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A Shout From The Attic: From Castle To Dungeon And Out Again - 1

...I found accommodation at the Church Army hostel in Southampton and set about looking for work. The Captain who was in charge of the facility was kindness itself, and we often talked about life and my prospects...

Ronnie Bray, recently discharged from the Army, seeks to make a new start in life.

In the Frying Pan

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage …

Of the above quote, some wag commented, “Maybe not, but they do make a very good substitute!”

On being discharged from the Royal Military Hospital at Netley, Hampshire, sometime in the autumn of 1961, I was discharged onto the doorstep, Southampton, where I had lived during my missionary service in 1956. I did not mind, for I had nowhere else to go. Esmé was missing and the children with her. It was to be forty-two years before I discovered where she had been and with whom, so that I could identify the nameless and faceless figure that haunted my nightmares, having stolen my children.

I found accommodation at the Church Army hostel in Southampton and set about looking for work. The Captain who was in charge of the facility was kindness itself, and we often talked about life and my prospects. The charge was minimal, the food was good, the place was clean, and the only fly in the ointment was the dry rot that was eating the walls and floors and coating everything with a dark red rusty dust.

During this time, the final payment from my army marriage allowance was made by money draft to Esmé was looking for a home. It had been returned from whatever address she had been receiving mail at, marked “Gone away. No Forwarding Address,” so it had been sent to me. I didn’t know where Esmé was and didn’t look like getting to know, so I took the draft to the Post Office in London Road and wrote her name on it, then, feeling very aggrieved at her, I used the money myself. I reasoned that most of it came from my Army pay with a small amount added, and that I was entitled to it. The law was to take a very different view of the matter.

About the same time, the Army gave me a Resettlement Grant of £200 0s 0d, that gave a much needed fillip to my personal finances.

After some weeks in the hostel, I moved in to a flat off Beavois Valley Road with Dave Butt. He had been living in a small cabin yacht in a boat yard some distance from the sea and just the other side of the railing where his lady friend lived with her husband.

Both of us felt that it was time to move, and we moved together into a one room flat. Dave’s housekeeping skills, or signal lack of them, and his husbandry of what Antoni van Leeuwenhoek described as “little animals” that inhabited Dave’s comestibles in the refrigerator that I shared with him, were a cause of discussion, especially after I threw his potential penicillin, peripatetic ptomaine, and blatant botulism into the dustbin. I had not realised that a man could become emotionally attached to ptomaine and all its amazing possibilities. It was time to move on.

**

To read earlier episodes of Ronnie's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

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