Eric.

I was almost nineteen when I met Eric he was forty seven.

I had a daughter who was sixteen months old and I was almost three months pregnant.

I had just come back to my hometown.

After running away from my abusive husband from the north of England Id gone to stay with friends in west Wales

I’d began to relax until he knocked on the door of the flat I was staying in.

I remember how loud my heart had sounded banging i my head as I heard him banging on the door.
He had found us.

It was no use fighting him

He dragged me down two flights of stairs by my hair.

My daughter in my arms

His eyes were wild

He spat at me beat me and made me feel worthless my life was a mess.

It was a five hour drive home. I nursed my baby girl stared out of the window

Soon the green mountains of wales became the red brick council houses of the estate where I grew up.

I was back as I got out of the car my father walked across from his house. Swaying smell of beer and cigarettes.The reason is left home was him but as my Nan said I’d jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

“You’ve made your bloody bed lie in it.” He hissed I was numb. No one could save us.

After a week back home and another argument with my husband I’d wrapped up my daughter in her pram and gone out to walk around the estate where we lived to get her to sleep.

It was an old burgandy corduroy tansad pram heavy and sturdy it was a windy afternoon so I put the hood up and walked past the woods wind blowing my long hair.

I walked down to the bottom shops then back.up past the church

The vicar was mowing the grass of his big house next to st David’s he stopped and smiled.

Feeling arkward I put my head down carried on walking Cheryl was asleep tiny rosebud lips and long eyelashes she was perfect I hated the way we lived but I didn’t have anywhere else to go I’d tried women’s hostels, Wales but he always found me.

Where would it end I thought as I pulled the pram up the steps to the house.I pushed the tansad into the living room.

It was quiet quicky opened the pram scooped Cheryl into my arms and stealthily tip toed upstairs placing her into her cot gently covering her up shushing her as I shut the bed room door behind me .

Rushing back down stairsThere is a huge bang.

I jump as he begins to shout.I pathetically beg him to stop.Please don’t .

You’ll wake the baby .

The smell of whisky hits me first

Then his fist.

My head hits the post at bottom of the stairs

I struggle to my feet.

Taste of iron in my mouth

I’m still begging him thinking of my baby in her cot.

I have to keep him down stairs .He has me by the hair .

Snarling at me spit showering my face as he opens the front door to throw me out.

Im thrown out of the door onto the concrete path hands scraping scrambling to get up

To get back inside to my baby .

His back is to me he is walking into the living room where I have left the pram.

I watch in horror as he picks it up and launches it through the large living room window.

In slow motion it lands on its hood 20 minutes before my baby was in it.

He hadn’t know that I’d taken her out.He could have killed her.

I’m trying to stop him going upstairs.

I’m hitting him he’s laughing

Then suddenly there at the open front door is the man who has recently moved in across the road.

He looks calm as he tells me to come away.

Stand here he says by me.

It’s sureal.

Jeff looks startled.Who the fuck are you ?

Get out of my house .

Still the man from across the road stands firm.

I move towards himIs this how you treat your women up here?

He’s saying.My husband swings for the man.

Eric he says to me.

I’m Eric.

He hits my husband and throws him into the living room that’s covered in splintered glass.

The pram in the garden where is your baby?

Upstairs I sob.

He hits Jeff again

He is curled up in a ball.

Our dog is barking

Come on then Eric is saying or don’t you hit men?

He picks Jeff up and throws hm down the path

A police car pulls up and a familiar lady police officer gets out .

She looks at me I look at the floor.

Jeff is shouting about Eric atacking him.”The police officer puts her hand on my arm did he do this ?”

We’ve been here before she asks I say no because if I say yes Jeff has told me he will kill me.

Yes I stutter.

Yes he did and he attacked Eric.

Jeff runs at me .

Police man grabs him throws him against the car.

Bloody maniac Eric’s saying.

Can we take you to hospital she asks?

I’ll take her says Eric.

Is that okay she asks

Yes I say I’m going to be okay.

Because I know I will now.

That was the very beginning.He was 28 years older than me.

Just come back to his home town after a broken marriage and a break down.

He knew how afraid and vunerable I was

He helped me pick up glass board up windows

Change locks.Then he slept on my sofa

Supported me to get back on my feet.

