Me prior to 1953
An abandoned lost soul.
Since 1953, aged 9, my life became a contradiction in terms that ‘life was for living’. I say this for no other reason, than this year became the most prolific in emotional charges that changed a great deal of how I looked at myself as an individual person, physically, emotionally, psychologically, religiously and spiritually.
Please let me explain.
For those of you who have read the three earlier articles, you will be aware that my maternal grand mother was a medium and Spiritualist, who ran her own church, and that my mother was expected to take over the running of the church and the séances and meetings once my gran no longer wanted to or could not continue. However, my mother had other ideas, which is, that she did not take over the church, and refused to acknowledge her spirit guide, despite his insistence for her to do so. Given that I adored my mother, I developed a negative approach to all things paranormal, unexplainable, and definitely all things spiritual, in defence of my mother.
Prior to 1953, I was known as a happy child, one who smiled all the time for no reason that I got great pleasure from it and of course, all those wrinkled old aunties would want to give me a cuddle which was always rewarded with a sweet or two, so I disdained to put up with the smelly bad breath, the wiry fingers as they gripped my arms and of course, the ruby rich lipstick that always seemed to wear and always left its mark on my cheeks after the customer kiss.
Note: The creases in the photo, occurred after an event that made me want to disappear, and so I screwed it up. My mother retrieved it and kept it without my knowledge, which she gave back to me on my 60th birthday, when I told her that I had learnt to love myself once again and of course, to smile.
The year 1953, started well, with my father making a wooden fort complete with lead soldiers he made in the garden shed using an old mould he got from his father. Whilst we were not living below the recognised poverty line back in 1953, we were not far off it, and so birthday and Christmas presents were a luxury, so when I saw the fort and soldiers he had made, the world was all to me.
In March, my father went to sea as he had just re-enlisted in the Royal Navy for another twenty two years as he could not settle down into civilian life after serving through WWII. It was a wrench to see him walk out the door, not knowing how long it would be before he managed to get home, a week, a mong, a year or even three years, all was a possibility.
For her part, my mother was a very quiet person who did not like conflict, raised voices and could not tolerate foul or abusive language. In this context, she would often allow me to do what I wanted so long as I did not cause trouble and the local policeman stayed away from our door. This approach to ‘mothering’ suited my adventurous nature and allowed me to roam the fields, hills, bomb sites that still remained, scuttled boats and ships in the harbour, and to climb the local castle walls which I did for no other reason that to annoy the local park keeper who thought that the castle was his property and he should defend it, to the death no doubt if it ever came to that!
In April, I decided to wander through some nearby fields, along side the hedgerows looking for birds nests, for no other reason, than I enjoyed looking at eggs or chicks. I had a great admiration for birds, being able to fly aimlessly above the ground at free will; using the thermals to aid them move across the sky.
I came to a field that had not been ploughed and on the gate was a notice: WD – NO ADMITTANCE – DANGER. Now if there was ever a red flag to a bull, here it was. The notice was the red flag and I was the bull. What I interpreted the sign as saying was: ‘Come on in Frankie, there’s adventure to be found in here.’ *WD stood for War Department.
Once in the field I enjoyed clambering over the rubble, clearly there was some sort of building here during the war, possibly a lookout tower or even a telecommunications site, whatever it was, it added to my imaginative adventurous mind which by this time was in over drive. Scrambling through some old buildings, the walls still standing on guard, I wratched through the rubble littering the floor which is when I saw the metal fin. Clearing away the bricks, wood and other pieces of rubbish, I uncovered an old German bomb, complete with swastika. I was in in my element, allowing my mind to conjure up stories about daring do’s as a soldier, despite the fact that deep down, I felt that I was a pacifist even though such a word was not in my vocabulary.
I rolled my fingers across the shiny metal body, and tried to putt it out of the floor it appeared stuck in. Of course, at that point in my naïve life, I did not understand that when bombs went off, they did not leave their casing behind intact! And of course, no one had ever explained what an unexploded bomb looked like, or if they did, I was not listening!
I tugged and heaved until it started to rock a little and inch by inch I managed to drag it up out of the hope it was wedged in until it lay there prone in front of me. Victory was mine I shouted, punching the air in the process. After a while I wanted to throw stones at it, so went to the doorway, or at least, where one once stood before it was blown apart, and threw stones at the bomb seeing if I could hit one of its fins as when I did, it rolled a little which gave me a great sense of achievement.
I have no idea when I changed my aim from the tail fins to the nose cone, but the red paint on it was inviting and so that was my next game, seeing if I could hit the nose cone.
