My mother screamed and screamed, until she thought she would die of the pain. Then after several hours of agonising labour, my head finally emerged, followed by the rest of me.
“Congratulations Lucille, you’ve a wonderful little boy!” The nurse smiled broadly, a smile that reduced in size upon seeing the expression on my mother’s face.
“Take him away, I don’t want him!”
I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me for the size of my head! Years later, I’d often find myself thinking about how much I’d have liked to have crawled back in, and out, and in…and out again!
A year or so earlier, my mother had persuaded her parents to let her go to a local disco, assuring them she would be escorted home by a wonderful guy called Tom. Late that evening, she arrived home. “Hello, you must be Tom”, my grandmother said.
“No mum, this is Fred”. Frederick Hardy was a rogue. If ever there was a bastard, this was he. My mother, however, thought he was a lovely guy. So lovely was he, that my mother found it necessary to breed with him.
My mother had assumed, falsely, that pregnancy would keep her man with her. This was a mistake she repeated twice more with my brother and sister. There were clearly issues between her and my father. She’d often appear home, upset or bruised, or both. On one occasion, she arrived home having been assaulted by him. My grandmother let out a shrill scream, and my grandfather, who was already in his car, sped after my father. Chasing him, my father gave his scooter all he could. As my grandfather caught up with him, my father turned back and screamed “You’re trying to kill me!” My grandfather responded fiercely, “Yes, yes I am!”
Eventually, my grandparents were assured by a doctor, that if they didn’t move my mother away, my father would kill my mother, and her unborn son. That summer, they packed up and moved. Thankfully, they chose Devon. Had they not, I’d have been born in Nuneaton, just outside Birmingham…and who wants that on their birth certificate?! And so, late one evening, after a long drive, my pregnant mother stumbled into the awful caravan on a site in South Molton. Just a couple of months later, I was born in the Cottage Hospital.
My grandmother would tell how my mother proudly exclaimed, “I want to call him Ray, after my dad!” My mother denies any such conversation happened, claiming it was her mother who insisted on the naming! I was lucky…his first name was Albert, Raymond being his second name. I used to ponder that at school, particularly how awful it would have been amongst the “Daniels”, “Steves”, “Ians” and “Mikes”….to have been “Bert”! And then later on, though the thought was many years later, when I heard the passionate exclamations of a woman, whom after sexual relations, would exclaim my name in a lustful voice. ..I was once again thankful that the words “Oh my God, you’re so big…” hadn’t ended with “Bert”!