My Career Begins

I did not know it at the time but we were on the edge of a new interest in old books. There had always been antique shops, but not many. Most people preferred new furniture when they bought a house. For a while antique furniture was astonishingly cheap, perhaps because modern furniture at first was not particularly attractive. After the war many people became interested in good quality antique furniture. But second-hand books were still second-hand books and had no special appeal except to scholars.

When I started the shop, there was a growing interest in all old things except for books and what were considered to be the best pictures from the past. I could find books to sell with the greatest of ease because there was very little opposition and little demand. After the war there was a rise in the number of auctions, especially in big country houses that nobody wanted.

Instead of sitting in my shop all day I went out two or three days a week to view auctions and search for books in another way. As I said before old bookshops were few and far between. All the time I was gathering knowledge about which books were most wanted. Sometimes I travelled so far I had to stay overnight to get the benefit of finding new shops to visit.

Kate was not happy with that. She was used to me being at home every night. Ever since she could hold a pencil in her hand it was very clear that she was a natural artist. She produced miniature picture books in a definite style of her own. She used colours well. Whenever I returned from one of my trips there would be under my pillow one of these small books welcoming me home. When she was old enough to write, she added stories, usually to do with animals and birds. These were her three greatest interests. By the time she was ten years old she had produced some exquisite work.

Both my sons were going through difficult teenage times. Kate with her useful cheerful self got on with her life and I sought refuge in my new bookshop.

All three of my children were highly creative. Both boys loved anything to do with machinery. Quentin and Kate made friends with ease and had an optimistic outlook. Robin was extremely sensitive to atmosphere. He thought he would like to go to university and was offered a place that was just right for him, a sandwich course in mechanical things. He loved solving that kind of problem and he still does. When he was in the sixth form, every Friday night after I had gone to bed early as I usually did, he would knock on my door, come in and sit himself down next to me. Then he would pour out all the emotional stuff that was bothering him.

He had an exceptional sensitivity to places and people. This made life very difficult for him.

I understood this myself because I had a similar tendency but not so powerful. The great psychologist Adler had this same ability to read people’s minds very quickly and diagnose problems before his clients had spoken. It was very useful to me when I became a teacher and a psychotherapist. My son must have recognised it in me, because he never told anyone else about it.

He would stay for about an hour and I listened without talking. He finished in a flood of tears and went away feeling much better. When he started his university course he was at first happy to be there but after a short time he could not bear to be away from home, meaning me. I thought the problem was settled. But it wasn’t. However, I insisted he find a suitable job through the help of a friend who ran a small factory and he continued to stay at home. He eventually worked his difficulties out and went away to a training centre where he learned a lot about televisions. Years later he said to me one day “Do you remember when I used to come and see you and tell you my problems? You shouldn’t have got so upset. I got over it on my own.”

“Now he tells me!” I said. He laughed.

Both my sons, on their own, taught themselves about computers and worked successfully for themselves in that area. Robin rebuilt an old motor-cycle and did all sorts of repairs to the cars he purchased. Even before he was five he could mend broken toys. Kate also refused to go to university for which she was more than qualified to do. However, in her early thirties, she began and finished a degree in psychology at the Open University. I was amazed that she should have chosen one of my favourite subjects. Had I suggested it earlier she certainly would have refused.

All of these skills were nothing to do with us parents. Whenever I see in the paper advice on how to keep children entertained in the holidays, I laugh with scorn. All children, if left to their own resources, will inevitably work out for themselves what they best want. It is much better to go along with their dearest desires, providing they are not too dangerous for their age, than try to force ideas into young minds. I always did what I wanted to do and I never needed encouragement. My children did exactly the same thing.

What is the result? They have worked for themselves most of the time and tried to do everything they wanted to do. Quentin built up a band for himself. Both brothers and Kate taught themselves how to play several instruments. They rarely asked me for help of any kind. Nor did I ever try to make them do anything. Well not very often! We got by as a happy family by respecting each others special interests. I am an enthusiastic person and so are my children. I believe that enthusiasm appears naturally once we are engrossed in what we love doing. However, if we need to get where we want, we also have to learn to work our way through disappointments. They are the only times when we parents may give a bit of encouragement. But not too much!



A Good Start for Children

I have now reached the point when I started my first successful business as a bookseller.

You may be wondering how I found my way through my childrens’ early years and managed at the same time to lay the foundation of a career. Is it possible for a woman to have a strong interest in her own work and at the same time give her children what they need. The best way is to get a balance between the two activities. During my fifteen years as a psychotherapist many women have asked me if they should have a baby or not, if they want to continue with their career. Of course I cannot answer for them, but as one who has done both successfully I have learned a lot from my own experience which I will pass on to my readers. Can women have their cake and eat it? Yes it is possible. It depends on the character of the mother and the circumstances.

The first few years of all of us are of the greatest importance. Putting babies out to nurseries is not a good idea. They need their mothers’ attention most of the time. As the child grows older the presence of the mother becomes less important and if they have had a good start they will be all too ready to leave home when they are in their late ‘teens. I am a firm believer that teen-age problems are the result of insecurity in early days. Remember my story of the effect on my son Quentin when I had to leave him for two months to go to England because my brother committed suicide. This was something that couldn’t be helped, but fortunately he had my presence until he was two; early enough to enable him to overcome the hard time he had to go through in his ‘teens.

