Friday, 29 November 2013

The saga of the missing lock on my bedroom door!

Nothing was ever simple when dealing with Nan and Granddad. I was paying to stay at their house but I certainly wasn’t treated like a lodger. He wanted my money and he wanted to be in control but he also wanted to be seen by his friends and colleagues as a generous and kind person. All this meant that he had a number of personalities and he switched between them depending on who was around.

I can remember arriving home a bit later from school than normal – a sporting event I was in had over-run by about 15 minutes. This would normally cause a major row because Granddad liked his life, and the life of everybody around him, to run to a strict timetable. But when I arrived one of his friends from the Bowls Club was in the house and so he switched on his interested grand-parent routine. Once his friend left I got well battered both physically and verbally as Granddad reverted to normal!

For several months after Mum and Dad were killed I was quite often in a frantically sad and stressed state. Quite little things used to upset me but my G-Parents just were not into feelings. Their way of coping with the death of their daughter was to act as if it hadn’t happened so if I even mentioned my parents I would get into trouble. It was only the support I got from the school that made my life even half-way bearable.

Having something as simple as a lock on my bedroom door turned into a massive issue that was never sorted out. They used to knock, wait about 3 seconds, literally, then march in. It was ridiculous. I was a paying guest, paying quite a lot actually, with zero privacy. Not nice at all at 17. Twice I remember sitting on the bed topless on purpose hoping that somebody would come in so that the lock would get sorted out. Nan was a great fan of M&S clothes so I used this to wind them both up. I purchased the briefest bikini in the shop and that summer I used to sunbathe in the back garden. Nan couldn’t say anything because all I would have said was “But I got it at M&S”. 

Nobody could say granddad was liberal and sometimes he could be quite creepy, I used to feel quite uneasy if he came into my bedroom for a chat at bedtime, even if Nan was with him.  I'm surprised that Nan allowed it even after I switched from wearing a nightie to wearing pyjamas! 

Escaping from them and going back to live in Mum and Dad’s old house felt like escaping from prison. As you might guess I was "bad mouthed" by Granddad whenever he was explaining why I had left their house. Nothing was ever his fault of course.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Christmas 2011 - "Cinderella Sally" (Part 2)

I was quite relieved to see Nan and Granddad off on their holiday on the 21st December. They hadn’t asked what I had arranged to do while they were away and I didn’t tell them that I had managed to find somewhere to go or someone to see for each day until they got back.

If they did bother to buy me a present I didn't know where they had put it. Mine to them vanished from under the tree so I guessed that they took it with them. My aunt came round for tea on the 22nd and from Easter onwards it was sorted out that I would live at her house during the university holidays. My cousin had moved out to live with her long-term boyfriend so there was going to be room for me. I think we were both rather shocked at how difficult Nan and Granddad had been. Me living with them was their idea but they seemed to do nothing but moan about it.
Christmas Day was always going to be rather difficult. It is supposed to be a happy, family day but I was feeling rather sad and abandoned. I was very firm with myself – so every time I felt sadness coming on I had a square of chocolate and then told myself to stop being so silly!  It felt rather strange opening presents on my own, particularly ones I had got for myself. But various relatives had been very kind about sending me something, although really I suspect under normal circumstances I would have counted as too old. GParents phoned at 7:45 to tell me that they would give me my present on their return from holiday. (I guessed that it hadn’t been purchased yet!).

I went off for my Christmas dinner to one of my friends from school who lived 4 doors down the road from where I used to live. They made me feel very welcome but they were one of those families who open all their presents after lunch and it was a bit awkward just sitting there while this was going on. I just smiled and joined in the conversation.

Boxing Day lunch was at the home of a mature student who was on the same course as me. There were six of us altogether. All people who didn’t, for a whole range of reasons, have family to go to over the Christmas holiday: including two overseas students (Singapore and South Africa) who didn’t have enough spare cash to go home. We had a really good time and I was pleased that I went.

