My Great Aunt Martha was the oldest and not at all like her sisters, Becky and Lucy, either in temperament or looks. She was a short, stout woman with a badly pockmarked face – apparently the result of chicken pox. Every now and again nature produces an offspring that bears little resemblance to either its parents or siblings, well by all accounts, that was Martha Ross. My mother, Olga, told that in the early part of the 1930s Aunt Martha worked as a seamstress at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. Mum told me many times, she didn’t like her Aunt Martha.
Olga’s Diary (Continued)
The wicked witch: Aunt Martha (AM) being horrible. Very bad tempered. There are two versions of her, the English version in Paddington (the true one) and the Jamaican version, when she’s with Mammie in Kingston (the false one). She still says I’m eating too much and I have to eat less even though I’ve given her nearly all of my money and I don’t think I have enough to last until Sydney comes.
She says I have to pay my way so I must clean the flat and do her washing and ironing. Now she’s treating me like a servant.
“You might as well wash and iron Mr Kitchen’s clothes the same time you do mine” she said.
“I’ll do your chores, because I have the time, but I’m not doing his and if you insist then I’ll write to Mammie and Sydney and tell them what you’re asking me to do” I threatened.
“There’s no need for that, Olga, just do mine”.
Good job done, Olga, a small victory and very nice it feels too. Mr Kitchen is AM’s latest “gentleman friend” and the pair of them go out drinking nearly every night. They always come home drunk and Mr Kitchen usually stays overnight (in AM’s bedroom!) and I hear him creeping out of the front door early in the morning. Mammie and Sydney would be shocked if they knew.
AM says they’re engaged to be married, but I don’t think Mr Kitchen knows that.
Wonder what the neighbours think?
AM is cruel when she’s been drinking. Told me that I would never get a husband.
“No man would find someone as plain and boring as you, Olga, attractive. Where were you when God was handing out the looks”. She’s not a very nice person, you know. I know I’m not as pretty as my sisters, but Mammie says I have other qualities which are more important than looks.
Should have said to her “where were you when God was handing out the looks”. But that would have been unkind too and, anyway, after hearing her give Mr Kitchen a good few slaps with the frying pan the other evening, I stay in my room now when she’s been drinking.
AM had chicken pox when she was a child and to stop her picking at the sores on her face her parents bandaged her hands. But AM still managed to pick them and as a result her face is badly pockmarked. She was teased a lot at school by the other children because of it and Aunt Lucy says that contributed to AM’s “effortless transition from bad tempered child to a cantankerous, mean spirited woman”. Had to look up in the dictionary what cantankerous meant and Aunt Lucy’s got it dead right. AM’s bad tempered and unreasonable.
To keep out of her way I spend a lot of time wandering around London and one day I was walking along Baker Street when this car hooted and when I turned round to see who it was, it was Roy McKenzie from Jamaica. I couldn’t believe it, in fact, I didn’t even know he was in London.
I immediately remembered that day when I was hanging from a tree by my knickers and felt embarrassed when we said hello, even though Aunt Lucy and Mammie had got me down from the tree before he saw me.
“Olga, look at you, you look good, how nice to see you”. He seemed really pleased to see me,
He told me to hop in the car and he took me for a lovely drive around London. He asked me what I was doing in London and how long I was staying. I told him about the dance school and what I’d been doing since I arrived and he told me he ran a gambling and drinking club in London called the Frivolity. He knew I had a good singing voice and asked me to come down and sing at his club now and again. Because I had no money I was tempted. Maybe I’ll pop down one evening I thought to myself, it might be fun.
I asked him if he thought there was going to be a war with Germany and he said he hoped not because it could be bad for his business.
He stopped the car round the corner from Chilworth Street and wrote down the address of the Frivolty on a piece of paper and handed it to me.
He asked me how things were going with Aunt Martha and I just shrugged my shoulders. He took out his wallet, which, by the way, was full of money, and took out one of the notes in it.
“Here, take this, but don’t tell Aunt Martha you’ve got it or she’ll talk you into giving it to her and, definitely, don’t tell her that you’ve seen me. I’ve seen her operating in the Den of Iniquity and I don’t want her in my club.” I looked in my hand and there was a lovely big white £5 note. I hugged him. I told him Sydney would be over soon and would repay him.
“Remember, Olga, anytime you want to earn some money singing, you know where I am now”. And then he was gone. I had such a lovely afternoon with Roy, but most of all it was comforting to know there was someone who would help me if I needed it.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider letting your friends know or leave a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.