Of course I must start at the beginning. Born on the 22nd of October 1917. My mother tells the story for the early years. She says I was born whilst she was suffering from Rheumatic Fever. It was hard on both of us but we survived.
My next trial was at the age of around six months when I contracted the dreaded “Spanish Flu.” The doctor attending me told my mother he was sorry but I had passed away. He left and a friend of my mother, visiting at the time, said “No” and in my mother’s words began punching and slapping me. Whatever she did I whimpered and that night they sat and put hot mustard plasters on me back and front.
In the morning against the doctor’s wishes she insisted he came out to see me. He said it was a miracle and treated me for pleurisy. I seemed to have had a weak chest thereafter.
My mother told me of an incident at about nine months old. In Devon she and her sisters decided to go into the sea for “a dip”. I was wrapped in a shawl and left asleep on the beach. They didn’t heed the tide coming in and the next thing I was floating past them on a wave. Someone grabbed me and scrambled ashore with me. Apparently I came to no harm from my dip but I could have been drowned as not one of the sisters could swim. A stranger saved me.
At about age three I discovered I had a man who scared me. I was told he was my father. Somehow I was always in trouble and he would backhand me. I soon learnt to keep out of his way.
Around now I was sent down to Devon to my two aunts and my grandfather. I can’t remember much but I know we lived in a cottage up on a steep hill. It was called “Ash Hill.” We only had candles and oil lamps and a pump outside for water. I still have the candle stick used to light me to bed.
I was about four when I caught a baby rabbit in the hedge. I was so proud of my friend. I insisted on taking it to bed with me. Of course it was removed when I slept and on waking in the morning I cried and cried for my “Rabby”. My mother told me its mother came and collected it and they went to to their home.
Later that day I went out with my mother on a fishing boat and what did I see but a tiny rabbit floating dead in the sea. I was heartbroken and told my mother she told lies and had drowned my “Rabby”. I seem to remember everyone being very kind to me but I was hard to pacify.
In those days Sunday was strictly observed and I remember wearing wide lace to below the knee knickers. When I bent down they peeped out under my dress. I was forever being reprimanded for bending instead of stooping, forever being told I would never be a lady. Another problem was that I would forget and bounce my ball outside in public. “Not on a Sunday child”. Perhaps I didn’t make a lady.
I returned to London and that horrible man. Now he had turned to using his leather belt to “Teach me a lesson.” I was so small I was called “Little Dot”, so like a great granddaughter I have now. I bruised easily and wasn’t very strong but he toughened me up. I needed to.
My sister was never touched and I couldn’t understand why I was so bad. Slowly this forged a rift between my sister and myself which only deepened later on.