Fondest Of Cousins

We arrived back in the UK in spring, one of the most beautiful times to be in the UK. My mother in law picked us up at Heathrow and took us back to her home in Kent. As always everything seemed so foreign to me, though I loved the lushness of the landscape and the old towns we passed through. S was limping a lot more than she had when we saw her last though she was the same as ever. Bright and interested in everyone and everything and so thrilled to see her grandson again.

When we reached her home we found that the assorted mass plantings in pots she arranged for the small row of townhouses were in full bloom, and a delightful welcome. Once inside we sat in the lounge room while D made a pot of tea and a coffee. There was an abundance of little cakes and biscuits. Eventually D’s sister A popped around and after exclaiming GOSH at everything and especially over the nephew that she had only just met, showed us her children’s cot which had been set up for C J in the small third bedroom, next to D’s bedroom where we slept.  It was a wooden one, quite light and painted white. I was unsure if it would take the weight of a twenty month old but that was probably because while S was visiting us she had insisted on buying us a really heavy sturdy one from David Jones in Bondi Junction. We had passed it on to D’s friends he had met through the Healing Ministry at St andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney.

After many cups of tea for them and coffees for me A went to pick up her boys from their private school in Bromley. R and W came in and sat down and had a huge afternoon tea and then went into the garden. They seemed a bit bemused by the Australian cousin they had never met. The townhouses has a communal mini forest which was fabulous as it screened the units from the townhouses in the complex and the boys went to play out there with C J following . C J decided he had had enough of the formalities and put his arms around each of the boys separately and would not let go, eventually falling to the ground with each cousin under him. He held on tight and they screamed laughing and the ice was broken. It was one of the first instances where we saw C J charm people, win them over with sheer love, even as an infant. From that day they were the firmest of playmates, fondest of cousins, and to C J much adored older boys to look up to.

He had of course heard of them since he was born, seen photos of them and we had both prayed for them whenever we said prayers at night with C J so he indeed felt he knew them intimately. It was such a feeling of joy for me to see him at last with his cousins, playing in the wonderful area outside the wood. Of course an adult always had to be present as C J  still had a habit of escaping if given half a chance so I stayed outside with them. Over the afternoon some of the lovely neighbours popped in to say hello, though several had moved out while we had been in Australia.

Over the next week we visited all his father’s relatives and his grandmother’s friends, driving around in the family station wagon. We loved going to Mark’s and Spencer’s and going to the lovely parks. We went up to London to take all three boys to the zoo and also took Poppy, S’s neighbour Iris and Mike’s young daughter out a lot. C J adored her, it was the start of his fixation on pretty girls with blonde hair.

After a while D’s brother in law came over for a family meeting after C J had gone to bed and they discussed the way forward for us now that we were back in the UK. It was established that S would gift an  equal amount of money to what we had so we could buy a house outright there. She also gifted an equal amount to A for her own use. They decided it would be best if D got a job in town and commuted there and back so we would need to look for somewhere on the Victoria Line. I was a bit put out because we had said we were going to look for church work. There were lots of positions in the area for Vergers and Pastoral Care workers and I was looking forward to exploring that over the summer.

However D went along with everything and found a job at a big London store almost immediately. Meantime S and A took me to look at houses in areas I knew nothing about, next to railway lines and in streets with the same house repeated at infinitum.  They all looked the same to me, converted from the original two up two down. I was not really sure what I was looking at but D said we needed to be near his family and A mentioned being near to good schools to us for the future.

Meantime things were getting a bit tricky at S’s house. She had a habit of leaving her lounge room door open. This opened onto her little garden which had a fence and gate and then after that was the forested area. Further down past the end of that was the main road. A very very busy road. C J was still waking in the night with his Myoclonic Jerks and on weekends when his dad was off I had a sleep in on a Saturday. Sunday was church. One Saturday I awoke about nine and wandered downstairs, heard fervent talking in the kitchen, where the door was shut. After looking out onto the gorgeous day through the open lounge room door I wandered in to get my cup of coffee and asked where CJ was . His father and grandmother looked perturbed that I had interrupted them and said he is in the lounge room of course.

