Shy, ordinary Me!
I made my entry into this world on a cold January morning in 1943. World War I was half way through and I emerged to the sound of the All Clear signal telling people that the present danger was over. We were in my grandparent's upstairs flat - a miner's cottage in the small town of Felling, high on the hillside overlooking the River Tyne in Gateshead. There were large concrete tank traps on a patch of land, known locally as The Bankies, between us and the river. Beyond lay a very different world; that of Newcastle upon Tyne, with its grand buildings and cathedrals, big city shops and smart houses inhabited by smart people that worked in offices rather than factories and coal mines.
The house we lived in was a stone-built terrace house built over an abandonned coal mine. The street, George Street, building in 1901, was already condemned before the war because of subsidence. There was a small scullery slanting towards the back stairs and a yard with an outside toilet. There was no hot water. The living room, which we called the 'kitchen' had an open black-leaded coal fire. There were two tiny bedrooms and the traditional 'front' room, the latter used now as a bedroom where I had to sleep between my grandmother and my mother, my parents having separated when I was ten months' old. I slept like that until I was ll years old and hated everything about it. My big dream was to have a bed of my own, preferably in a room of my own, but that never materialised until I was much older. Little did I know that I would not only realise the dream of a lifetime and more - I would live many lives before this was achieved.
The fact that I was born in January, yet named June, was and still is to this day, a source of amusement. At the time of my early childhood Bing Crosby was crooning the song "It's June in January, because I'm in love...." It quickly became my signature tune when our milkman used to serenade me with the song as he delivered our milk every day. Even today, when I hear that song, it takes me back to my infant days, living with the family in that creaky, old and haunted miner's cottage. In those days it wasn't only the milk that was delivered to the door. There was also the Rington's Tea van, the fishmonger, the gypsies selling wooden pegs and, on one occasion, a photographer who took my photograph, which my mother had to buy. She never forgave that man for taking me with my knicker leg hanging down beneath my short dress. Or was it me she didn't forgive for being seen in such a state, even at three years of age. Pride was practiced in our family like a religion and woe begone anyone who let theirs slip.
But hold on, I hear you say. What makes this person so special that you would want to read on? Well, okay, not so special, but my life has been anything but ordinary. Coming from a simple, working class background is nothing to shout about in itself, but the family, proud and respectable, were dysfunctional long before I came on the scene. Fractured by the past and still carrying the scars that would never heal. A name that was only ever whispered, a relative that I was made to feel afraid of because whenever he appeared I was whisked away out of his presence. There had been a murder in the family, but even to this day the details of this are unclear.
Come forward now into my own bizarre life when I had to give evidence in a big bribery and corruption trial; and later when I married a man in haste [and regretted it in even more haste] and he, not in his right mind, did his best to injure, or perhaps even kill me. Later, the murder theme continued when I danced with a so-called murderer - and that same man was himself later murdered.
I laughed when someone I knew visited a psychic friend in New Zealand and this friend sent me a message saying how I was capable of psychic painting and that I had a guide who was a Chinese doctor living in China 200 years ago - where I also apparently lived in a former life, though I was not Chinese. This guide wanted me to paint his portrait, but I found this all too scary and declined. And then, one day, in a writing tutorial a figure appeared to me in the chalk dust of a blackboard - and it was Chinese. I tried to ignore it, but once in my room I was strongly drawn to my sketch pad and pencil and drew the figure from memory. I sent it to my friend in New Zealand and got the message: "Sun Yong enjoyed sitting for you, but he hopes that you will do better next time." Hmm.
Career-wise I worked my way up the ladder from office junior to Executive Medical/Administrative secretary, with only one person holding a higher clerical grade in Newcastle University. I remained in that post for over eight years, then after a year's leave when I re-married, I went back to work as PA to the newly appointed head consultant of Human Genetics and stayed with him for another eight years. A man I had known and worked with throughout my hospital career, he became one of the youngest medical professors and is now world known as Professor Sir John Burn - an extremely clever, dynamic and charismatic man. We keep in touch by exchanging Christmas newsletters.
At the age of forty I re-married. Brian was one of Sir Peter Scott's wildfowl park manaagers - biologist, onithologist and photographer. Living in an old farmhouse with 1,200 rare waterfowl in 100 acres of reclaimed land in the north-east of England wasn't easy, but it had its moments, especially when I got to be so close and to often handle 'nature'. And there were the interesting people I got to meet, including Sir Peter and his wife and, best of all, Prince Charles - all lovely people and I wouldn't have it said otherwise.
There followed a period of great travel with destinations such as Sri Lanka, Kenya, Patagonia, Argentina, Chile, and the Galapagos Islands being on the agenda. They were more than holidays. They were life experiences. I don't travel any more, having found my own true paradise here in France.
And it was here in France that the writing I had done all my life was suddenly successful and my days are filled with writing, painting and, of course, my dogs. Not just my dogs. I am deeply involved in trying to help abandoned dogs in local refuges and it's the most worthwhile thing I have ever done.
So there you are, my friends. Just a few snippets of my life in word pictures. Now, I feel the need to write the full story of the shy, ordinary child that became me.