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A Shout From The Attic: Home Life

... My Ma came a long way behind Nanny in the pecking order. Everyone else got pecked. The hand that held the purse strings ruled the world...

Ronnie Bray continues his life story. To read his autobiography from the beginning click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

And do read Ronnie's versatile and varied Letter From America columns.

During these difficult years thoughts of my natural father haunted me. Although I did not see him from being two or so until I was about ten, he was constantly thrust in my face as the archetype of the kind of behaviour I was said to exhibit. “You’re just like your bloody father!” would issue with emphasis approaching venom from either nanny or mother. This precedence came out naturally, for that was the order of rule in the house. My Ma came a long way behind Nanny in the pecking order. Everyone else got pecked. The hand that held the purse strings ruled the world. It is no wonder that misunderstood children long for the protection of the absent parent. What is lacking to the knowledge of such a child is manufactured in the part of the brain that deals with hopes and aspirations.

The missing parent is constructed to be the solution to all life’s hardships. My father appeared in my mind as the saviour knight in shining armour. The reality, as we shall see, was disappointing.

Nanny had been a cook in service, having worked at a great house in Edgerton when that name stood for something other than bedsits and impoverished students. I have to wonder how she got the job since she was not an exciting cook and didn’t do entrées or desserts. Maybe she did such things for her employers above stairs. She often spoke of her days in service when we gathered around the old cast iron fireplace in the downstairs - the only place we did gather. She was addressed as ‘cook’ by the people of the big house and, according to the tales she told, she wielded a lot of influence and power. That I can believe because she was a formidable confrontational woman who ruled with an iron rod or anything else to hand that would serve, and she did not temper justice with mercy. She could have given Maggie Thatcher a ten-yard lead and beaten her.

Only in her later years was there any sign of softening towards me, and then only after she had lashed out to strike me in one of her whirlwind furores and missed, knocking her fingers on the architrave of the cellar door. She always said it was broken and it might have been, although she did not get it attended to. I can’t remember why I apologised - for moving my head I suppose. Whether the violence of that act or the pain she inflicted upon herself made her think about what it might have done had it connected with my poor head I cannot say, but she was never violent towards me again.


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