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Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Daily Gleaner, Kingston

 

29th December 1953 

OBITUARY

Rebecca Mathilda Browney

 ******

 

Letter to Mrs Rebecca Browney,  Jamaica
from
Miss Geraldine Franks, Superintendent, Catholic Refuge for Friendless Girls,
23 Barclay Road, Fulham,London.

 

Dear Mrs Browney

It is with great concern I write to you regarding your daughter Olga as I do not believe you are aware of her circumstances. 

I first became acquainted with your daughter when she was referred to this home by the Matron of St Giles Hospital because she was pregnant.  Olga remained at the Refuge until she gave birth to her daughter, Marie.

It is part of the Refuge’s policy that we try and maintain contact with mothers in order to see how they cope with their baby and, in spite of my initial doubts as to Olga’s ability to support both herself and a baby in a foreign country, as an unmarried mother and the stigma associated with that, I was impressed with how well she managed. 

However, Olga’s circumstances have now changed and she recently came to me with Marie in some emotional and financial distress.  Her appearance gave me cause for concern, although, I would report that Marie looked well nourished and cared for.  I gave her a little money, but, I suspect that Olga has no job or even a home to go to since she was evasive when I asked where she was living. 

I did my best to try and persuade Olga to contact you but, she is as adamant, as she was when I first met her, that you should know nothing of her circumstances.  I have respected her decision until now.  

 I believe your son Sydney comes to London on business.  I would urge that on his next visit he contacts me and I will endeavour to help him locate Olga and Marie. 

Yours truly

Miss Geraldine Franks  (Superintendent)

******

 Lucy’s Diary

Over the years Martha has been referred to as the black sheep of the family, but my sister has demonstrated that she is  much more than that.  She is a vengeful and wicked woman who broke the heart of a sister that had only ever shown her kindness and affection.  

I realise now the dye was cast for Becky all those years ago when she announced her plans to marry Henry.  Martha thought, irrationally, her dream of becoming rich with her own fashion house had disappeared because of Becky’s decision to marry a black man.  Of course, she was wrong.  She could have continued with her plans and ridden out the storm.  But she lacked courage, something Becky had in abundance. So as an act of spite for some perceived slight all those years ago, Martha finally got her revenge in a spectacularly cruel way, allowing Becky to go to her grave believing her beloved daughter was dead.  How could she do that?

 As for Martha’s hypocrisy, lambasting Becky for marrying a black man when she was secretly living in sin with  one in London, I cannot even bring myself to comment on it. 

Thank God for Geraldine Franks. What a good woman she is, but if only she had contacted us sooner.  Olga is alive and has a little girl.  Sydney says he will go to London to find her and bring them home.

******

 

How The Tale Ends

50 Years Later

 

My mother, Olga, never returned to Jamaica nor was she reunited with any member of her family again after her meeting with Sydney in 1946.   Over the years Mum had been reluctant to talk about her past so I determined to find out what I could myself.  I placed the following advertisement in the Sunday Gleaner in July 1996:

******

 And then two days later we received the following telegram.

 Telegram from Mrs Ruby Shim (nee Browney), Kingston, Jamaica to

Mrs Marie Campbell, Hove, East Sussex, UK.

 

HAVE SEEN YOUR NOTICE IN THE GLEANER.  SISTERS (CISSIE, PEARL, RUBY AND DOLLY) OF OLGA BROWNEY ARE RESIDING AT 9 ANTHURIUM DRIVE, MONA, KINGSTON 6, JAMAICA.  TEL: NO:  809-XXX-XXX.  VERY ANXIOUS TO MAKE CONTACT.  WILL ACCEPT COLLECT  CALL.  RUBY SHIM (MRS)

******

Within a day of receiving the telegram I made the phone call and for the first time in over 50 years Mum spoke to her sisters Ruby, Dolly, Chickie and Pearl.   Ruby told Mum that Mammie, Pops, Sydney, Vivie, Cissie and Gwennie had all died, but the others were still alive.

She said Sydney came looking for Mum twice in the 1950s, but he said she’d vanished without trace.

Slowly my mother’s story unravelled and I discovered much about her family and other things too;  I learnt about my grandmother and what courage she showed in following her heart and marrying a black man knowing she would be ostracised by Jamaican white and coloured society; I learnt how the Jamaican social and class structure mirrored the English pattern of behaviour.  I knew there was colour prejudice (or racism as it is called today) but I had no idea that coloured people felt the same way about the blacks.  I was upset to hear that some of my grandmother’s children railed against Becky for marrying a black man.

I learnt a lot about the wonderful Jamaican culture and folklore – anancy, duppies and, of course, obeah, things I knew nothing about until I started my research.  A couple of times, when I was a child Mum had mentioned, almost sheepishly, that her mother and other members of her family practiced voodoo in Jamaica and that it was a powerful weapon to extract revenge for wrongs committed. 

My Aunt Ruby told me when I met the family in Kingston, that my great aunt Martha narrowly escaped being buried in a pauper’s grave in London thanks to the generosity of the family responding to a request from a Catholic priest for money to bury her.

But the most notable information I acquired was how I was conceived.   It was obvious as Mum told me her story that the anguish of that event had barely diminished even though it had happened decades ago. 

