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A Shout From The Attic: A Sea Of Troubles

Ronnie Bray tells of his father, a man who was "padlocked'' within himself, fated to stay locked to the end of his days.

My Father was a troubled man, unable to escape himself. He was like the padlock in Alice in Wonderland who on his long spidery legs continually ran around upset, distracted, and nervous. When asked, "Whatever is the matter with you?" the padlock exclaimed, "I am seeking the key to unlock myself! If I do not find it I am doomed to remain locked up inside myself forever!" In like fashion, my Father was padlocked. He was fated to stay locked to the end of his days!

He was a man who promised much, but lost his way, and he did not cope well with difficulties and disappointments. In spite of his undoubted talents, he never found a niche in life that satisfied his dreams.

His circle of friends was never wide, and I never heard him speak of anyone as a special friend. In his piano-playing days, he probably saw some of the same people on a regular basis, but he didn’t speak of friends. My impression is that he drove people away from him with his hostility and paranoia.

He was happiest when living in some isolated place such as Scammonden, or the house at the back of Castle Hill, where there were no close neighbours. He didn’t ‘neighbour’ and often viewed them with suspicion. He was different in many ways and this alienated him and, I believe made him a target for the wrong kind of attention from his neighbours.

He once asked me to go and see him. When I did so he recited a litany of complaints. He blamed most of his "problems'' on a family a few doors away and asked me to go there and “plaster them!”

I told him that fighting was not the way to solve problems between people, but he knew no other way. Being of small stature he probably felt helpless to meet the burdens imposed by life and society in getting along with others. I have experienced the same thing, and know how hard it can be to establish a decent life without working hard at it every day. Nothing comes easy, but improvement is its own reward and brings peace.

I could have been his perception that he was a powerless victim that led him to seek the anodyne of alcohol. He could not change the world, but he could inure himself from its barbs. Unfortunately this took its toll on his daughter and granddaughter.

Janet died aged 38 of illnesses related to chronic and prolonged abuse of alcohol. Her mother, Norina, had died five years earlier of lung cancer. Theirs was a culture of failure, depression, paranoia, alienation, and defeat.

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