He would wake me singing cliff Richard living doll.

You can’t have another baby he said to me gently after a week

You can’t look after yourself.

Your only a few months if you tell the hospital about the beatings they will help.I was horrified.

I’m keeping my baby I sobbed.

Then I’ll help you he smiled.

He took me to anti natal

Drove me to appointments.

Stayed in my house.Is he your Dad?

The midwife asked.No he’s Eric was all I could say.

I was still terrified of anything happening to my daughter.

I refused to have my baby in hospital.

It’s dangerous my doctor warned it’s a big baby.

I’ll be there said Eric I’ll.look after you.I moved to the other side of town new start

Eric had bought a van and had started a furniture removal business.

I had a lovely little house Eric was still poping in and out he put up fences layed a lawn created a beautiful garden.

Cheryl started nursery life was better.

When I woke early hours of morning 7th August 1986 I phoned Eric first then the midwife.

I’m scared I told him as I opened the door.

He kissed my forehead you can do this and again I knew I was going to be okay.

The midwifes and my doctor came Eric held me as I pushed my beautiful baby boy into the world he was 12lb 9oz’

Put the chip pan on for this lad he’s got a tooth!’

Laughed my doctor.Well done

I looked at Eric tear running down his cheek

Come here to your Dad he said as he held my baby.

In that second an unbreakable bond was madeEric had saved me when he had come back from stoke on Trent

He was a good man

My daughter held her new brother and named him Matthew.

Followed a few years later by Michael.

Eric idolised each of my children and they him

Who was it who said blood is thicker than water never met Eric.

Our children grew up we went our separate ways but aways remained friends

Matthew met and married a Belfast girl.

Eric by this time was 76

Michael would go to stay with Eric take him fishing help him around the house.

Cheryl would stay in the school holidays with her daughter. He was her dad from the minute he walked into our door as she slept in her cot upstairs.

He couldn’t have loved her and the boys any more than he did.

He started to shows signs of dementia.

Which over five years got worse.

He still lived in the family home he had come back to all those years before .He needed help now

It was decided Matthew would take him to Ireland.

To a purpose built dementia unit atound corner from his house erics own flat.

It broke Cheryl and mike’s heart to see him go but I know it was the best decision.

I went over last week to see them.

My six foot son helping his Dad walk slowly with his walking frame.

I remembered Eric proudly pushing Matthew in his pram.

That big man who saved us.

There with the baby he had held minutes after he was born

That’s what makes a dad.

Not blood but love.

Thank you Eric we saved each other x

Please share our website

http://www.ravensretreat.wales

Mam. Market stalls and Pippa

 

 

market

pippa

1973. Age 8

Although Mam is ill she works cleaning three mornings a week for Mrs Cook. She says she has ‘No bloody choice if we want food in the cupboards as well as home brew she has to clean’

She has done this for as long as I can remember.

Mrs cook and her husband Norman live in a big posh house on Rain Rd facing the crematorium. Its two bus rides to get there and its like another world.

A huge semi detached house with a double garage bigger than our house. I love the smell when we walk through the front door Mam says its clean washing smell but i think it smells of happiness because that’s what Mrs cook is happy. She is a big lady she is always pleased to see me. Everything about her is just lovely.

We stand together in the huge leaaded bay window polishing brass ornaments watching the big black cars go down the long driveway to the crem sometimes we see smoke coming from the chimney. There goes another one she laughs. When it’s my turn they won’t need a car they can carry me across the road! I wish she wouldn’t say that I dont ever want her to die.

She and her husband own a string of butcher’s shops and a factory across town they have posh cars an E type jaguar I love and they had motorbikes huge ones that their son rode at the Isle of Man T.T. races when we polish the brass we polish the cups that he has won. But for all the money and money they are as down to earth as anyone.

Mam would go to do her weekly shop in the market she trapses across town for the cheapest of everything. Lennon’s supermarket then to Mrs cooks butchers Next door to the butcher is Jim Chorley’s toy shop.

It is packed with every toy imaginable. So whilst Mam stands at the counter getting her half a pound order. Half pound of stew, half pound bacon, half pound braising steak. I press my nose on the window of the toy stall working my way around the stall making a list in my head of all the things I’d like bikes and prams hanging from the ceiling. Action man, pop and spud guns, spinning tops, hoopla hoops, Spiro graphs, Lego, mechano.