When, over the years, Mum refused to talk to me about my father saying “it’s too painful” it never once crossed my mind that she might have been raped and I was the result.   I can only imagine what it must have been like for her – an unmarried mother, coloured, no family for support – save for a malevolent alcoholic aunt and alone in a foreign country which just happened to be in the middle of a world war.  

My father died in New York in December 1949; waiting on a railway platform he fell under the wheels of an oncoming train and was killed instantly.    By all accounts he was a man with a complex personality, mercurial and prone to depression.  He suffered from mood swings, failing eyesight and dizzy spells, the latter caused by a serious horse riding accident a few years before his death.  Opinion was divided as to the cause of his death.  The medical examiner recorded John Edward’s death as  ‘probably an accident’ since an autopsy had shown nothing untoward.  His family thought it was an accident; his work colleagues thought he’d committed suicide as a result of his depression.

As for how I feel about my father, I take my cue from Mum whom I never heard voice any bitterness about what happened to her.

I wrote this book because I wanted future generations of my family to know something of their heritage and also out of respect to my mother, a gentle and remarkable woman who had huge moral courage.

If the maxim is true, that daughters eventually become like their mother then all I can say is… lucky me.           Marie Campbell

 

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 <—-Martha’s Revenge

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Dear Diary

Hunters Farm:   I applied for a job with a Major and Mrs Langford.  They have a farm in Pulborough and live in a big Tudor house.  I arrived for the interview and rang the door bell.  When Mrs Langford opened the door she looked at me in surprise, so, I told her my name was Carmen Browne and I had come for an interview.

“But  you’re coloured”

 “Oh…. yes. I’m sorry” I said.  

“Well, now you’re here, you’d better come in”.

 I told her I was a widow with a young daughter at boarding school and that my husband had been a doctor and been killed when the tube station he was sheltering in had been hit by a bomb.

She explained that I would be cooking for the family and small intimate dinner parties, but no fancy food as she and her husband liked good plain cooking.  I showed her my references and she read them twice.   I wonder why, they’re very good.

Mrs Langford isn’t sure that I am the sort of person she wants and is going to discuss the matter with her husband and will let me know in about a week’s time.  I won’t get the job. 

She doesn’t like coloured people. 

******

Dear Diary

Good news:   Mrs Langford wrote to me and said she would give me a three months trial period as she would like to see how things worked out when Marie comes home for the holiday.  Thank goodness, I was getting worried.   I didn’t want to ask the nuns to keep Marie again for the holidays.

The Langfords like her and so do their two children, Emma and Tim.   The children aren’t snobs like their mother and they play nicely together and tell each other about their schools. 

The convent has made quite the little lady out of Marie and listening to her talking  with such confidence makes me feel she has more in common with them than me. 

The children sat spellbound the other day, on the backdoor step of the kitchen, while Marie told them about a new film, “Never Take No for an Answer”, the nuns had taken her class to see.  

It’s about a little orphan boy called Peppino whose precious donkey, Violetta, falls ill and he wants to take the donkey into the crypt of St Francis, who is the patron saint of animals, in the hope that this will cure Violetta, but everyone he goes to for permission says no he can’t.  So Peppino decides to ask the Pope himself and he and Violetta have a long and hard journey to Rome with many obstacles in his way, but in the end the Pope says yes and Violetta goes into the crypt of St Francis.  It’s a lovely film and very sad; I cried when I saw it.

******

Dear Diary

Emma came to the kitchen and asked me if Marie could come for a swim in their pool but I told her Marie had to help me shell the peas for lunch.  So Emma offered to help and then Marie could finish quickly.  Mrs Langford came into the kitchen and saw what Emma was doing and was very angry with me.

“My children do not do the servant’s work” she said.

I was furious with her.  Marie is not a servant.  I am.

First thing in the morning Emma, Tim and Marie go the dairy and help George, the farm hand, milk the cows.  Then after breakfast they all go off riding together and are gone for hours.  It’s busy at harvest time and everyone is expected to help so they are all out in the fields until nearly dark, including the children. 

Marie fits in well with the family and now Mrs Langford doesn’t like to see Marie doing kitchen chores, but they keep me so busy in the kitchen and sometimes I need help and it’s good to remind Marie that she is not one of them.  I think she looks down on me sometimes.  

******

Dear Diary

Last night I dreamt about the day I made my first Holy Communion.  There were 200 of us that Sunday morning in the Holy Trinity Cathedral.  It was a grand occasion with the choir in the background singing “Mass of the Angels” while the service was in progress.  And then we all left the Cathedral to the sound of Mozart’s Grand March.   Outside the Cathedral there were group pictures of us all taken with our family and then onto a wonderful breakfast and the Alpha Band playing while we ate.   

I know why I dreamt about this.  Guilt.  I was feeling guilty about not being at the convent yesterday when Marie made her first Holy Communion.  Mrs Langford said I had to change my day off because she wanted me to cook Beef Wellington for a luncheon party which she decided to give on the spur of the moment.  I tried to explain to her how important it was that I went to the convent and how disappointed Marie would be, but her bloody Beef Wellington was more important.  She said I could take the day off, but I could have my cards at the end of the week.  I need this job, I had to do it. 

******

 Letter to Mummy from Marie

Dear Mummy

Please don’t be cross with me.  Sister Bernadette put my name in the naughty book again.  Is that why you didn’t come to see me on Sunday?  I am sorry Mummy.  I didn’t mean to be naughty.  I’m trying very hard to be good. 

