yet at the time I wasn’t daunted. In hindsight I just think wtf! But back then there was no health and safety and my boss was an alcoholic and I just got on with it – learning on my feet.
When I left to go to America, I naively asked my mother if she would take one of the children for a short holiday in Leicester to escape the deprivation. Big mistake – here’s when thinking on my feet wasn’t such a good idea. One day after I left the UK the mother, who had been threatening suicide the entire time I was working with her, did the deed. She would save up her tablets and then on a Friday drink a bottle of wine in the hope she wouldn’t wake up. Well it finally worked, and my mother was left with the 8-year-old girl whose mother had just died. She took it in her stride and no recriminations.
Because I had worked for a year with these families when I arrived in America – still only 20 I applied and got a job at a school for delinquent boys — Mayaro Ranch School – in Northern California. Set in the middle of nowhere the school housed teenage boys from the Bay area which other facilities had refused to take. It was a real baptism by fire.
None of this would happen nowadays but this was the early 70’s. So, could I do these things because of the unconditional love and support that I received from my parents. I think so. It is interesting what makes us do what we do and why we do it. Why didn’t I follow my peer group in the small Jewish community in Leicester and marry have children and be quite satisfied? Did I take the hard or the easy route or the most adventurous route? Certainly there were many times when I though life would have been easier if I had stayed in Leicester. Leaving home at 16 took a lot of confidence from me and a good deal of trust from my parents. And now I look back, read our letters mine to mum and hers to me, hundreds of them, and think WOW that took some doing. A bit late to say thank you now.
Back to the saga of my killer cat. I just stumbled over a little dead baby bird that I had carefully put in a homemade nest in a tree after Mo had half killed it – I thought we had saved it. Clearly not. A recent figure from the Mammal Society estimates that cats in the UK catch up to 27 million birds each year, and 275 million prey items overall per year. But it seems bells on collars are not that effective. Various suggestions are offered from keeping them indoors – well that’s not going to happen. Having a large cage like aviary built in the garden – really, I don’t think so. Or taking the cat out for walks on a leach. That’s one reluctant cat
And while we are on the subject of cats on the same website which proferred this advice there was a section of what to do if charged by a Lion. Well you never know and always good to be prepared. It says:
“Being charged by a lion when you are on foot is extremely frightening.” You don’t say. “It is difficult to stop yourself from bolting, but that is likely to prompt an attack. A lion charge is usually accompanied by a deep growling sound that reverberates through your very core. It is vital to stand your ground, perhaps retreating very slowly, but to continue facing the lion while clapping your hands, shouting and waving your arms around to make yourself look bigger. All very well but somehow I just don’t see me standing still in front of a charging Lion. I know a bit random but then you try writing a blog every day when you are locked in and nothing happens.
“Let’s be careful out there”