Early Life

It’s strange that now I can talk with my mum about my depression. She was a single parent and working virtually 24/7 when I was young. She had a little hotel with her sister, but my aunt was never “hands on.” We would eat one meal a day together but that was really about it for contact and we rarely had mother daughter time.
To the child me, this meant I knew that my mother didn’t love me. At times I was really happy as I thought she liked me. Most of the time I just felt in the way. Except spring, summer and autumn, when my lazy aunt would go off with her husband most weekends to their caravan by the sea. Then I would be summoned to help prepare food and wash up.
I think it would have been such fun for diners to know that their prawn cocktail had been made by an 8 year old.
At this time there was no way I could have talked with my mum about my feelings, the hurt, what was happening to me. I look back with adult eyes and understand she was caring for me the only way she knew how – hard work. I don’t think for one moment that if she had understood what would happen at the hotel, she would have agreed to go into business with my aunt. She is an intelligent wonderful woman and, if she had felt that this venture was right for us, she would have found a partner with a sound business head and work ethic.
Therapists I have seen always feel that they have to tell me, “This wouldn’t happen now. You would have been taken into care.” This, off course, leads to the bulk standard diatribe, which starts with the immortal words…
…don’t pick on my mum she was doing her best.
When I was diagnosed with depression, my mum couldn’t understand. She had been told by Miss Gregg, my teacher when I was 6 years old, that I was heading to Oxbridge. She didn’t understand how my life had changed. How could she? Our communication channels had died years ago.
I now realise that she couldn’t comprehend my mental health condition. My diagnosis came as such a shock to her. A blow to her hopes and dreams for me. I had to leave university as when I was finally diagnosed, it was because I had had a complete breakdown – I don’t do things in small doses.
I’m am very fortunate that my Godmother lives overseas and allowed me to move to her holiday home in Kent. I spent 2 years recovering, going for long walks in the country side, and learning to cope.
I then moved back with my mum and started working as a croupier. My mum had become a housekeeper to the Honourable Mrs Shand. Mrs Shand was a wonderful woman who had osteoarthritis and suffered great pain but always had a certain dignity and very cheeky sparkling eyes. She was married to Major Shand – a kind, intelligent person and true gentleman.
They suffered greatly with anguish because their oldest daughter was hounded in the press when she was named as the “third person” in the Prince and Princess of Wales’s marriage. I only met Camilla on a few occasions and it was usually over one of my cigarettes. She was constantly trying to give up so I soon learnt not to leave my cigarette packs in the kitchen when she was due to visit. Somehow they would mysteriously disappear.
This was the early 1990’s and Camilla was married with teenage children. I genuinely believe that the only part Camilla played in the royal marriage was in providing Prince Charles with a shoulder to cry on. She has her mother’s inherent nobleness.
I don’t know the circumstances but one day Major Shand decided to ban the Prince of Wales from his home. This was strange to me as the Prince hadn’t visited during the time my mum had been housekeeping for them.
A while later, there was a cease fire (to use military terms in honour of the Major) and the Prince was allowed to visit.
It’s silly how the little things can have such a profound impact. Prince Charles requested a glass of orange juice. My mum, who loved her employers, was cross with him on their behalf, and didn’t want to go near him so tried to sell delivering him his orange juice as a wonderful opportunity for me to meet royalty. I promptly got in my car and drove to Bedford to see my then boyfriend. It’s a running family joke now that I wouldn’t serve Prince Charles. He’s probably a very nice man.
I’m sharing about my life because all of the time we are alive we are on a personal journey.
I’m not going to say each day is a gift because some days are total shit but we survive and move on. I rarely buy orange juice but when I do it makes me smile.
The little things in life can be very important.
God Save the Queen.

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