Sister Philomena says can you send some money for a new pair of shoes for me.  These one squash my toes up and it hurts when I walk. Sister Philomena says they are too small.

I went to mass this morning and it was very nice.  This evening we have stations of the cross, my favourite. 

I have made two new friends.  One is called Leonie and one is called Anne Truelove.   Leonie sucks her arm a lot.

Please come to the concert Mummy.  I promise I will be good.

Love and kisses from Marie XXXXX

 ******

 Dear Diary

 The Concert at the Convent:   What a lovely evening.  Marie was so excited when she saw me and I was happy I’d come to the convent, although I was very nervous.  I’d been hoping to buy a new outfit, but I couldn’t afford it.

Mrs Langford said I looked very smart so that was nice.  I worry that Marie will be ashamed of me because I don’t dress as well as the other parents and I’ve put on a little bit of weight, well, quite a lot really.  

Sometimes, you know, I find it convenient to let people think I’m  Marie’s nanny. 

A few weeks ago Sister Bernadette wrote to me and asked me to buy Marie a ballet dress as she had been chosen, along with nine other girls, to be swans in the chorus line of the ballet Swan Lake

Once the orchestra started playing, out came the dancing white swans onto the stage, and my heart sank when I saw Marie.   She danced on to the stage, the only blue swan amongst a line of white ones. 

It didn’t occur to me when I bought her ballet dress that it should be white.  I saw the blue one and thought blue is her favourite colour, so I bought it.  There was a gasp from the audience when she appeared on the stage but she carried on dancing beautifully. 

At the end of the performance each swan had to come to the front of the stage  and curtsy to the audience and when it came to Marie’s turn, the audience gave her a lovely round of applause. 

Wasn’t that kind of them?   I was so proud, I cried. 

******

Dear Diary

I bumped into Mrs Langford when I came out of the betting shop in Horsham.  Damn nuisance.  I pretended I’d gone into the wrong shop but I don’t think she believed me.  I don’t gamble a lot just a little bit now and again.  Just to help me with the school fees.

 I wish I’d paid more attention to Boysie when he took me to Kingston races.  He always won.  He said he knew how to study form.  I don’t even know what that means.  I just stick a pin in the newspaper or else if I like the name of the horse, I’ll back it.  The first two times I bet I won and  it seemed easy.  

My luck’s not good at the moment.

******

Letter to Mrs Carmen Browne

from

Sister Bernadette, Headmistress, Our Lady’s Convent, Dartford, Kent 

 Dear Mrs Browne

I am disappointed to learn that you have once again fallen behind with the weekly payments we agreed you should make in order to cover the arrears and current fees for Marie at the convent.  Please could you make a payment as soon as possible.

Whilst writing, I think you should know that Marie’s behaviour has deteriorated and her school work is poor.  She has had to be punished twice recently, once with the cane and on another occasion she has had to do 100 lines.

I am sympathetic to your circumstances, but must tell you that Marie’s behaviour must improve or we will have to refuse to accept her as a pupil.

Yours truly

Sister Bernadette   (Headmistress)

******

Dear Diary

What can I do?   I have asked Mrs Langford if she could let me have an advance on my wages so I can send the convent some money.    She said she would think about it.  Later that day she came to me and said how fond the family was of Marie and she had a suggestion to make.

“You are obviously finding it difficult to bring up Marie.  What if I give you a cheque for £250 and we take Marie off your hands.” 

I couldn’t believe what she was saying. 

“No, I can’t do that”

“Well, Carmen” she said “you should give the matter some thought.  

“Marie is a lovely child and even if you didn’t want to leave her with us, you should consider having her adopted.  It is obvious you cannot support her.”

******

Dear Diary

Marie is home for the Christmas holidays.  She is unhappy at the convent and wants to leave.  She says there is a nun who is very cruel, Sister Claire, and she is the one who keeps punishing Marie.     I understand now why Mammie didn’t say anything to Sydney when he whipped us. 

I think it is wrong that the nuns smack a child, but I cannot say anything  because I owe them money.   I have to find the fees before she returns in January. 

Christmas Eve: Marie asked me if she should put a big pillow case or a little pillow case at the end of her bed for Father Christmas to leave her presents. 

I snapped at her and told her he’s not coming this year.  Oh God, the expression on her face.  I heard her get up in the middle of the night and look to see if there were any presents.  She said nothing about it the next day.  I feel terrible.   I have no money for presents. 

******

Dear Diary

Good Friday :  There is a big crisis going on.  Mr Langford has lost the keys to his study. He cannot open his safe without them so everyone has to search the house until they are found. 

Mrs Langford asked me if I had seen them and, of course, I haven’t.  I don’t go near his study.  She has accused me of taking them and called in the police and asked them to search my room.  She has told them that little knick knacks have gone missing for some time and suspected it was me.

A plain clothes policeman searched my room, opening the drawers, taking out our clothes and throwing them on the bed, going through my wardrobe, the contents of my handbag strewn over my bed.   Marie was watching and crying.  They broke my little statue of  the Virgin Mary on the table by the bed.   My bible was on the floor. 

They found nothing.  But they still took our fingerprints, mine and my little girl’s. 

Shortly after the police left, Tim Langford found the keys in his father’s car;  they had dropped down the side of the driving seat.