I love this stall and stand there as long as possible picking what I want for Christmas or birthday or whatever is next. Then I see it, a Pippa doll, everyone in school has them apart from me and Wendy, they are on the telly I stand there singing the advert from telly in my head where ever you go Pippa goes too!

I don’t ask for it because I know what the answer will be. I am jolted back to the real world by Mrs Cook’s arms around me from behind. Hugging me smelling of clean cotton overall and fresh meat.

’Now then my little shy girl she smiles what you looking at?’ I smile and pointed through the glass at the Pippa doll.

‘What’s her name?’ I feel my face flush. ‘Come on tell Dolly! Whisper in my ear no one will hear.’ She bends down next to me. ‘Pippa’ I whispered. I hear Mam sigh behind me ‘she doesn’t need it don’t be bloody cheeky you!’ shes saying. I look down at the floor. ‘She’s never cheeky are you my doll,’ Cupping my face in her hands I love her smile and twinkling blue eyes.

‘Come on then!’ She says taking me by the hand. I look back at Mam shaking her head as we disappear into the Aladdin’s cave of Jim Corley’s toy stall.

Mrs. Cook asks the lady for the Pippa doll. ‘And some clothes,’ wow clothes as well.

She passes me the little doll it will fit in my pocket, and then she asks me which of the two sets of clothes I want. A pink suit or a red dress and boots I stand there staring! ‘Oh we’ll have them both!’ Says Mrs Cook

She pulls some money from her overall pocket pays the lady and passed the clothes to me. ‘Thank you’ I whispered, she wrapped me in a huge hug ‘your welcome doll,’ and she kisses me on the cheek.

And with a cheery wave she goes back on the stall to cheerfully banter with another customer. Me and Mam walk out of the market towards the bus stop Mam giving me a telling off telling me she’d told me before about asking for stuff when Mrs Cook was about.

I dont answer i’m too busy pulling Pippa out of her box! We sit on the back of the fifty five bus Mam chats to a lady from the top shops and I singing to myself dressing Pippa in her new red dress and boots. Before I know it Mam is ringing the bell and steering me down the bus with my hood its zip pinching into my neck. ‘Ouch Mam’

I hold onto the bars with one hand and hold Pippa with the other. The bus stops at the end of the street as we walked down I can see our next door neighbor Mrs Lewis is brushing the pavement outside our house.

I run down to show her my new doll. I sit on her step as she sweeps the pavement. She leans on the brush smiling at me.

‘What have you got there then chick’ she asks in her lovely cockney accent.

I hold out Pippa. She takes her from me stroking her hair; ‘well she’s almost as pretty as you!’

I smiled up at her. Mam catches me up wheezing and puffing on her inhaler. Shes always had a ‘bad chest but I look after her when shes not well.

‘Do you want to come and help me later when our Fred gets home?’ I’ll give you a shout and we can go clean his coach.’ Fred drives coaches taking people on holidays when he is home the coach would be parked across the street.

I looked at Mam ‘don’t you look at me she says back ask your bloody Dad!’

’Wont he be in the pub?’ Mrs. Lewis laughs. Mam scowls.

‘You know one day your going to answer me with your mouth instead of those big brown eyes! Fred will give you a knock soon.

True to her word after tea there was a knock at the door its Fred.

‘Come on then I hear you’re the new coach cleaner!’

‘ Go on then’ laughs Mam.

Fred holds my hand and we cross the road to his big blue coach. Pippa is safely sitting in my pocket. We clamber up the steps onto the coach Mrs. Lewis is at the back picking up pop cans and sweet papers loudly cursing school kids.

‘Come on then don’t just stand there! You can fit under these seats much easier than me.’‘ She hasn’t got a fat arse like you’ Fred laughs. Handing me a plastic bag. I crawl in and out of the seats picking up papers, cans and a couple of magazines. Fred follows me with a brush and a mop

By the time I get to the front of the coach I’m covered in dust and my knees are black! I sit in the driver’s seat putting my new doll Pippa by the windscreen swinging my legs pretending to drive. Across the street the front door bangs and Dad here striding down the path rollie in his hand smart jacket on. I watch him walk towards the coach.

