Welcome to the monthly serialisation of "Lost and Found - The Other Side Of Me"

  (Printed with permission of Sylvia Darling author of "Lost and Found - The Other Side Of Me")

My new home was awful and came as a dreadful shock to me. The whole area couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the green, semi-rural location of the Childrens Home in Brighton, yet my Mother hadn’t warned me, or told me anything about it at all, in fact she’d barely even spoken to me during the entire journey into London! If I asked her something she would answer me very curtly and that was it – no ‘conversation’ whatsoever! I didn’t know what to make of it. She was still just as terse and uncommunicative when we finally arrived at the Terminal as she had been when she’d first picked me up…every bit as cold, unemotional and detached. She quite obviously had other, very serious things on her mind, but I was puzzled – I’d thought this was going to be a happy occasion, but apparently not - not for her, and as I was about to discover not for me either!

Eddie, my Mothers’ boyfriend, lived in a very poor, run-down area of London. There were several boarded-up houses in his street, some of which had been taken over by Jamaican squatters, new arrivals fleeing the crime and poverty in their own recently ‘liberated’ Country who were hoping to find a better life in Britain. They apparently hadn’t succeeded yet, but at least the music blaring out of their broken-down front doors was cheerful – it was the only thing around there that was!

Eddies’ basement flat was a depressing place, and memories of my trip down to the Boiler Room at the Home came rushing back as soon as I saw the steeply descending front steps! The front door of Eddies’ home was directly opposite a small area where all the dustbins were kept, it was dirty, smelly and unpleasant. His door opened onto a long, narrow passage which led to two medium-sized rooms, both of which were dingy and smelt of damp. The first room was Eddie and Mums’ bedroom, now used as their bed/sitting room, their window over-looked the front steps and of course the bin area, and had thick black bars on it, as did all the windows in the house. The door to the second room was further down the passage. This room had a large bed in it [which apparently Simon and I were to share] plus a gas fire, a few shelves and a table, and that was all. Our room led straight into the kitchen, a small dismal room, with two rows of old, rusty pipes that ran the full-length of one wall up to a large water tank situated up in the far right-hand corner just below the ceiling. There was no bathroom, no hot water, and the inside toilet, situated just off the kitchen, was only a very recent addition and barely larger than a broom-cupboard!

The kitchen itself was very basic, there was a small, heavily barred window next to the backdoor - it looked directly onto the back-steps and let in very little light. A large white sink stood to one side of the window in the left-hand corner, and a dilapidated little cupboard stood next to it, and next to that stood an old gas stove. A tall narrow cupboard stood against the other wall, close to a small kitchen table, which had two battered old wooden chairs on one side and an old stuffed arm-chair on the other. A bare 40watt bulb dangling from a cord in the middle of the ceiling provided what little light there was, whether it was day or night. The floor covering, or what was left of it, was old and ‘crusty’, the result of the kitchen flooding repeatedly during heavy rain storms and the damage never being repaired – the tarmac on the road outside was in much better condition! Those dainty little slippers my Mother had bought me wouldn’t have lasted five minutes, sturdy boots would have been a much better idea!

Eddie smiled at me warmly when my Mother introduced me to him, I got the impression he was a little uncomfortable with small children but at least he tried to make me feel welcome, which to be completely honest is more than anyone else did! Simon greeted me in a very off-hand manner, as if he saw me every day, and didn’t even get off the chair he was sitting on, but to my amazement my Mother rushed across the room to him with a beaming smile on her face, and swamped him with hugs and kisses! I was astonished by her total and instantaneous transformation …. she hadn’t even smiled at me ONCE during the whole trip, and there certainly hadn’t been any hugs or kisses! It was so obvious where her heart and mind had been the whole timeall the way back here, with Simon – you didn’t exactly need to be hypersensitive to see it! I was only four and a half years old, and it was supposed to be a ‘Special’ day, or so I'd thought... but apparently not. I was so hurt and disappointed by her transparent favouritism, and her contrastingly exuberant ‘over-the-top’ display of affection the instant she saw Simon that I felt utterly dismayed and lost. I was so dejected I wondered why I was even there.

That incident pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day really, nobody seemed to be particularly pleased I was there - there was nowhere to put the few things I had brought with me, no space made for me at all, and any vague residue of excitement or anticipation there might have been on my part completely vanished when my Mother showed me the rest of the place. Eddie had erected some kind of lean-to workshop immediately outside the Kitchen back-door which effectively blocked out most of the daylight that might otherwise have filtered through the heavily-barred window into ‘our’ room, the second room in the flat. He apparently did a bit of carpentry there and had already made several pieces of furniture, his bed, a desk, a coffee-table, and a few other items that were mostly in his bedroom now. A few very steep steps directly outside the kitchen window led up to Eddies’ ‘garden’ - I ventured up there alone because my Mother flatly refused to climb them, only to discover it was nothing more than a very small patch of barren, stony ground surrounded by high brick walls, one of which had large, jagged shards of broken glass embedded in cement along the top of it. There was a broken-down old dustbin up there, and some rubble lying around, and that was it - there wasn’t so much as a blade of grass, or a single plant, not even a tree or bush, it was even more depressing than inside!

I was only small, I hadn’t been expecting a palace or anything grand, but I had thought ‘home’ would be a happy, warm, welcoming place - not like this! I’d never seen anything like it apart from the Boiler Room at The Home! There was no space, I wouldn’t even have my own bed! There was nothing to do, nowhere to play, nowhere to hide, nowhere to get away from anybody! There wasn’t even anywhere to put anything, my things had just been left lying on the bed, no-one had made even a tiny space for me anywhere! I felt like an unwanted intruder, and in retrospect, I think that’s exactly what I was, because I now believe the Nuns had insisted my Mother finally remove me from The Home, possibly because I was approaching school-age by then and they had only initially agreed to keep me on a short term basis, or possibly because they had discovered she had collected Simon from the other Home in town and decided if she could house one child she could house the other - I don’t know, but it would certainly explain the complete absence of any joy or pleasure on her part, and also her failure to provide even the smallest bit of space for me, or my few paltry things. She hadn’t wanted me there… in fact it was soon made clear to me that she hadn’t actually wanted me at all! Eddie and Simon had been trailing along behind us while my Mother showed me around, and I was keenly aware of everyone watching me, so I smiled brightly and tried not to show how desperately unhappy I felt knowing this was where, and how I would be living from now on... trapped in a place with no sunlight, no space, and with people who didn’t even want me there. I fought against the overwhelming despair flooding through my heart by trying to console myself with the thought that at least I would be away from the harshest and most tyrannical of the Nuns and surely THAT would be an improvement, but I soon found out that it wasn’t, and that one type of unhappiness had merely been exchanged for another.

The next instalment of this true life story will be posted on 1st October 2019.

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