Later that same day I packed our suitcase and Marie and I left the Langfords, but, not before Mrs Langford had insisted on emptying my suitcase to check that I had not stolen anything from the house.  I had very little money and I suppose I should have stayed because I was not keeping Marie safe, but my pride wouldn’t let me. 

Baywood Farm’s front drive is about half the size of a football pitch and I knew that, as Marie and I walked unsteadily on the loose gravel into the country lane, the Langfords were watching us.  Marie using both hands to carry her suitcase and me struggling to carry the heavier suitcase and trying to make as dignified an exit as possible.

I got a coach to London and went to the Refuge in Fulham to see Geraldine Franks and explained my position.  I thought she would help me.  She was very sympathetic, but, in the end she said she had no choice but to inform the authorities that Marie and I were homeless.  I knew what that meant and left.  

We went to Victoria Coach Station and got on a coach to Brighton.   I had enough money left to buy two coach tickets to Brighton and four 1d buns.  When we arrived in Brighton I found the nearest Catholic Church and begged the priest to help us. 

******

 <—-Martha’s Revenge

 

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Martha’s Revenge

<—  A Form of Justice?                                                    Martha’s Revenge—>

 

 

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Dear Diary

The worst present in the world:    It’s my birthday today and God has given me a terrible birthday present.  Jamaica has been hit by a savage hurricane with winds over 125 mph.  Kingston suffered badly and so far 154 people have died and 50,000 are homeless. 

Please God, let my family be safe, please, please.  How can I find out how they are? 

There isn’t very much in the newspapers about it.  Perhaps the newspapers here will print the names of the people that died, like the Daily Gleaner does.  If not, I’ll have to go and see Aunt Martha; she will be in touch with the family.  

It must have been terrifying; it’s bad enough when a hurricane comes during the day but this one struck at night.

******

Dear Diary

Aunt Martha:  Went to see her, but what a shock I had.  It’s a  been a long time since I last saw her and AM’s changed a lot..  She looks like she’s shrunk and looks so much older and her teeth were rotten – breath smelt!  I wasn’t sure how she would react when she saw me at the door, but, to my surprise, she was very nice. 

“Olga, come in, how nice to see you”.

I was shocked too by the state of her flat, which was once pretty and clean, but now filthy, dark because the curtains were drawn even though it was daytime and it smelt of stale cooking fat.

 “Excuse the mess, it’s difficult to find good help these days”.  I thought she was being funny, but the look on her face said she was being serious. 

“I’ve fallen on hard times, and can’t sew any more, arthritis” she said showing me her knarled hands.

 After a while I asked her if she knew how Mammie and the rest of the family were after the hurricane.  She said she hadn’t heard from any of them since 1946 when Sydney was in London. 

 “You remember when Sydney was here that time, don’t you Olga?  That was when you told him my secret, wasn’t it”? 

At first I didn’t know what she was talking about.  And then I remembered.   She had made me promise not to tell the family that Mr Kitchen was a black man.  I knew why she didn’t want the family to know.  It would have shown her up to be the hypocrite she is, after all she was horrible to Mammie for ages because she had married Pops.   I started to deny it but she stopped me. 

“Don’t, Olga, don’t lie.  It’s not important anyway.  It’s all in the past and what’s done is done”. 

Aunt Martha is not normally the forgiving type.  In fact, I remember Aunt Lucy saying Aunt Martha could bear a grudge longer than anybody else she knew.  But, perhaps she had softened in her old age, I thought.

“Why are you asking me about the family, Olga?”.  Suddenly I was angry with myself.  You fool Olga.  I realised my mistake immediately – by asking about the family I was telling her I wasn’t in contact with them.

“Why don’t you ask them yourself Olga, or is there some reason you can’t?  Do you have a secret too, Olga, is that why you haven’t gone back to Jamaica?”  She asked sympathetically.  Then her voice got harder.

“You don’t have to tell me your secret Olga, I already know it.  I phoned St Giles a long time ago and after a bit of digging around, I discovered you’d been kicked out of the hospital because you were pregnant. You had a baby didn’t you.  Mammie’s favourite little girl got herself a little bastard”.

“Shut up” I shouted.  She made me feel dirty again.

“That’s why you won’t speak to any of the family or go home, isn’t it”?  I nodded.

 “Oh, don’t worry Olga,“ she was being sympathetic again now

“Your secret’s safe with me.  I promise you I won’t mention it to any of them”.

I looked at her and there was a little smile around her mouth but the smile didn’t reach her eyes.  They were cold.

 I don’t think age had mellowed Aunt Martha, I think she is still a mean spirited woman.

******

 

Letter to Becky, 3 Tremaine Road, Kingston, Jamaica

from

Martha, 23 Chilworth Street, Paddington.

Dearest Becky

I am the bearer of some tragic news.  I have today been notified by the authorities that Olga died in the winter of 1947.  Apparently, at the time of her death, there was nothing to identify her, no identity card, passport, letters, nothing. 

This has come to light all these years later because, by chance, I read in the local paper of a woman who was in court recently for shop lifting and gave her name as Olga Josephine Browney.  I immediately went to the police and said I wanted to see this woman because she was a relative of mine, but when I saw the woman, it was not Olga. 

The woman’s real name is Celeste Rodgers and according to Celeste she befriended Olga all those years ago.  Olga told her she had nowhere to live.  Celeste told Olga she rented a room in a boarding house and she was sure the landlady wouldn’t mind if  Olga stayed there for a few days until she found somewhere suitable. 