He strides over stands by the door, ‘Look at me Dad I’m driving,’

‘Driving be buggered your bloody rotten dirty!’

‘ Sorry. Have you seen my new doll Pippa like my friends in school!’

‘ Yes! I’ve seen her. Bloody ruined you are.’

’She’s a good little help’ said Fred carrying the rubbish bags off the coach.

‘Going down the club Jimmy?’

‘ Aye for an hour you watch yourself crossing the bloody road and behave yourself for your mammy!’

‘ I’ll walk her over now’ says Mrs Lewis wiping her hands on her apron then taking my hand and helping me down the steps. Dad bends down for a kiss. ‘See you later think on now be a good girl.’ I will Dad I promise.

‘See you in the morning cock. Remember he winks!’ he squeezes my hand three times. I squeezed him back. That is his secret. Three times means I love you. See you later he says. I feel sick I hope not.

He stands finishing his cig while Fred locks up the bus. As we walked over to our house Mrs. Lewis mutters about men i don’t think she likes my Dad much.

‘ Ale and bloody fags!’ She stands at the gate while I knock on the door. Mam opens it ‘Look at the bloody state of you lady!’ ‘Sorry’ I hear Mrs. Lewis say behind me. she pushed a twenty pence into my hand. ‘ Go get in the bloody bath its run for you.’ I run upstairs into the bathroom undressed and jump into the warm water. The landing window is open and I can hear Mam still talking to Mrs. Lewis. I wash quickly then lay back and put my head under the water I can hear my heart beating. Its the school holidays now maybe Mam will let me sit up later? I pull the plug and wrap myself in the towel. Mam has left on the sink. My hair is all wet but I pull on my red slacks blue night dress and socks. Jump down each stair. Mam is sitting in the living room watching TV and knitting. ‘Where’s Dad gone Mam?’ ‘Now where do you bloody think? Down the bloody pub! He’ll be back when he’s run out of money. Drunken pig! He should bloody move in there!’

‘ What you knitting Mam?

A cardigan. For you!’

‘Can you teach me to knit?’

‘ Your bloody kitty pawed! I cant teach you’.

‘My sister was left handed and she can’t knit either!’ she continued.

‘ Can I stay up with you Mam there’s no school in the morning?’

Mam looked up from her knitting. ‘What the bloody hell have you got on? Get them bloody slacks off!’

‘ But I like wearing pants in bed Mam!’ then if the monster comes I can run fast and Its cold in my room!’ ‘You look a bloody state no more talk of monsters and its summer’

I sit on the sofa cross my legs under me and put a cushion over my trousers.

Lady jumps up beside me.

‘Get that bloody dog down.’

Lady pushs against me and we sit there together united!

‘I bloody give up!’

‘There is something bloody wrong with you.’

‘You can take them off before you get in the bed.’

’Go make me a cup of tea and you can stay down for a bit.’

I jump up running into the kitchen lady close at my heels.

Pull out the big box of matches and lite the kettle.

Wash Mam’s cup and put tea in the pot.

I quickly made a cup of tea and pour some milk into a cup for me, pouring some into a little into a dish for lady.

.’Shhh! Don’t tell Mam’

She looks up at me lapping the milk and I’m sure she knows what I say to her.

I carry Mam’s tea in put it next to her on the Cornish sit down with my milk.

Lady pushs the door and jumped back up beside me.

I lean over the sofa and picked up my book. Then snuggle down with lady. I turned the page and before long I;m lost with Peter Pan and Wendy.

Mam sips the hot tea looks over at us and shakes her head. she shakes her head a lot.

‘Okay you lie on there and read .Let me watch are you being served.’

Mam sits knitting I drink my milk and lie on the sofa with lady. I fall fast asleep with my book Mam shakes me telling me its time for bed.

‘ Come on get up. Your Dad will be in soon.’

‘Come on up the bloody dancers.’

I get up and sit on the stairs waiting for Mam to let lady back in.

Its raining she comes back shaking herself and runs upstairs before me. I shut the bedroom door, as Mam shouts ‘Don’t let that bloody dog on the bed!’ ‘I wont! Night Mam.’

‘ And take them bloody slacks off!’

‘ I have Mam’

I lie sliding into bed. Lady jumps up and settles by my belly.