After a while, my arms were getting tired so I gave up and threw one last large piece of concrete at the bomb shouting ‘Geronimo’ as I did so. I heard a loud click but thought nothing of it, so went outside to find something else to occupy my bored little young mind, which I did in the shape of a large herring gull which appeared to have found some tasty ,morsel from the nearby rubbish tip but as it was being challenged for it by a swarm of others hungry gulls, there was a war of its own being played out as first one would manage to hold the item in its beak and fly off a few yards before being made to drop it whereupon it was swamped again until another had it and so one. I ran after them trying to work out which one would eventually be successful and manage to keep the item for themselves.
Then one particular bird with the item firmly in its beak, did a U turn and headed back towards the derelict buildings in the WD Keep Out field, so I turned and ran back in their wake. I scrambled over the gate, ignoring the sign once again and watched as they flew into the building where my bomb lay.
As I started to walk over to it, I felt something holding me back by the right shoulder. I then heard or thought I heard, someone shout quietly, “no Frankie, not yet”. I looked 360 degrees all round but saw no one. I wondered if someone was hiding playing games with me so decided to ignore them and carried on towards the old building. Just as I got to the space where the doorway used to be, I heard someone call out my name. I turned and saw someone the other side of the gate waving for me to go and join them. I tried hard to identify who they were and whilst I could not make them out, it felt as if they were someone familiar and so I waved back and shouted that I just wanted to go and see what the gulls were doing with their piece of food they were fighting over.
The person shouted out my name louder this time which made me turn my head in their direction as I was still moving forward. I was convinced I saw a naval uniform which raised my sense of excitement as the only person I knew who wore such a uniform was my father. He had come home unexpectedly. I turned and ran towards him as fast as my little legs would go, jumping the gate with one bound I caught my foot on the top bar and rolled over down into a ditch the farmer had ploughed earlier to catch the rain water when the bomb went off, blowing the gulls and the building walls in every direction.
I felt the rush of wind blow across my prone body as it lay face down in the ditch, and heard large pieces of concrete rubble land all around. When the dust and noise had abated, I got up and shout for my dad but there was no one there. I was totally alone.
At once, the thought struck me that he had been blown to pieces like the poor gulls but try as I might, I could find nothing so ran home sobbing and crying not sure what to tell my mother. I rushed into the back door and she was busy in the kitchen baking. She took one look at me and burst out laughing. I was flummoxed, perplexed and a little angry at her until that is, she led me into the hallway where the wall mirror was and stood me in front of it. I burst out laughing too as I saw the feathers stuck to my jumper, the dust and the dirt covering the front part of me where I lay in the ditch face down.
In all the laughter, I realised that my dad was not really there as even if he had come home unexpectedly, he would have no idea where to look for me as I had not even told my mother where I was going.
That evening, as I lay in my bed, sleep would not come, try as hard as I could to make it. My mind was too busy trying to make sense of the experience I had just had, and I just wanted to go and tell my mother about it, as I felt she would have an explanation. However, I knew that she did not like talking about such things as if there was one thing that I noticed about my father, being a Roman Catholic (my mother and I were not), he often spoke to my gran and mother, in negative terms about spirituality and mediums, saying they were all fakes. And so I decided to say nothing but to ignore it and get on with my life.
In late June, my mother was about to give birth but before she did, I went with the school to see the Pathe news film about the Queen’s Coronation and the 1st Ascent of Mount Everest. Whilst I felt little interest in the coronation, the sight of the men hugging each other after the successful ascent, was the moment that I knew that I wanted to be a mountaineer and climber and that adventure was going to be my life’s drug. So this was a momentous day for me, as I stopped thinking about being a fireman, a policeman, a steam train driver or anything else other than a mountaineer.
A week later, my mother gave birth to a baby sister who I adored very much. I felt a very special bond towards her and knew we were to play an important part in each other’s lives. I was really happy and life could not have been better, well it could if my father had been there rather than at sea somewhere.
Six weeks later at the end of July, I came home from school looking forward to seeing my baby sister again in the knowledge that tonight my mother had said I could feed her with the bottle. School that day was impossible. I could not learn anything as I could not get this thought out of my head. I loved the smell of my baby sister, and the way she cooed when I stroked her little fingers and toes. She had silky smooth skin which, a smile that I felt she inherited from me along with that twinkle in the eye.
Rushing into the back door I bumped straight into my father, still in uniform. How could life get any better than this? But he was not smiling. I was confused. Then I heard my mother crying up stairs. Then he broke my heart and I no longer was the boy who ran into the back door. “I have some bad news for you. You have to be brave. Your baby sister has just died and they have just taken her body away. Your mother is upstairs very upset and heart broken. You must be brave for her and one way you can do this, is never to talk to her again about your baby sister. Let your mother forget this sad moment just as you must do. We will never mention her name again and therefore, your mother will get over it”.