While Olga was sleeping Celeste robbed Olga, took all her possessions, including her clothes and moved out.  Celeste gave the police the address and I recently visited the landlady who confirmed that over three years ago an unnamed  coloured woman was found dead in bed of hypothermia in a room that had been rented to Celeste Rodgers. 

Because Olga had nothing to identify her, and it pains me to have to tell you this Becky, Olga was  buried in a paupers grave.  Some small comfort, however, Becky, at least Olga is with Jesus now.

Your loving sister,  Martha

******

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<—  A Form of Justice?                                                                          Martha’s Revenge—>

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 <—- Hanging On                                                         Martha’s Revenge —>

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Dear Diary 

The Convent:   Marie is in boarding school now at Our Lady’s Convent in Dartford and is very nice and lots of posh people’s children go there.  Matron thought I was her nanny when we arrived and didn’t hide her surprise when I said I was Marie’s mother. 

While we talked Marie was crying because she didn’t want to leave me.  I gave her a white lace handkerchief to wipe her tears and she was wiping her little face with it saying

“Don’t go Mummy, please don’t go”.  It upset me.

“Never mind, when you are gone and she sees the other children she’ll be alright” Matron said.  In bed that night I cried my eyes out because I didn’t have Marie with me..

I know this will be good for her because she will be taught how to become a lady and to speak nicely.  The sisters say she will settle down and make new friends and not to worry about her.  Poor Madeline is missing Marie a lot.  

 Mrs Hammell is worried because Madeline is not as strong as other children she might get hurt at school, so she prefers to employ a private tutor for her at home.  I think Madeline would be fine at school.  Mrs H is over protective of her. 

******

 Dear Diary

Madeline and I are getting very excited because Marie is coming home for the holidays. 

Then Mrs Hammell said it wasn’t really convenient for Marie to come home during half term and would I mind asking the nuns if she could stay in the convent instead.

 So Marie stayed in the convent again and I haven’t seen her for such a long time. 

Will have to give both girls lots of special treats.

****** 

Dear Diary

At last Marie is home for the holidays but there is a change in Mrs H’s attitude to me.  She is off-hand with me. 

“Have I done something wrong?”

 She said she was unhappy with my work and thinks I am more interested in Marie than in looking after Madeline.   That’s unfair, and it’s not true, and I told her I go out of my way to pay Madeline more attention than Marie. I took the girls to the Zoo and when we got back home, Madeline came up and hugged me and gave me a kiss to say thank you.

In the evening Madeline likes to come to our room to play with Marie rather than be with her mother.  If I tell her she must stay with her Mummy she gets upset and thinks I don’t want her.

I think Mrs H is jealous because Madeline is very fond of  Marie and me.. 

Mrs H and I have had a little talk.

“I apologise if I was wrong” she said. 

“But, really, Carmen, no mother can look after another person’s child and neglect her own”.

She said she thinks it would be better if I leave. 

Oh dear, I don’t want to, but I suppose she’s right.

****** 

Dear Diary 

Back to the kitchen:   Now Marie is in boarding school I have a better choice of jobs.  I’m working for Googie Withers, the film actress, and her husband, John McCallum, as an assistant housekeeper in their London home.  I keep their house clean and on their cook’s day off, I do the cooking.  I really like it.  They are both very sweet and kind to me.  They have all sorts of interesting people to dinner, other actors and writers, and they’re not demanding.    Mr McCallum is so handsome he makes me swoon.  He’s like the hero in some of Ruby’s stories. 

The only problem is Marie can’t come home for the holidays.  I didn’t tell them about her because otherwise I wouldn’t have got the job.  I know Sister Bernadette is getting cross with me because she thinks I am neglecting Marie.  I promised Marie I would go to the sports day.  She was running in the egg and spoon race but I had to miss it.  I feel simply dreadful and I miss her terribly. 

She wrote me a letter and said she was very upset and crying.

“All the other Mummies came to sports day but not my Mummy”.

It’s no good, even though I like this job a lot, I will have to find another one before Christmas so I can have Marie in the holidays. 

Falling behind on my savings.  

******

 Dear Diary 

I had a letter from my friend Moores today.  I wrote to her to ask her to lend me some money because I have to pay Marie’s school fees.  I hated doing it.  She’s so kind Moores, she always was to me – and she sent me more money than I asked for.  She said she was still in touch with Ethel who was married and has two children.  But Moores isn’t married.  She said she hadn’t found the right bloke.

Moores still kept in touch with some of the other nursing students we worked with and she’d heard that John Edward, Marie’s father, had died in December 1949.  He’d married an American girl and moved to New York and was working as a doctor in one of the hospitals there. He was standing on the subway platform and just fell forward onto the railway lines and was hit by an incoming train and killed outright. Witnesses said he just toppled forward.  Moores said there was a mystery surrounding his death.  An autopsy had revealed nothing unusual and so the medical examiner concluded that he probably had an accidental fall.  But some of his colleagues were sure he’d committed suicide.  Apparently he suffered from depression quite a lot.

Moores asked me if I had worked Obeah on him for what he did to me.  Honestly, how could Moores think I’d do that!   Of course, I didn’t, but if any of my family knew what he had done to me, they would certainly have worked obeah on him.