As soon as she lies beside me I fell warm and safe. Me lady and Pippa.

If any monsters come Lady wont let them in she will bark and growl and wake Mammy up.

Wake up call.

pexels-photo-673862.jpegI’m beyond fed up.

I’m married.

I’m just eighteen, I have a beautiful baby and a vicious bully of a husband.

So far I’ve had broken nose, collar bone, arm and so many bruises I’ve lost count.

I don’t argue anymore.

I keep quiet.

But he’s pissed.

I’ve walked around the block three times to get the baby to sleep.

She’s finally dropped off.

I open the front door gently lift her from her pram almost run as quickly as I can upstairs gently put her in her cot and pull door shut behind me..

Listen

Quiet.

Tip toe down…

Then breathe.

He shouts. I jump. Heart thumping scared look around he hits me hard. My ear rings head bangs on the door frame. I scramble to my feet.

‘Where the fuck have you been?’ he says through gritted teeth smell of whisky wafting in my face splatters me with drunken spit.

I try to turn away. But he’s holding my jaw.

I’m 5’2 his 6, 7 frame towers over me.

‘Shush I plead the baby I stammer. I’ve been walking she’s teething … Needed to get her to sleep.’

I’m almost pleading I’m tired of this.

‘Not now please. Let’s not fight.’

‘Please’ I say again ‘I’ll make you tea.’

He pushes me down I get up again and pull the tansad pram up the front steps and though the front door.

Shutting it to keep the neighbours from witnessing my shame.

I push pram into the lounge he roars everything goes into slow motion he picks it up and throws it. Through the living room window.

Has someone pressed a button?

Glass splinters.

Slowly, shattering.

Pram hood up lands on upside down it’s bends and lands on its side.

I’m holding my breath.

Empty pram.

But he hadn’t checked.

He could have killed my baby.

The horror of the situation hits me.

Was that the wake up button?

He hits me again. And again. I’m numb

And I fall in the glass.

Blood everywhere.

A voice in my head. ‘Get up, get out of here.’

I keep crawling.

‘You lying bitch’ he’s saying as he alks into the kitchen

There’s blood dripping from my nose.

There’s a bang it’s the front door hitting the stair post.

The man who lives in the house opposite

Is standing there. Like a big shadow.

It’s all surreal. I feel sick.

He hold out his hand to me and pulls me up.

Jeff is back with glass of whisky.

‘What the fuck do you want?’

He is furious.

‘You’d better go I stammer to the man.’

He ignores me I’m really scared now.

‘Is this how you keep your women in line in St Helens he says?’

‘Beat the fuck out of them.’

He looks at me. ‘Where is your baby?’

‘Upstairs sleeping’ I manage.

‘What the fuck has it got to do with you?’ Jeff shouts dropping the whiskey and striding towards him.

It all happened so fast.

‘Call an ambulance says the man.’

‘ No I’ll be fine’ I say.

‘Not for you for this dick head’ and he hits Jeff. Knocking him into the lounge onto the broken glass I stand there frozen.

Jeff gets up and he hits him again and again

‘Come on he’s saying or can you only hit girls?’

Then he picks him up and throws him down the path.

‘I’m phoning the police’ Jeff says looking like he’s done a ten round boxing match.

‘No need says the stranger I rang them before I came.’

‘Now take yourself anywhere else but here.’

Just as a police car pulls up outside.

My dress is covered in blood from my broken nose. My face hurts but my baby is okay.

The police are pushing Jeff into the car.

The man is saying Jeff attacked him outside the house.

Police woman asks ‘Is that right?’

‘Yes’ I nod. ‘Did he do this to you?’

‘Yes’ I say.

My dad arrives from up the street. Looks at me with distain.

‘You’ve made your bloody bed lady lie in it.’

The man shakes his head.

‘Bloody idiots lot of them.’ he says.

‘You need to get away from this place’ he says. I smile ‘thank you.’

‘Hospital’ asks the police woman

‘No I’ll be fine I can’t leave my baby. I’ll go later.’

‘Are you sure’. ‘Yes’ I say.

I won’t go too many questions.

I close the door and start to pick up glass.

Look out into the garden at the pram on its hood.

My baby cries from her room.

I have to leave.