A Requisition of Madness

My Father was born in 1934 in Malaya. He was the youngest of three children and I believe they lived a fairly wealthy life. Somewhere, in the boxes that are still piled high in my garage is a photo of the house that they lived in and I will add it here when I find it. It is an amazing property and a huge contrast to where I lived during my childhood.

There is a child missing in the family photo above. My father had another older sister who passed away from contracting TB. I was told that the house keepers, who lived in a small cottage on my grandparent’s land, had a daughter who was taken ill. My young aunt had gone to visit her and take some fresh fruit to the little girl. Sadly, she too caught the infectious disease and died soon after.

My father had already experienced an horrendous trauma at such a very young age.

As I write this now I have had the realisation that my father must have been older than 4 years old when he was detained in the POW camp because Singapore was taken in February 1942. Having a January birthday, would make him 8 years old.

He remained in the camp for 3 years.

My Grandfather was born in Scotland and was an engineer in the either the Navy or Merchant Navy and I believe his parents were tea planters. I have no idea where my Grandmother actually originated from but do know that she was a school teacher and had two brothers and two sisters whom were all very well educated. I was told that my family owned a small town in Malaya but I really don’t know how accurate this is!

They were living in Ipoh when Singapore fell.

My handsome Grandfather.
I wish I could have known him.

I wonder now, if there are any descendants of my family still living in that area of the world?

I was blessed with having the chance to meet my Aunt Joan in 1996. I travelled with my husband and my 23 month old son for a four week holiday. It was an incredible journey being able to meet and spend time with my family on my father’s side. Joan was able to share some stories with me about their childhood and in particular, fragmented parts of their POW experience. I am sure that there was so much more information that my Aunt could have given me and I feel that she only scratched the surface with what she did share.

It was just too painful to revisit.

That was the only one time I met Joan and she passed away about 9 years ago.

I never met my Grandmother.

This is is Joan’s story;

My grandparents, Joan and my father were living in Malaya when the war broke and along with many other people, were evacuated by ship from Singapore. The ship came under attack and was bombed. forcing my family into life boats fighting for their survival. Joan shares in part, the scene of horror and devastation that her and my young father had witnessed. Surrounding them in the water were dead bodies, burning people, screaming cry’s for help-just utter chaos etc…

Joan recalls one memory of seeing a burning baby and how terribly that had affected my father after the event.

Some of the evacuee’s survived and made it to a near by island where they were taken care of by the local people for a few weeks. The Islanders took a huge risk in hiding my family, knowing that if they were caught harbouring them, they would be killed instantly. Eventually, they had to hand the evacuees’s over to the Japanese soldiers in order to save themselves and my grandparents, Joan and my father were taken to the prison camps.

I just can’t imagine how frightened they all must have been…

On arrival at the camps and during the separation period of men and women, my grandfather lied about my father’s age in order for him to be allowed to stay with his mother and sister.

The family were separated.

My father never saw his father again.

We don’t know what happened to my Grandfather.

My Aunt didn’t really say much about the camps but what she did share, was enough for me to understand the mental and emotional damage that was inflicted on my father at such a young age.

My grandmother Alice used to grind banana skins down into powder and give it to my Father for the nutritional benefit as food was not of the plenty and he was the youngest. Joan tells of women being raped openly and that the children would watch. Men were beaten daily and left for dead, some actually not surviving the beatings. If the children disobeyed, a swift punch to the stomach was a familiar punishment, especially the boys.

These were the experiences that were shaping my father as a young boy and his view of the world and also later as he became a man.

Whilst in the camp, my father learn’t to trade items to get different things that they needed. Joan told me how at times he would take risks trading with particular guards and through doing so, he learnt to speak some Japanese.

As a child, he taught me how to say the rhyme ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ in Japanese.

I guess you can come to your own conclusion about how a traumatic past can effect a person’s mind. I know that for my father, he went on to repeat the patterns of behaviour that he had learned from such a young age, inflicting it on his own children.

He used aggression and violence to control when he felt so out of control.

He used punching my eldest brother in the stomach as a form of punishment, seemingly for no reason but to apply force when he couldn’t contain his own demons.

He stole my Mothers jewellery and traded it for other people’s medication to feed his own habit.

He would pull my trousers down, hold my hands behind my back and slap my legs until it would sting as a reminder, not do do the very thing I was being punished for, again.

He would force us to eat every scrap on our dinner plate, telling us how lucky we were to have food because so many others didn’t.

And… my Mother told me years ago that when he wanted another child he enforced it.

Saying no to him wasn’t really an option.

The prospect of going home again scared them. They couldn’t imagine how they could ever settle to it. How they could just walk around the streets and pretend to be normal, look women in the eye again after what they had done and seen, ride on trams, sit at a table with a white cloth, and control their hands and just slowly eat. It was the little things that scared them. The big things you could hide in. It was little ones that gave a man away.”
― David Malouf

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/prisoner-of-war

A stark reminder

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4879862/WWII-heroes-reduced-skin-bone-Japan-s-POW-camps.html

 © All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

26

My big brothers looking very little.