******

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 <—- Hanging On                                                         Martha’s Revenge —>

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 <—Sydney Comes to London

Mammie (Becky’s) Diary

We have moved to a smaller house in Tremaine Road and, in the end, I was quite pleased to leave Mission House. The memories are haunting me.

I saw this article about Sydney in the paper and thought I’d save it.

It’s rather a nice picture of him.   Poor Sydney he feels he has let me down not bringing Olga home.   He says she looked smart, but tired and her demeanour had changed.   Her sparkle had gone and he thinks there is something wrong, but she’s not saying what it is.

When he asked Martha if she knew, she said she hadn’t seen Olga for months. If something has happened to her in England and she feels she cannot talk to me about it, then I have not done a good job as a mother. I’ve let her down, otherwise she would be here knowing there is nothing she could ever do or say that could make me love her less. But at least I know she’s alive.  

Last night the tots and I went to the Holy Trinity Church and together with Father Butler we prayed to St Anthony to bring Olga safely home.   When Sydney visited Martha he said the first thing she asked him for was money, but he refused to give her any.   That surprised me. He says she’s always asking for money and thinks he has an endless supply and, then, almost as an afterthought he added, “I don’t think she was very nice to Olga”.   I wonder if Martha has something to do with Olga not coming home”.  

In fact, he says he doesn’t want any of the girls to stay with Martha in future because it is not a very nice area now.  I doubt that any of the girls will want to go to London; it must be quite dangerous living there with unexploded bombs and much of it looking like a vast building site. How is Olga managing with the winter cold, I wonder?  I remember how the harsh the weather could be and how the temperature could drop to freezing.  And what if it snows and there are blizzards, can she keep warm?  Britain is still recovering from the war and we know they are still short of certain foods and fuel. It’s strange, but I don’t think I could bear to be cold now after living here for so long.

                                                                                                                  ******

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Dear Diary 

Mrs Hammell:   Went back to Massey’s Agency to look for a job looking after children.  I don’t want to cook any more.  I had an interview with a Mrs Gloria Hammell, a widow, and explained that I was a widow too and that my husband, who had been an air force pilot during the war, had been shot down by the Germans over France.  She was very sympathetic. 

Mrs Hammell has a daughter called Madeline and she wants a live-in mother’s help for her daughter because she has very weak legs and they needed to be rubbed daily with olive oil.  I told her about Marie and explained that, although she wasn’t at school yet, she would be starting soon.  Mrs Hammell said if she offered me the job she was happy for Marie to come with me as she thought it would be very nice for Madeline to have a companion to play with. 

I showed her my reference from Mrs Hurt but she said she would telephone Mrs Hurt and speak with her personally and would let me know about the position when she had made a decision.

Mrs Hammell has a lovely 3-bedroomed flat in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea and Marie and I have a nice room with a big double bed.  It’s a good job because all I do is look after Madeline and Marie being there makes it easy because they play together nicely.  

Madeline is a kind little girl and doesn’t mind sharing her toys with Marie.  I take the girls to Hyde Park quite a bit and when it’s hot they paddle in the Serpentine or sometimes we will have a picnic.

 When I first arrived Madeline was very pale and thin, but she is blossoming because we are outdoors so much.  She has more colour in her cheeks and her legs are getting stronger.  Mrs Hammell is very pleased.

 When the three of us are out together, it’s funny, people always assume I am the girls’ nurse.  I don’t bother to tell them that the pretty dark haired one is my daughter.

As a special treat I sometimes take them to the London Zoo.  There are hummingbirds there and the sight of them makes me homesick.  The girls get very excited when it comes to feeding time and they like to throw nuts at the monkeys.  Sometimes we go to Regents Park but I avoid the bench I used to sit on, the one I was sitting on when I met Joanne.  I try not to think too much about my previous life.  It’s over, gone, I have a different life now.

One day when I was rubbing Madeline’s legs I told Mrs H how in Jamaica we rub white rum on our joints to ease the pain and would she like me to do the same for Madeline.

 “Are you mad, Carmen?  What do you think people will say if my four year old daughter goes around smelling of rum”.

 I hadn’t thought of that. 

I mentioned to Mrs H I was thinking of sending Marie to a private boarding school and could she recommend one. 

“When you told me Marie would be starting school, I didn’t realise you meant a private one.” 

She was surprised by my enquiry and I’m not sure if she believed me. 

So I told her my late husband left me some money for Marie’s education.  But the truth is I’ve saved enough for the first two terms, and hopefully I can save more from my wages.   I don’t spend much here.

 Mrs H recommended a Catholic convent in Dartford, Kent which would be easy for me to get to from London.  The way I see it what happened to me was not Marie’s fault and her education is important and she is entitled to have the best I can give her.  That’s what Mammie did for us and even though Sydney helped out, Mammie took in lots of lodgers when we were young just so we could all go to Alpha Academy which was the best Catholic school in Kingston. 

And Marie is definitely not going to end up like me, working as a servant. 

******

Dear Diary

So cold:   This is what it must be like at the North Pole.  It snows all the time and the temperature is freezing.  Last night is was -9°C and it said on the wireless that the sea froze at Margate. 

The Prime Minister says everyone must save fuel.   Things must be bad because people are being sent home from work and told to go to bed to keep warm. 

The army is being used to clear roads blocked by snow and drop food from helicopters to farms and little villages in the countryside and some old people are dying because they cannot keep warm.  Isn’t that terrible?

