I was brought up by my mum and my grandma, they were strong, loving, affectionate women, very different to each other but I always felt safe, secure and wanted.
My parents separated when I was 18 months old, and I have no re collection of having lived with my father at all, my mum and I loved back to the UK and he remained in the Middle East. I saw him very infrequently during my childhood, maybe once every few years, a phone call every other year and absolutely no financial contribution to my up bringing at all. We lived in a bed sit when I was very young and eventually got a flat with social housing, but the lifts always broken and carrying a three year old up 24 flights of stairs, occasionally in the dark, can put a strain on you! My poor mum.
The lack of financial contribution may not seem unusual but he is an extremely wealthy man and it seemed rather cruel of him. My mum worked as a cleaner to support us, food was scarce on occasion, but my mum was the one that went without, never me. The only furniture we had in our first flat was a chair and a mattress, in our second we had no cooker so used a primus camping stove ring, all very exciting for a city dwelling child – felt like ‘camping’ indoors. We had the gas and electric cut off a few times, so out came the candles and battery powered radio, rather romantic! I remember the day the men came to take our sofa and armchair away as we couldn’t afford to pay the monthly amount, that was the first and last time my mum ever got any thing on credit, she still doesn’t have a credit card. ‘If you don’t have the cash then don’t buy it’, she hated owing ‘the man’. And yet my father still refused to contribute, he would turn up on occasion to our flat, stand around in his expensive suits and remark how disgusting it was, how disgusting london was and that I (me) could have a lovely life if my mum just sent me back with him to live but she always said ‘ no’, thankfully. Essentially my father is not a nice man, as I hit my teens when ever he would show up he would call me a slag or a slut for wearing a summer dress above my knee, he would say London had made me dirty. See, what a charmer! Incidentally, I hadn’t seen or heard from my father in many months when I had gone to the local Sainsburys in Hammersmith during my lunch hour in Sixth Form, and there on the magazine shelf was was dad – on the front cover of Hello or OK magazine at the races with Princess Anne, at least I knew he wasn’t dead. He, of course, couldn’t say the same of me.
Now, where was my mum in all this glorious father/ daughter bonding I hear you ask? Well, my mum had her own issues to deal with and so, for her own reasons, she never stood up for me. When he would telephone when I was little and I would cry and ask why he never remembered my birthday or bothered at all with me, he would start shouting and call me disrespectful, my mother would then shout at me telling me it was my fault that my father was shouting because I had upset him, thats hard for an eight year old to hear. I shall now divulge two rather sad things that could only come from the mind of a child; firstly, I thought that my flat must have TV cameras in so that my dad could see me because surely he couldn’t go for so long without seeing or contacting his child? I imagined him watching over me during his busy life. When I figured that wasn’t true I thought that I must be adopted, why else would he treat me so differently to his other children? Because they come from a different mother I hear you cry? well, no, I have an older brother and sister that stayed with my dad and that my mum didn’t see for sixteen years despite all her efforts, see? a cruel cruel man.
Between the ages of eight and eighteen my mother forced me to spend at least a week a year with him and his family, at last count he had seven children, all living with him, or now I suppose, holidaying in one of his properties in Switzerland, or Vienna or Morocco or Dubai or London. I’m not sure any more as the last time I had any contact with my father was more than ten years ago. I telephoned him, one day, thought I’d give it another go, he answered and asked who was calling, I said to him ‘Miriam, your daughter’ and he hung up immediately, never to be seen or spoken to since. How to win friends and influence people!
Those weeks I spent with my father in my childhood were awful, mostly spent living in a bedroom, I couldn’t understand what people were saying and I was homesick, no one ever actually spoke to me, it was as if I didn’t exist. Those experiences took a big toll on the relationship I had with my mum which has never really recovered, and yet she kept sending. In her her mind if something happened to her I would have to go and live with my dad and she wanted me to know him. When I went to stay with him in the holidays I saw him for maybe five minutes in total as he was often away working or simply had no interest in seeing me, neither did anyone else for that matter! I would have preferred to take my chances with my mum’s family had something happened to her. Well, the irony is that out of all my fathers children I am the only one who looks like him all, my siblings look like their mum, and I don’t look like my mum at all, my older brother and sister look quite like my mum. So, everyday I look in the mirror and I see the features of a man I really dislike, a man who has treated me appallingly, left me emotionally bereft and feeling worthless, big stuff for a child to try and dissect and deal with. I used to worry about how unpleasant a man he was as I had half his DNA in me, that somehow I would turn out like him, I’m hoping I haven’t -selfish, spiteful, cruel and mean – but that up to other people confirm!