I know it seems a strange thing to do but I went home via the cemetery where Mum and Dad are buried. I “told” them how grim it had been staying with Nan and Granddad. The generation gap was just too much to deal with. We never seemed to want to do the same things. Even watching the TV was a stress. Once all they wanted to watch finished off went the TV, never any "anything you would like to see dear" to be heard. If I went to my room instead I was moaned at for being "anti-social".

I am quite proud of how I coped over the holiday. I could have spent the entire two weeks just sitting around feeling miserable. Instead I kept myself busy and the time went by quite quickly.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Christmas 2011 - "Cinderella Sally" (Part 1)

I have been rather dreading writing this blog entry and have postponed writing it a couple of times because the events around Christmas 2011 still make me feel so cross and sad. I had started at university in September and as my Mum and Dad’s house, the house that I had inherited, was being rented out the great unanswered question was, “Where does Sally go for the Christmas holidays?”

For all sorts of reasons the rest of the family had decided that it had to be at Nan and Granddad’s house and that didn’t please me at all. I had been battered and abused there before and I wasn’t keen to repeat the experience. However Mum’s sister and Dad’s brother managed to persuade me that Granddad had “changed” so it was all agreed. But at the end of November the weekly letter arrived from Nan and Granddad. They are all excited because they had been invited to go away over Christmas with another couple (long-time friends) from the 21st to the 28th December. How very nice for them but not for me! Typically they seemed to have forgotten that I was supposed to be staying with them over the Christmas holiday and that I had got nowhere else to go.

A couple of days later I invited myself around to their house for tea and it soon became clear that they had convinced themselves that I could stay at the university "with all your friends" for the Christmas week. They were so excited at the thought of their holiday that I just didn't dare say that I was going to have to use the money I saved during the term to stay in a cheap B&B for 7 nights. When I was driving back to the university feeling fairly wretched I remember thinking that if Mum and Dad are looking down on me they must be wondering what on earth was going on?

Luckily some sensible friends who were on the same course as me persuaded me to tell Gran and Granddad that I couldn’t stay at the university over Christmas. As my friends pointed out it was them that suggested renting out Mum and Dad's home (mine now) or else I could have gone there. Everybody knew from the start that Easter was going to be an issue because Grand Parents did their annual coach trip holiday then - but it was never suggested that I was going to be Christmas on my own as well.

Eventually, after lots of grumbling on their behalf, Granddad agreed that I could stay in their house while they were away providing I didn’t have any visitors round. How very festive! On the plus side the two of them being away meant that I would avoid the humiliation of the previous year when my Christmas present from them was a bar of fruit and nut chocolate they had rushed out to buy on Christmas Eve.

Rather than having a wail, although I was very tempted, I decided to sort out some “away days” with school or university friends. With luck I thought I might manage to fill my diary except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I vaguely hoped that my Aunt, who helped me look after my money, might find a spare place at her dining room table even though she was supposed to have a houseful turning up already. Otherwise it was going to be a chicken leg and a sprig of holly for me!

I casually mentioned on Facebook that I would be on my own over the holiday season and I had 2 offers for Christmas Day and 3 for Boxing Day! So on Christmas Day I went to one of my friends from school who lived 4 doors down the road from where I used to live and on Boxing Day I went to the home of a mature student who was on the same course as me. Good old Facebook!

Much later I found out that my Aunt had had a stern word with my Grand Parents to remind them that buying me a decent present "might be nice" - not just another bar of chocolate from the corner shop like the previous year.

So as arranged I turned up at my Grandparent’s house at the end of term. Talk about a frosty reception! I knew they usually went out for a meal on a Friday but I hoped that they would either not go as it was my first night with them or that they might invite me to go with them. But no, off they went leaving me behind. I knew just how Cinderella felt!

Both of them are a bit deaf so when they think they are whispering I could still hear them. I soon realised that they didn’t want me living with them even in the holidays - all the mess and noise - and it’s not nice feeling slightly unwanted all the time. But rather than mope around the house that first evening I made a couple of phone calls and by 8:30PM I was in town having a meal with some school friends! I even got back before the curfew at 10:30 that Nan and Granddad had as a "house rule".