 ******

<—Sydney Comes to London

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<—Life as a Servant

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Dear Diary

Sydney:  I got a letter from home. It had been sent to St Giles who forwarded to Miss Franklin who forwarded to Sister Pateman and eventually I got it.

 It was from Sydney saying he was coming to England on a business trip and would be staying at the Reynolds Hotel in London during the last week of March.  He said he wanted to see me and isn’t leaving England until he has done. 

So I went to meet him on my day off yesterday.    Sydney has lost weight and some hair, but, otherwise he’d barely changed, but he said I had.

 I had bought a new outfit for the occasion because I wanted to look the best I could.   I was wearing a new blue dress I’d recently bought and a little hat to match and a grey coat belted at the waist.  I thought I looked very nice.  Sydney said I did. 

It was so good to hear about Mammie and the family.  He told me Mammie was well, but worried about me and gave me all the news about the family. Cissie and Dyke had another two children; Dolly had married her Syrian and I felt sad I hadn’t be at her wedding;  there were no changes in Pearl’s life; Ruby had a boyfriend called Jack, whom Sydney and Mammie approved of.  Ruby and Jack were very serious about each other and Sydney said he thought there might be another marriage in the family.  How nice.


Birdie was working at the Ward Theatre and it seemed as if she might go to America and stay with Vivie for a while. Vivie had got her divorce and married Freddie.  I wondered how Mammie felt about that, I bet she was upset.   Chickie and Maurice were well but poor Chickie still hadn’t heard a word from Victor Condell and Gwennie was still living with that terrible man, Keith Rousseau. And Boysie and Minah had another baby, a little girl.  Once we’d been through the family I waited for the questions to come my way.

“Mammie is desperately worried about you Olga.  We know you’re not at the hospital any more, what happened?” 

I couldn’t tell Sydney about Marie, not because I was frightened of him, I wasn’t any more, but because I was so ashamed of what happened to me and I hadn’t the courage to face my family.  

I told him I’d failed my first year’s exam and that’s why I left the hospital and because of the war I couldn’t go home.  So I had to find some work and because I had some experience nursing I found a job as a children’s nursery nurse.  

 I told him I had lots of friends and I was very happy with the job because it was well paid and I would never to be able to earn so much in Jamaica.  I wanted to stay on here in London a bit longer.

“Well, that’s fine because I’m going to be here for at least another four months doing business around the country, so, when I’ve finished, we can go home together”.  Sydney had it all worked out.

  “This time”, he said, “I’m keeping my promise to Mammie”.  

I gave him a false address and he gave me the date he would be back at the Reynolds Hotel.  I told him I would ring him at the hotel when he returned there.  It wasn’t that I don’t want to go home, of course I do.  I want to be with my family and I want Mammie to see her beautiful little granddaughter, but I fear seeing Mammie’s disappointment in me, that would be too much to bear.  I know they will ask questions which I don’t want to answer.  The memory is too painful.

Then Sydney asked about Joanne and if she was well.  When I told him she’d died, I swear there were tears in his eyes.  He put his arm round me, but I had to shake it off and he looked hurt.  I couldn’t help it, these days if anyone is kind to me, I cry.

Sydney wanted to know why I hadn’t kept in touch with Aunt Martha.  I told him I didn’t like her because she blasphemed a lot, was a drunk, a liar and a hypocrite.  I must have said it with such venom, because Sydney looked so shocked. I told him how when I was staying with her, Mr Kitchen stayed overnight with Aunt Martha and that they were living together as man and wife.  I told him she said mean things to me.  

“She makes a great pretence of being a Christian person when she’s in Jamaica going to Church but she doesn’t go near a Church here and then there’s Mr Kitchen” 

“What about Mr Kitchen” Sydney asked. And before I could stop myself I’d blurted out Aunt Martha’s big secret.

  “He’s a black man”.

******

Dear Diary

The Hunt Ball:   The Hurts have a stud farm in Ireland and, now the war is over, they have decided to close Hendon Hall and move back to Ireland.  Mrs Hurt said she would have liked me to come with them, but there are staff there already.  I don’t mind really.  But before they move to Ireland they want to hold a Hunt Ball, like they used to do before the war.   

Fortnum and Mason’s in Piccadilly are doing the catering for the Hunt Ball and Mrs Hurt has put me in charge of collecting the programmes which means I have to stand by the drawing room door and as the gentlemen came in  they hand me their programmes.  I had a peek at one and it’s just a list of all the dances with room to write down the name of the lady who the gentleman is  going to have a particular dance with.

Mrs Hurt’s daughter-in-law, Judith dressed me for the Ball in a long white dress with a wide gold sash around my waist and a gold and white turban on my head.  When I saw myself in the mirror I thought I looked like Annie Harvey, the Obeah woman in Kingston, but Mrs Hurt and Mrs Attwood said I looked lovely. 

When the first huntsman arrived he gave me his programme.

“I think you are in the  wrong place”

“This is the Hunt Ball isn’t it?”

“Yes, but you’re supposed to be in an evening suit”.  

“My dear girl, the huntsmen come to the Hunt Ball in their hunting jacket” he said.

No one had told me that the huntsmen come in their red coats. Captain and Mrs Hurt were coming down the spiral staircase and she looked lovely in a lilac evening dress.

 “What’s the matter Carmen”. 

“I was just telling this gentleman that he was in the wrong place”. 