Life ended for me that moment and my memory is nothing but darkness for the next few days. My father went back to sea. I was made to go to school on the day he told me my baby sister was being buried in the Castle church, and I never smiled like I used to smile ever again – not for the next 60 years.
In August, I was climbing on Portchester Castle walls which I spoke about in an earlier article, and experienced again, another unexplainable occurrence when I fell off the wall but was grabbed by someone or something that saved me.
I had been a choir boy for the past year at the church where my baby sister was buried, but as I was not at her funeral, I had no idea where she was buried. I tried looking for her headstone when I was at the church either at choir practice or singing solo at funerals or weddings which I often did given my fine singing voice. I preferred funerals as weddings were too happy an event for me as being happy and smiling was something that I had quickly learnt was not what I wanted to be and do.
As my father had said, I never spoke about my baby sister to my mother at all and she never spoke to me about her. It was if she had never existed as there was nothing left in the home to remind us that she had.
One evening in September, I had just finished singing at a funeral and the verger asked me to stay behind to help him clear up as there was a wedding in the morning. Being a naïve nine year old (I had turned 9 on 23rd June), I had little understanding of sexual behaviour but the verger did. I remember running all the way home, confused about what had just happened. I knew I felt bad, strange, odd, and naughty even although I had no idea why. I wanted to talk to my mother when I got it but she was looking very sad so I just went to bed.
The verger continued to sexually abuse me for a few more months until I stopped going to choir practice. I withdrew into myself further and started to think that all adults were the same, so I kept shy of them and would not engage in any form of conversation with anyone. At school, I even refused to speak in class and when spoken to, I often got into trouble for refusing to answer. My reputation as a nuisance was growing.
In June 1954, almost a year after my baby sister had died, I was asked by the vicar of the castle church, to sing one more time at an important social wedding. I said that I would only sing if he met me when I arrived and I could leave immediately afterwards. He agreed.
The event went without incident. However, for some unknown reason, my mother was not happy with me going back to the church but as I never asked her why, I never knew her reasons. My father was still away at sea, and his words of never talking to my mother ever again about my baby sister, were still heavy on my mind when unexpectedly, I met her outside the church where she had come to meet me. She took hold of my hand which was a rare thing for my mother this past year, as I had noticed that she had withdrawn into her shell which at times, made me feel unwanted and unloved.
As we walked down the path from the church front door, I just had to take the chance of upsetting her one more time and so asked here which gravestone was my baby sisters. Without stopping or even looking, she pointed to a small unmarked stone by the side of the path and said, that was the one but we were not going to stop.
I desperately wanted top go back to the church to visit the gravestone but several reasons prevented me. First was the verger, second was that I was getting into more and more trouble at school, refusing to learn anything, to communicate with teachers, and hanging around with the schools rougher element that were always being sent to the headmaster for a good canning, which I soon started to join.
In November, my father came home unexpectedly and told us that he was posted to Glasgow in Scotland, and so to pack up everything. That was it. No discussion. He said that this was what we were doing and no one said a word, we just did as we were told.
One evening as we sat amongst the packed crates and boxes waiting for the truck to come and collect them, I was alone with my father. I so desperately wanted to tell him what the verger had been doing to me, but I was unsure about his reaction and so I asked him what it was like being at sea with just a ship load of men.
He started off saying what he did on board ship, what it was like during the war and so on, and just when I had plucked up enough courage to say something about the verger, he said that some men were animals in that they went with other men sexually, and that one day I would be old enough to understand. He went on to say, that such men were not welcome in his house as they were bad, and without a soul.
I said nothing further. That was it. I was bad and I had no soul. My life was going to be one of mental torture all my life and no one could help me. That evening as I lay in my bed crying, I thought I heard someone in my room. I hid my head under the covers and prayed for whoever it was to go away. Them I sensed a light envelope me, and heard a voice telling me that I should give myself to him and he would protect me through the unpredictable journey I was to take.
I heard a door slam and the light vanished. I sat up awake all night in fear of whoever it was, coming back. That morning as we boarded the truck to take us on the long drive north to Glasgow and our new home, I knew inside that I was ‘broken’ and that all future unexplained events that were happen to me, the voices, the dancing balls of light, the apparitions I was to see, the near death experiences, the out of body experiences and the discussions I was to have with those who were in spirit form, was nothing more than part of life’s torment that was my punishment for everything that had happened, in 1953, the year I become disconnected from my soul, and I forgot how to smile and be happy.
In my next article, I will tell you about my discussions with spirits that had passed over, the apparitions that came to pass many years later, and the dreadful family secret that started out as a slipper slide to oblivion but in reality------ well, you’ll have to read the article to find out!
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