I wrote in my diary, “Mum and Dad I’m missing you so much today. Sometimes my life seems such total and utter s**t. But wherever you are I promise that I will keep battling along as best I can!”

Saturday, 2 November 2013

When family mediation went horribly wrong!

As usual readers might like to remind themselves of my “back story” before reading this latest blog entry. My Mum and Dad were killed in a car accident in 2010 so I went to live with my Grand Parents who lived close by. This didn’t work out so when I was nearly 18 I was pretty much forced, for my own safety, to move out. My relationship with Granddad didn’t improve, in fact it got steadily worse, as did his relationships with almost everybody around him. Things got so fraught that “something had to be done”.

By November 2012 I was completely exhausted – both physically and mentally – by all the emotional, financial and physical abuse dished out in large doses by my Nan and Granddad to the rest of the family. So when we were offered the services of an external mediator to “make one final effort to resolve all the current problems” I was happy to co-operate.

We met in a large conference room with the tables arranged in a hollow square. In the middle there was a little table with a picture of my Mum and Dad on it and two candles that were supposed to burn throughout the meeting.

We had all made written submissions prior to the meeting and I saw that Granddad's document was much longer than mine, much longer in fact than all the other contributions put together.

At the start of the meeting we drew lots for the speaking order. My Uncle, Dad's brother, went first. The main point he made was how shocked he had been when Granddad had admitted hitting me “lots of times”; my uncle called it "a series of savage and sustained attacks". He went on to say how rude and unpleasant Granddad had been to him when Granddad had discovered that he (my uncle) had been put in joint charge of my financial affairs. He read out the letter that Granddad had sent him at the time in which the words "biased, dishonest and manipulative" were used by Granddad to describe my Uncle.

Second to speak was my aunt. She explained how devastated she had been by the loss of her sister (my Mum) and how she had wished "with all her heart" that I could have gone to live with her. But at that stage she simply didn't have any space. She explained that for some months Granddad was being paid twice for my board and lodging (she was paying for it out the estate and Granddad was taking from my living allowance as well) and that it was "quite impossible" that he didn't know about the double payment. Like my Uncle she was horrified that I had been physically and financial and emotionally abused by Nan and Granddad. She confirmed that Granddad had accepted that he had physically abused me and had stolen from me and that he had broken into Mum and Dad's house the day after they were killed and had removed money and destroyed legal papers.

Then it was my turn and I told the mediator how sad I was feeling and how shocked my Mum and Dad would have been at the way their own parents had behaved.

Finally it was Granddad's turn. The first thing he did was to stand up, slip through the gap in the square of tables and blow the two candles out. He called having them there burning "cheap theatricals". He then launched into a bitter attack against me (I'm a cheap tart, a whore and I had deserved to beaten like the animal) and he said all sort of nasty things about my Mum and Dad and my Aunt and Uncle. The whole meeting was a "pointless charade" and I had got what I deserved.

The moderator then read out a lengthy statement from Mum and Dad's solicitor. One thing I had not realised was that when I was 11 Granddad had got himself into money troubles. He then sold a 20% stake in the house to my Mum and Dad. He was supposed to pay "rent" for the 20% share to Mum (and the bank statements prove that he did) but that all these payments stopped when she died. The 20% lump sum was to be repaid when the house was sold, but providing 12 months notice was given Mum also had the right to have the money paid back whenever she wanted. He had all the signed and witnessed documents with him.

He then reminded all of us - but thinking of Granddad - of the agreement we had all signed about how the mediation meeting would be run. No personal attacks were one of the conditions. He also reminded all of us - but again thinking of Granddad - that confidentiality could only be maintained by him when acting as the mediator when there was no evidence of law-breaking. He promised that he would write a proper report but he was able to say at the time that there strong evidence of assault, theft, breaking and entering and fraud committed by "one of the participants here today".

It is fair to say that the meeting hadn’t gone well.