Mrs Hurt was very apologetic to the gentleman and said she should have explained to me that the huntsmen come in their uniform.  I felt very foolish, but the gentleman and Mrs Hurt were very nice about it.

Oh it was a wonderful sight, all those handsome men in their red hunting jackets and the ladies looking beautiful in their evening dresses. 

 ******

 Our last day:   This morning Captain Hurt gave Marie a present beautifully wrapped and tied with a pink ribbon.  The present was so big I had to help her open it and out came a whopping big doll.  She was the most beautiful doll I’ve ever seen and she was as big as Marie.

 Marie was speechless, but beaming. 

“Susie”, she finally said, hugging the doll tight.  It was a wonderful present from the Hurts and made my little girl very happy.

Mrs Hurt gave me a month’s holiday pay and arranged for Marie to go into a nursery in Basingstoke for two weeks so that I could have a holiday and promised to give me a good reference for my next position. 

“Carmen, I don’t want to pry into your personal life and I only do so now because I’m fond of you and Marie, but for Marie’s sake don’t you think you should contact your family”.

Mrs Hurt had no idea I had already seen Sydney, nor did she know I had an Aunt in London.  I had never discussed anything about my family with the Hurts.

“I don’t think you realise how hard life could become for you both.  There are many people, including the authorities, who consider an unmarried mother unfit to bring up a child and may even try and take her from you”. 

I was deeply touched by her concern for us and wanted to hug her, like I would Mammie, but I was a servant and that wouldn’t have been acceptable, so I just said

“I will think about it”.  

I hope Mrs Hurt is wrong.  I think my guardian angel has returned to watch over me and Marie.  We have been lucky so far;  we have met nice people like the Sister Pateman and Sister Warner at the nursery, the Hurts, even Matron and Miss Franks have been very, very, kind. 

 <—Life as a Servant

 

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<—Colonel & Mrs Hurt                                        Sydney comes to London —>

Olga’s Diary (Continued)

Dear Diary

News from Home: I received a letter with a Christmas card in it today. 

It was such a surprise when Mrs Hurt handed it to me.  It had been on a long journey.  Matron, at St Giles, had forwarded it to the Refuge.  Miss Franks had forwarded it on to Sister Pateman, who thank goodness, had put it in a fresh envelope, with a little note to me saying she hoped Marie and I were well and please keep in touch with them.              

 At first I was so excited when I opened the envelope and saw the letter was from Ruby and when I saw the censor and his black pen had been at work again.  I cried, there was so little left for me to read.   Thank goodness the censor had left the Christmas card alone. 

Every year Sydney sends his customers a Christmas card, but not usually one covered with snow.  It seems an odd choice really because it never snows in Jamaica, but, anyway, I’m going to keep it.  Sydney has three shops now, business must be good.   

Everyone is well and sends their love.  Darling Mammie told Sydney to tell me that she that she thinks of me all the time.   Dolly is getting married to a Syrian gentleman, but the family are not happy about it.  

They’re all worried about me because I haven’t written to them for ages but what can I tell them, not the truth.  My life has changed so much.  I’m not ashamed of having a little girl, but I wish the circumstances were different.  I don’t want them to know about my life now.

  I couldn’t bear Mammie to see some of the work I have to do, cleaning out the dirty fireplaces every morning in the winter and cleaning silver.  

  Captain and Mrs Hurt are kind to me and especially Marie, I like them, but I know my place, after all I’m their servant.

******

Dear Diary

Mrs Hurt has an Irish housemaid, named Kathleen Ryan.  She doesn’t like me and I don’t like her one little bit.  I’d been putting away some linen in the cupboard on the first floor landing and I was in a hurry so I came down the front stairs.  Servants are supposed to use the back stairs and Kathleen saw me and told me off.  I told her Mrs Hurt didn’t mind me using the front stairs now and again and she called me an “uppity nigger with airs and graces”. 

I was shocked I can tell you.

“I’m not a nigger, I’m not black”.  I told her straight. Judith heard what Kathleen had said and told her mother-in-law.  Mrs Hurt was furious.  

Kathleen said she’d never worked with niggers before.

Mrs Hurt told Kathleen that if she wanted to continue to work for her, she was never to say that word again and if Kathleen didn’t want to work with me, “you can leave now”. Kathleen was crying and I was unhappy too. 

Mrs Attwood was very kind to me and made me a cup of tea and said “best thing that could happen would be for her to leave – good riddance to bad rubbish.  I’ve never liked the Irish”.   Mrs Attwood and I got on well together right from the beginning, but I was surprised that Mrs Hurt stood up for me. 

“She likes you Carmen, she thinks you have courage and so do I”.  Wasn’t that a nice thing to say?

******


Dear Diary

Peace at last:  The war in Europe had ended, finally.  I was in the kitchen when the news came over the radio.  Mr Churchill has ordered the next two days to be a national holiday.   The village organised a big party and everyone was invited and Union Jack flags were hanging out of nearly every window and on every tree.

There was bunting strung across from one cottage to another and a tea party on the village green where everyone brought cakes, sandwiches, fizzy drinks and there was dancing and singing.  Lovely cakes.

Everyone from Hendon Hall went, all the staff and the Hurts and we all had a wonderful time.  It was so nice to see everyone so happy, particularly Captain and Mrs Hurt, because their sons would be coming home. 

 

<—Colonel & Mrs Hurt                                     Sydney comes to London —>

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