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A Shout From The Attic: Sisters United

...I told him that his intemperate language was wasted on me and that I was not to be bullied. He opened a drawer in the table and drew out a long bladed knife. “I’ll knife you.” He screamed and lunged toward me. I hit him on the side of the head and he fell into an easy chair in a sitting position, and was strangely silent....

Ronnie Bray tells of family turbulence. To read more of Ronnie's life story please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on his page.

Some years passed and father was lost for most of them. The children were growing up. When I returned to Huddersfield in 1965 I was told by my sister René that he was again living in Longwood. He was on the same road but lower down on the same side. The house was actually somewhat better but as poorly furnished as all his other places. By this time, Aunt Kitty was having problems with diminishing sight. Father was still drinking and still treating Kitty badly and knocking her about after his drinking. I only ever saw him drunk once and that was on this visit.

At this time, Norina was twenty-one and George some years younger, doing well in the Air Training Corps in which he held the rank of sergeant.

Norina wanted to visit René, whom she had never met, and I had taken her to see her. When father learned of the visit on our return, it revived his ancient bitterness against René, whom he blamed for many of his failures, and since I had taken Norina there his immediate anger was directed to me. I had never seen my father in his cups before, but began to understand his essential being as he vented his spleen, and exposed his turbulent id.

He was not amenable to reason, for, notwithstanding that Norina was of an age to please herself, he still reckoned that her first loyalty should be to himself. I told him that his intemperate language was wasted on me and that I was not to be bullied. He opened a drawer in the table and drew out a long bladed knife. “I’ll knife you.” He screamed and lunged toward me. I hit him on the side of the head and he fell into an easy chair in a sitting position, and was strangely silent.

Kitty was terrified. She recognised that father had overstepped the bounds of decent and reasonable behaviour. But, she was married to him and whatever happened she would have to continue to live with him. I told Norina to get her stuff if she wanted to come with me. As we left the house, my father ran into the road shouting “Police! Murder!”

He dialled 999 from the ‘telephone kiosk lower down the road as Norina and I waited for the bus. The police came, heard his story, and then came and spoke to us. They were convinced that there had been no murder, no danger of murder, and that father was worse for wear and temper. They left after hearing Norina’s assurances that she was leaving voluntarily. She stayed with René for a few days before returning home. It was the first sign I had seen that although he was not easy to live with, there was a strong filial connection between them, and she loved him.

I was to learn how long my father could hold a grudge when it became obvious that he held his grudges better than he held his ale. Matthew was nine or ten months old when the last episode took place. When Matthew was about ten years old, I learned that my father was living in an old stone cottage round the back of Castle Hill and decided that a visit to him was overdue. Although we had parted on bad terms the last time we met I harboured no resentment against him and considered that the passage of time would have given him pause for reflection.

Matthew and I walked from Lower Reins, Honley to the house. Norina was outside with her little daughter Janet and her pet Billy goat. We spoke for some minutes then she said that she had better announce me to father who was indoors. I waited outside the door when she went in to tell him that Matt and I were there.

From deep within the dark recesses of the ancient pile came the patriarch’s stern command, “Tell him to bugger off!” I said a long farewell to Norena and Janet and Matt and I buggered off.

René and Norina remained good friends, just like sisters, until Norina died. René remains very attached to George Frederick Junior.


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