A Life Worth Living; Chapter Two.
Our house was an old, soot covered terrace, amongst many rows of nineteenth century terrace houses. Built to accommodate miners and their families, these dirty, grimy looking terraces, faced each other over a cobbled road. Each house had a chimney that bellowed out smoke and black soot from coal fuelled fires. The smoke was so dense at times that it blocked out the rays of the sun. I remember life back then being sunless, the sun never shone on the dark days of my childhood.
All the houses looked pretty much the same, inside and out, dark and gloomy. They all had two or three bedrooms, two living rooms down stairs, no bathroom and no inside toilet. One living room, the front one, as you entered the front door, was kept for best and for entertaining guests. For most of the people in our street, it was an unused room. Our room was used sometimes for lodgers or strangers that my Mam used to take in.
In these houses most people lived in the back room, where all the cooking was done, and where it was easier to keep warm. In our back room, there was a big black range, which essentially was a coal fire surrounded by little ovens. This is where Mam did all the cooking and it was also our only means of heating. We stored coal in one end of this room in the 'coal hole', and at the other end of the room was a big pot sink. Each house had a little back yard with a toilet at the end. We had to run through rain, sleet and snow to get to the toilet in the night because Mam would not have a piss pot, which was basically a bucket on top of the stairs, like other families did.
Life Of Drudgery
It was a harsh life for all coal miners, their wives and the children, back then. The women seemed to spend all their time cleaning, washing, cooking or beating their rugs in the back yard, to get rid of the coal dust that accumulated in them. There were no washing machines or vacuum cleaners back then. My mother did our washing in an old tin bath that hung on the wall outside in the yard. She would put the wet clothes through a mangle and then hang them to dry on a rack in the kitchen. Life was one of drudgery for those women I grew up around and that graft showed on the faces.
In the beginning, Mam kept our house spotless. We had bare walls and bare floors and very little furniture but it was always clean. Every Sunday the house would reek of disinfectant, when Mam did what she called, 'her big clean'. She would scrub our front step almost every day. Doing that front step must have been a traditional cultural thing to do in those days as I often saw worn out looking women, scrubbing the front step. As a small child, I remember Mam, many times, arguing with the neighbours, Irish accent accentuated and often the loudest, ‘Ah, go home and clean your fucking step, you dirty whore!’ she would scream.
Mam would go into a cleaning frenzy if she thought anyone was going to visit. If someone knocked on the door, they had no chance of getting in if Mam had not cleaned to her satisfaction. Often I was told to sit under the window and not make a sound so whoever was knocking on the door would think we were not in. I grew up with the belief that I would only be accepted if I kept the house clean. It was a belief that was to influence a a major part of my life. For a long time, I thought I was here on earth to cook and clean and take care of men and to be abused.
Our house was far from a happy home and I have no memories of happy times because there were none. There was no laughter in our house, no fun, no happy family occasions, that I recall, or an enjoyable Christmas that I ever remember. No treasured happy memories from my past just memories I would rather forget, of my Mam's explosive anger and the way she put the fear of God in me. To me she was a time bomb waiting to go off and I seemed to be the spark that made her blow. She would often blow and vent her anger on my tiny frail body, punching, nipping and slapping while she screamed at me, ‘you gormless little bastard' You fucking runt’, and other names that expressed her deep hatred for me. I was terrified of my own mother and later I was told that many others were afraid of her too.
I loved my Mam and wanted desperately to get close to her, to feel her arms around me. I needed so much to see a smile on her face, make her happy when she looked at me. I wanted her to love me. I wanted to feel loved and to feel happiness, but I did not know how to feel love and happiness. I did not feel happy and felt no joy. I was an extremely lonely and unhappy child. I struggled to find the meaning in life as life did not feel good. I was scared all the time that something horrible was going to happen to me and I would die.
My mother's mental health deteriorated and the violence towards me escalated. She punch, slap and kick me, often till she was out of breath, sweating and exhausted from effort. I do not know how my body survived the punishment it got, but it did. I believed that I got what I deserved and was worthy of nothing more. My focus was on surviving each ordeal so that I could continue to live. I fought for survival more out of natural instinct than by choice.
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- A Life Worth Living; Chapter Five
Rescued from my violent home life I was put into care and introduced to Jane and David. They cared for me and I felt loved but I was sent home to my abusive mother.
- A Life Worth Living; Chapter Four
Abused by my mother, I was locked in my room with ghosts coming out of the walls.
- A Life Worth Living; Chapter Three
Life is meant to be lived, not endured. This is my childhood which is like many children's lives today. My start in life was about survival of daily abuse and neglect. This is my life and why I am who I am.
- A Life Worth Living; Chapter One
Born into a violent home, I was given last rites within hours of my birth. My first day of life was a battle to survive and there were more battles of survival to come. This is my journey of survival.