We lived at number 26 Jellicoe Road until I was 4 years old.

My recollections of that house are small in comparison to what I remember of number 13 which was situated opposite.

26, had a large front room which housed an old gas fire. The kind with the off yellow tiled herth and brass coloured, extendable fire screen. In later years, I would use that screen along with an old sheet and pillows to make a house.

The kitchen sink was white and seemed huge. Nowadays, a sink that people would pay good money for. The significance of it being huge could be connected to a memory of my eldest brother having his mouth washed out with soap by my father. I have a movie in motion – in my mind of Paul being dragged kicking and screaming towards that huge sink by a huge and scary Daddy.

Paul is 7 years older than me.

Poor, poor little boy. What pain he must have endured.

In the hallway by the kitchen was an understairs cupboard and Paul told me some years back that the old man used to lock him in there after a beating.

Mum said she knew nothing about it!

A REJECTION on both counts – parents are supposed to love and protect you.

Upstairs, the floor boards were dark in colour with a few rugs scattered here and there and I remember at some point a large train set being laid out on my brothers floor.

Another vivid memory of living in number 26 is of me having a bath with another little girl who was wailing loudly in utter protest. Our Mother’s were the best of friends and we attended ballet lessons together. The girl had an adopted brother who lived, detatched from their house in a kind of shed-like room and as I grew older when we visited, I knew that was very wrong. He was left out in the cold (literally) and always presented with ill health. Both mother and daughter communicated abruptly to the boy and his obvious exclusion was heartbreaking to watch. I felt sad about the boy who lived outside and I remember asking my Mother why?

There was never a definitive answer.

Even at such a young age, I felt a deep connection for other’s and the natural desire to help them.

Maybe our parents belonged to the, ‘it’s acceptable to abuse children club’ or even, ‘it’s okay to turn a blind eye club’- maybe it was fashionable in the 70’s?

I am choosing to be human in this present moment as I write using sarcasim and a certain defiance. As a therapist I have the skills to look beyond their collective behaviour and begin to understand the reasons why so much abuse was delivered. Of course there is always more to a story and every person that I write about here has their own past that shaped who they became and how they behaved.

For now – just for now, I am tired of being the one that understands, the one that justify’s the one that clarify’s…

It was moving day. I was riding my blue and yellow, hard wheeled little bicycle along the pavement dinging my Magic Roundabout bell. I remember my father hollering at me to STOP because I was heading straight for the road.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

Remembering when…

I have this vivid memory of me dressed as a pirate standing outside of my parents house just in front of the cast iron black gate. Covering my head is a bright red bandana and I am wearing a little black waistcoat, black trousers tucked into my long white socks and little black school shoes. I think that I was about the age of 6 or 7 years old and it was the day of the local village carnival.

I started dancing lessons at the age of 4.

In between working three jobs at once, my mother made all of the outfits for my ballet shows. She spent hours lovingly hand sewing the little costumes and I still have three of them to this day; a blue Angel costume, a little Dutch girls outfit and a pink tutu. Over the years both of my girls have worn them when playing dressing up and as I think about it now, I’m not sure if I have ever told her how grateful I am for all of the time that she spent making things for me as a child. Dollies clothes, knitted blankets and cardigans, a soft clown with orange hair, cotton sewn purses and a bib and brace dungeree outfit all made by hand.

My mother always worked extremely hard and somehow I feel like I missed out on having her as a wholesome, healthy mum for the majority of my younger days. She lived under a cloud of my fathers depression and illness which prevented her from following her own dreams and passions. As he never worked in the latter years, my mother had to work even harder to make sure she could provide for us all. I wonder how he felt about this and what it did for his own self worth, esteem and beliefs about himself as a man, husband and father? I remember her being so exhausted at times and no matter what was thrown at her, she would soldier on, mustering up the strength, managing, coping, surviving. I think that’s a trait of hers that I’ve learn’t from a very young age; you just have to keep going no matter what… When I look back now it must have been unbearable at times for her living in such an emotionally draining situation. If ever we talk about the past now, she always states quite clearly that leaving my father was never an option and that you made your bed and you lied in it.

My eldest brother refuses to accept the fact that our mother choosing to stay was the right thing to do. He believes that she had a choice and by her staying in such a volatile relationship, my brother suffered the most horrendous abuse and in his words now;

“Because of the old man, my life is fucked.”

I don’t know if she was ever truly happy within her marriage or her life in general and wonder if she just stayed out of fear because she too was terrified of her husband.

My father had threatened suicide several times and my mother picked up the pieces of his desperation time and time again.

http://www.picturequotes.com/suicide-quotes/2

 

© All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip 2019