I told them he was not and asked when they had seen him last. They had no idea at all. Once they started talking, usually about cricket or tennis they lost all concept of time. I ran in my dressing gown and bare feet down the back gardens, nothing. Then I ran around the buildings and the neighbours saw me through their kitchen windows which faced the front, and came outside. None of them had seen him but eventually Rita, three houses down, said he had run by in his nappy about twenty minutes before. Then he had run back and returned with his cricket bat and a ball. I could not believe that they did not go after him. He was little more than a baby. So I ran towards the road and as I was about to go to the entrance to the complex I heard C J. I turned towards the tall apartment building in the complex, usually hidden by the small forest, and there he was. Filthy dirty, smiling his head off, throwing the ball against the wall and hitting it with his cricket bat.

I picked him up and brought him back, so relieved and so furious that I was nearly sick. Nobody seemed to realise why I was so upset, it was like I was speaking a foreign language. If this had happened where we lived in Sydney the neighbours would have stopped him, or at least shown a bit of interest in helping to look for him. I picked him up and took him upstairs to bathe him and get him dressed. And to try to calm down before I lost my temper with the two adults downstairs who seemed to think I was over reacting. Once we were both dressed I took him for a walk down into the town, sitting with a cup of coffee and a toasted bun at the tea house.

Eventually we found a lovely little cottage, only a short walk from both C J’s aunt and grandmother, and I made a friend in the process. The sellers were an enrolled nurse M, and the father a teacher. They let me know about playgroups and schools and CJ played with their little boy who was the same age. While we waited for the settlement to go through no other incidents of CJ running away to play occurred, he got drunk instead.

His grandmother always kept the lounge room  door closed after that incident but continued in her usual way of having breakfast in her kitchen. She had it set up really well with a toaster on the breakfast table, the wall phone just above her for making appointments etc  she was quite set in her ways but it suited her, she had lived alone for many years and this worked for her. That morning I had been down to the GP practise where I had been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism when I was pregnant. This time it was about my bladder incontinence and I preferred to go without CJ as he kept touching the Spectulums etc  S kindly offered to look after C J. He loved to talk on her telephone when she was not looking  many the time we came in and he cheekily grinned at us as he chatted away!

This time however when I returned CJ was not in the kitchen on the phone, he was swigging sherry from his Granny’s cut glass decanter, totally sloshed! The cheeky look on his face was so funny I had to get S to show her.  The little bugger never touched any after that and his S finally childproofed the house!

 

 

 

 

 

The Volcano Man

We settled back into life in Beckenham. Work as a nanny for me and also sewing and repairs at weekends. and sleeping in and lazing around for D. Miyoko stayed with us and went sightseeing and studying church matters. One day Sue phoned in the morning and finding me about to walk to work as was my usual way, furiously told D to get out of bed and take me in the car.

It was getting much colder and I only had a few warm outfits, having only brought one suitcase over with me to the UK. Mum had knitted me a beautiful black mohair coat which she gave to be before the wedding, and I had two coats. I had knitted us both several sweaters and also my nephews sweaters but had no warm woollen skirts or boots. My wages went on food and utilities, Sue paid for the rent. I was not at all happy about that.

After several weeks back from our honeymoon I started to get bad asthma attacks. They were especially bad at night, worsened by my sleeping by the window D insisted on keeping open. D called the church and a prayer team came out to pray for me one weekend when I was in bed exhausted from trying to breathe during the night. I was really upset as the men left the room and the women proceeded to commiserate about the shock that the physical side of marriage was. They tried to get me to confess that I could not cope with the sexual side of marriage but I was not going to do that. I was exhausted from working hard and trying to adjust to a new climate where I constantly had a bad cold or virus. As did the children I looked after.

I was fine in the daytime in a warm house and luckily had plenty of warm outer clothes for taking R to preschool and A for walks in his stroller. R was becoming more independent, choosing his own outfits for the day and A was just a delightful little toddler. One day D and I took them into Bromley to W H Smiths where David Attenborough was signing his new book. We queued and as we approached R saw who it was and said in an awed voice that it was The Volcano Man! David Attenborough was beyond delightful with the children and signed several of D’s older books too. It was a wonderful experience and one we would never forget.

