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

An Unbearable Prison

Once upon a time there was a Mummy, a Daddy and two little boys who were excited to welcome the new baby into their family.

The rest of the day was a blur.

I have no recollection of what happened and it was sometime later that I found out my Father was at my Godmothers house when he made the call to us.

I wonder what they talked about?

I wonder if Aunty Barbara was able to console him?

I wonder if she held him just for a moment so that he knew he was loved?

I wonder what was going through his haggard mind?

He had lost everything, his wife, his children, his self respect-his mind…

At some stage, either that day or the next, my brothers went home to collect some belonging’s for us.

This is their account of what happened;

They awoke the sleeping Giant when going upstairs and his rage was tenfold. My father tried to stop my brother Ashley taking clothes from my bedroom and demanded to know where we were. He refused his fathers enforcing and all hell broke out.

The dog was going crazy once again, confused as to whom he should protect and somehow during the eruption, the younger of my two brothers, who was only 17, had his head jammed in-between my wardrobe sliding door by our father.

A scene of commotion.

My brothers have said that he would have killed them to get to us.

They escaped the house and took the dog with them.

Everything that he had ever loved was gone and now his home was not his home, it was his external prison too.

An unbearable prison.

During a conversation with my Mother not so long ago, she added another layer to the story that was kept from me for many years. On entering the house, my brothers were hit with the stench of gas. My father had opened the oven door, left the gas on and gone upstairs to lay down.

https://www.crisistextline.uk

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.mind.org.uk

I have no words to describe the pain that is inside of me now that must have been inside of him at that very moment, to arrive at a place in his life where he believed he could no longer live.

I felt that feeling for a split second some time ago when driving home one day in floods of angry tears. The thought crossed my mind at how easy it would be to drive the car at speed off of the downs and end all of the overwhelming inner turmoil that had been plaguing my life for so long.

Just for a split second…

and I reached out for help.

Depression, drugs, trauma, loss, grief, devastation, abuse, loneliness, self disgust and anything else you can throw into his dark pot, had WON the emotional and personal battle that he was fighting.

He didn’t want to live anymore.

He couldn’t live anymore.

Approximately 1970
Who was taking the picture?

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

Broken Man

It didn’t take much for my Father to find out where we were staying and I am surprised that he didn’t come to the house and smash the front door down.

He wasn’t the kind of man to follows rules and I think he had finally broken.

Going to school that Monday morning wasn’t really an option because of the severity of our situation and I remember quite distinctly, what I was given for breakfast;

Scrambled egg with ketchup.

“Go on eat it up, it’ll do you good to get something in your stomach and stop all that worrying, worrying won’t get you anywhere.”

Said the friend!

I had never tasted it before and I really didn’t like it-so I didn’t eat it.

The phone rang. It was my Father asking to speak to my Mother and that look upon her face returned… the one that she momentarily, had a reprieve from.

I can see clearly in my minds eye, her standing there holding the phone up to her ear. Words are coming out of her mouth and I can not hear what she is saying… but I do know that she denied his begging for us to go home.

He asked to speak to me and she handed the phone over and this time, was the very last time I heard his voice.

Hello darling, it’s me Dad.

Please come home I can’t live without you and Mum.

Please Shellie, please… it won’t happen again!

I’ll get help.

I don’t want to hurt you or Mum, she won’t listen to me just come home.

He was sobbing.

I was sobbing.

I didn’t know what to say, I had no words, just tears, uncontrollable tears, I could have drowned in them.

I couldn’t breathe… my father was pleading with me to come home and I could hear his desperation.

I could feel it…

His words were clear,

not slurred,

he was coherent,

he was present.

I told him that I was scared and sorry but I couldn’t come home.

There was silence-even though we were crying together and then he told me that he loved me and followed with, “I will always love you, you are my everything.”

He said he was sorry.

He hung up…

Ian Douglas Sinclair – Malaysia 1934
What a beautiful baby he was.
It could have all been so different.

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

Barbiturates and Salt Sandwiches

With taking his evening medication, my father would sprinkle salt on two slices of bread and butter and then make them into a sandwich.

Who does that?

My Father in his early 40’s

His days were spent in terrible physical pain and his night’s were plagued with horrendous nightmares – the kind that forced his body into a soaking wet sweat. That’s where the drugs came in and did their job of knocking him out into an unconcious state, often appearing dead with a cold and bluish complexion.

I wonder where he travelled in his sleep?

I wonder if he ever was able to access peace beyond the realms of being awake?

I hope so.

I have painted such a bad picture of the man I called my father and that’s not really the truth of it all. He was a good man and a very sick man, that’s the paradox. There is so much to write about him and the pain he must have endured as a child, also the rejection he sufferred from trying to tell his story and having it ignored.

Maybe that’s why it is so important for me to tell mine!

The atrocities he experienced from the age of 4 until 7 in a prisoner of war camp scarred his young mind and was enough to damage his life and the lives of the people he loved. There have been many times when I have felt so desperate to see him again – to hold him close and tell him that I understand, tell him that I love him so much and tell him its okay.

I don’t know if he is resting?

He deserves to rest…

You see, we all have the power to judge another as my father was judged by his family, doctors, neighbours etc… everyone had something to say but never really gave him the time to begin to wonder why he behaved the way he did or even to try and unravel his pain.

I give people time to unravel.

I guess in that day and age it was just easier to shut him up with medication and send him on his way which ultimately, killed his body.

I can never justify his actions but I can always choose love over hate and ignorance.

The doctor that plied my father with drugs was stuck off some years later. He was well known for over prescribing medications for his patients.

I wonder what pain he was carrying was too?

©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