Skeleton in the Cupboard

I was clearing out  my parents house. As always  hundreds of  small black and white  shots of cousins,uncles, friends  and the rest-undocumented, and therefore lost. Soldiers in the First and other wars,handsome women in long dresses and wonderful hats,dutiful children in sailor suits. Dogs and tennis raquets everywhere.A kliadoscope of  the  certaintity and duty of up stairs in Edwardian England.

Amidst it all a document written by my mother,Joan(1917-99) called  “My Mother’s Secret”. Her mother came from a very successful music publishing family,the Bosworths,her father from senior members of the Raj,the Graceys. He eventually married three times,became a colonel in the Bombay Grenadiers and ran a very successful prep school Hilden Grange in Tonbridge.

One way or another a happy marriage wilted in the heat of Calcutta and the relative cool of Simla. As a child my mother noted that her parents door was always locked during the afternoon siesta. But by the early thirties a divorce was in the air. Mother had found someone else as  her daughter notes “she must have met  an officer who had wider and more cultural interests than sport, military affairs and the repetitive life of an army station. He could have been someone who could woo her more subtly  and gently than my father.”

My grandfather did the right thing. He hired a private detective and went  with him to Brighton where a prostitute and a hotel were found. With the documentation in order a divorce, with he as the guilty party could be solemnised.

But then tragedy struck. The man my grandmother wanted to marry died. My mother only found out the story  later. Who the   lover was, remains a mystery ,maybe he was one of the  undocumented photos in the cupboard. For my mother writes,”When she died there were two portrait  photographs of unnamed officers among her belongings but no clue as to whether either of them was the one she wanted to marry.”

While her mother was going through this trauma,she died young in l946,rather bitter as she had to spend the last ten plus years of her life  living on the hand outs from richer members of the family,Joan ,my mother was going through her late teens and early twenties.

Joan to her death  always resented her mother not confiding in her. My mother went onto Oxford and had a successful career in the Civil Service. She was always critical of her mother’s lack of ambition.

“I was puzzled why she failed to confide in me. Was she trying to protect me or  herself from the stigma of divorce?Or were the barriers just too strong. How I would have understood her better if I had known her sorrow! How I would have sympathised with her!How my pity would have broken down the barriers between us! I could not console her with affection while she kept her reserve.”

The result was that my mother though a good woman found it,in turn, difficult to be emotional and intimate with her children. As the people’s bard , Philip Larkin wrote,

They fuck you up your mum and dad

They do not mean to but they do.

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2 Responses to Skeleton in the Cupboard

  1. Truth Well told There is still a great deal more,to reveil . Hug your Kids,don’t forget. Dunks kenya. You just missed becoming a Toff.Then we would Never have met.And I would have married Viv.Mmmmm worth a thought,

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