Meantime I decided science was my best bet for getting better and luckily the GP practise Sue went to thought so as well. They ran a battery of blood tests and one day I received a letter in the mail asking me to come in as soon as possible. When I returned from the very knowledgeable and most senior doctor I informed D that I had a medical problem causing nearly all my symptoms. Hypothyroidism, which was found to be severe Hashimotos. I started the medication and was told that I would not feel so cold soon and that I would even notice an improvement in my periods.

By then it was almost Christmas and I was not feeling any better. So much so that A and T my employers suggested I take Wednesday’s off to rest. The boy’s godmother was more than happy to be with them one day a week and have some extra money too. This worked well apart from the loss of wages. D’s response was to ask his mother for more money. I was so uncomfortable with this, it was against everything I had ever done in my life. I never asked for anything. It was a principle of mine. Deeply ingrained in me by my parents without even knowing it. Seeing them both work so hard to make a life as migrants had a huge impact on me.

I was beginning to feel like the poor relation, especially when my sister in law came over to visit, usually on a Wednesday when I had a sleep in, and looked at everything in our flat to see what we were spending money on. She queried my hand creams, mostly gifts, and anything she saw that did not fit with her idea of Christian values. She used soap and water on her face. As I used eye makeup I needed makeup remover. Another wasteful item apparently.

Just before Christmas we decided to invite a few people from church with no family around for Christmas Eve drinks. We had bought the snacks and D always had a supply of beer and wine. Miyoko helped me clean and tidy the flat on the Wednesday so it was looking very welcoming. It had a huge lounge dining room with a sunroom attached. D had a table in there which he used as a desk for his writing. He was writing another book, having had trouble writing poetry that year.

I was at work til fairly late on Christmas Eve as A was preparing her staff for the Boxing Day Sales. The children were also very excited and happy, I was having a fabulous time with them as everyone was unexpectedly friendly when out on our walks. The spirit of the season really being in evidence. Eventually A came home and D picked me up in our car. When I entered our flat I was stunned to see that everything was ready for the get together.

All our lovely wedding gifts being used as platters and for the wine etc. Some things we had never used before. I almost burst into tears. I had really really wanted us all to do it together. Our first Christmas together, in our home, even if Sue was paying for it. I threw my things on a chair and went into our bedroom and cried. D came in and was really angry with me. Or hurt with me would be a better way to put it. It was as if I had hit him. He said they did it to help me as I was working. And that I had not appreciated it was practically sinful.

I was feeling a bit unwell in the tummy. I had recently nursed my boys through Campylobactor, a notifiable food poisoning. A had been dreadfully upset leaving them but when she saw R crawl into my arms and me rock him she left, crying. She said later that my skills kept them out of hospital. I had to keep fluids up to them as the risk of dehydration was so high. So I was appreciative of the thought but could not get through to D how I felt. He was so hurt. Betrayed.

Miyoko ran me a bath using some lovely bubble bath from Marks and Spencer’s and said she was so sorry. Two words was all it took. I hugged her and cried. She said “please Kate, you know if you cry I will lose it. I love you and hate to see you cry.” So I controlled myself, she had seen me weep bitterly after my father refused to come to the wedding. I had asked him twice and then got the message, but Miyoko was devastated as she knew it took a lot to make me cry.

I dressed and our guests came and we had a lovely time spoiling them, of course D invited his sister and brother in law and there was a lot of golly and gosh and other strange English words going on. Sue did not come as was disgusted with us for not keeping Christmas to family. What she refused to accept was that my family was the other side of the world, and these frigid strangers were not my family, and never would be.

Once the guests had left to go to other parties Miyoko and I washed and tidied up. We went to our rooms, D was in his office / sunroom so I changed and went to bed. After a while I started vomiting, then had shocking stomach pains. It lasted through the entire night. By the morning it was so bad D called our GP who came straight around and gave me an injection. He requested stool samples and said it was likely to be what the boys had been through. It would take time, and a quite a while to recover.

D went off to morning service with Miyoko and then asked if I would be okay while they went to lunch at his sister’s house. I was so ill I had no fight left in me so I said fine. Enjoy. When they left I was very distressed. Our first Christmas together, a huge fight on Christmas Eve with a husband who seemed to have no empathy at all and then I was left alone, proving that, in a strange country, on Christmas Day. I think I was too hurt and sick to cry. I was constantly on the toilet, though the cramps had eased with the medication the doctor had given me.

They came back around five and wanted to open their presents. I was in no state to do the same but was happy for them. I had knitted woollen leg warmers for Miyoko and a lovely jacket style cardigan for D. They were very happy with them though Miyoko showed me one of the leg warmers was longer than the other! I was mortified until we both started laughing. Me holding my stomach as I did so. I promised her I would fix it.

Over the next weeks D and Miyoko were home a lot more as all the church activities they had been attending were closed for the season. They were constantly at rally’s in London or locally. Miyoko showing real signs of a solid future in the church, D still saying he wanted one but not actively showing to any clergy that he was doing what needed doing to achieve that. I had actually had a meeting with our Vicar Clive as I felt terrible that I resented D being out so much when I was working so hard to put food on the table. He said it was not right and that David needed to support me more.

New Year’s Eve Miyoko braved Trafalgar Square. D stayed home and we watched it on television. I had been unable to keep any food inside me so was feeling weak and existing on special yogurt with live bacteria in it. Sue always went away over New Year with widowed friends. They generally chatted and drank for three days, great fun for them. D went over regularly to look after her dog and her pot plants.

Early in the New Year I went back to work and received confirmation it was Campylobactor, and would take some time to leave my system. The outbreak had been traced to birds pecking through the foil tops of milk bottles. I still could not keep anything in so was told to go onto thin soups, creamed rice and milky products. This went on for many weeks until I was finally able to tolerate more solid food.

Miyoko left us to go home to Japan. I was very upset seeing here walk through the gate at Heathrow, having an awful feeling I would not see her again. She carried an enormous sound system, and her guitar. When we next saw Anne all she could talk about was how bizarre it was for us to have a houseguest so soon in our marriage and how it would be much better for us now.

Around the same time I realised I had missed my period. Then another one. So we bought a pregnancy kit from the chemist and it was positive. D was excited but his mother was very vocal against it. Saying we had nothing to offer a baby. Anne was excited, saying God would provide. My employers said a baby would be good company for their little one once R was at school.

The GP confirmed my pregnancy and arranged for me to go to Ante Natal Care, especially important due to my Hashimotos being newly diagnosed. Everything went well though I was becoming more and more miserable with the cold and damp and D’s family. Sue kept telling me to stop talking about home. That this was home now, and she never allowed me to talk about my family or friends as that would unsettle me too. Stiff upper lip, the way she had got through the war as an Army nurse in Cairo. She had lost her first husband just after the war and though I very much admired her fortitude I found her attitude very inflexible.

D and I talked and he suggested he migrate to Australia. My parents would be his sponsors and he was sure he could get his old job as a computer data analyst with IBM back. I hoped so, though I had been shocked when I first came over to the UK to find he was not a computer programmer as he had said, he was untrained in fact and had been offered the job due to a friend from church.

We arranged Visas, went up to Australia House in The Strand and before too long he was accepted and we informed our families. Sue was actually happy, she said she thought Australia suited him better than the UK. Whereas I thought being away from his family was the best thing for him. It might help him grow up, he was like a big kid around them. Fun for a while but it got trying being pitied by everyone.

I started bleeding and was advised to have bed rest, and after two weeks I resigned as I still had no stamina due to the Hashimotos and the food poisoning. My employers wished me well but were not happy, especially since neither of them liked D. Though they were happy I was going home.

We visited D’s aunts and Sue’s many friends to say goodbye and finally we had packed everything and shipped our wedding gifts and some of D’s paintings and books to Australia. Then it was finally time to leave. Sue and Anne saw us off at Heathrow, I felt terrible seeing the real love and pain in their eyes, but we had our own lives to live, we had to make our own way together, or I would never be able to respect my husband.