My first job as a teacher began when the boys were four and six because it was the only job that allowed me to be free at the same time as they were. It worked very well because I had my little Mini Minor and we went to all sorts of interesting places during week-ends and holidays. When Kate was born I taught for mornings only and successfully left her for a few hours every week-day with a young mother who looked after her well. It wasn’t until she got to seven months that she began to cry when I went to school. However, I gave her attention most of the time especially in the holidays. When she was two we moved to Bedford and we had several months together until I opened my shop. I had a full-time housekeeper. She was a delightful girl and Kate liked her too. In addition we had the two grandparents who were living with us. Yet Kate would still cry sometimes when I went to my shop but it didn’t last long. By the time she was three she went to a very good nursery school in the mornings only. It was just round the corner from our house. Kate was always very outgoing and full of fun. It suited her very well.

I am convinced that well-cared-for children want to do as many things for themselves as they can manage. I was not one of those mothers who like babies so much that they don’t want them to grow up. I am the opposite. I enjoyed every phase in my children’s development, both physical and mental. That doesn’t mean it is easy always, especially in the ‘teens.

I remember a Saturday in Harlow. I was indoors marking a pile of maths exercise books. Quentin was four and Robin six. Robin could already ride a bicycle. Quentin could not. He asked me to teach him. I was engrossed with my books and I said “In a few minutes”. My few minutes turned into nearly an hour. I went out to find the boys, They were just coming down the road. Quentin was riding on his own and Robin was extolling his praises. “Look Mum” he said. “Quentin did it all by himself!” He had more than one cut on his legs but that didn’t bother him. “He fell off several times but he did it in the end!” said his brother with great pride.

My moral for this story is never to try to help too soon. The pleasure and confidence that are the result of a child’s effort will give them much more satisfaction than being helped.



Jean Pain Bookseller

Jean Pain, Antiqueseller is dead. Jean Pain, Bookseller is born. It took me a good two or three weeks to get all the bookshelves and their contents into my shop. What took longest was pricing all the books. How did I do it? I hadn’t a clue or just a tiny bit of a clue. I didn’t fall into the trap that most people do of believing that the earlier the book was published, the more valuable it is. The bible is a good example as it was probably the commonest of old books no matter how many centuries old it might be. With very few exceptions they were piled up in a corner so we could reach the highest books if we were too poor to buy a stepladder.

The books had cost me so little that it didn’t much matter what prices I put on them. I made an educated guess. There are some advantages of having earned a university literary degree. I actually had a repertoire of famous writers in my head and I could recognise a first edition when I saw one. All collectors will pay an arm and a leg for one rare book that will fill a long-awaited space. All good booksellers keep lists of such rarities for that is part of the fun. You never knew what might turn up and where.

Who buys old books? First and foremost, as I soon discovered, were other booksellers. They were few and far between and often the second and third generations of family businesses. They all spent many miles of driving especially to find the bookshops they already knew and any new ones that sprang up out of nowhere like me.

One day when I was making myself a cup of tea in the small kitchen at the back of the shop I heard some funny noises: plop! plop! plop! over and over again. I came round the corner to see what was going on. A middle-aged man dressed in drab clothes was going round the shelves, building up piles of my books on the floor. He took off his hat, showing himself to be a proper gentleman. “Ah Mrs Pain I see. I haven’t met you before. How long have you been here?” He then revealed himself to be a well-known bookseller from Preston in Lancashire. “You’ve got a nice lot of books here. As I am buying a fair number of them will you take off ten per cent? That is usual in the trade.” I made him a cup of tea and he said “I’ll come back soon”. This was the first time I had earned so much money in one go. And I had only just started. He visited me frequently after that and always bought books, but he never did so well as the very first time before I picked up some of the ropes. However, one of the advantages of visiting fellow booksellers is that we all loved books and had our own special knowledge of which books are most sought after and their market price.

After a while I learned that there was a very useful publication that came out yearly: The Book Auction Records. It gave up-to-date information of the prices paid for the most sought after books sold at auctions.

Was advertising for books any good? No. Not in the ‘sixties and not now. Only if you are lucky. Unhappily, most of the bookshops, especially the second-hand ones, are nothing as popular as it was then. Of all the kinds of ways in which we might pass our leisure, the least popular always has been reading. Some people blame the vast increase of television. But I think readers will always be readers. I very rarely find anything I want to watch on TV. I like to make my own pictures when I am reading and as far as I know this is true of all people like me. This is a characteristic of using our own magic camera. The decline is in the number of people who no longer collect books, not necessarily to read but to own rare things, whatever they may be. It is a form of snobbery. Most people do not have one book in their houses. That has always been so and always will be. They think magazine is another word for book. Every day prospective seekers of a bit of money brought in piles of paper. “But it is old!” they would cry “I got it from my Dad!”



Planning for the Future

We moved to Bedford when Kate was nearly two years old and the boys were eight and eleven. I knew that sooner or later we would run out of money. It was imperative that I should get a business going as soon as possible. Teachers’ salaries were still very small in those days. Bob’s father had recently married for the second time. Neither of them were my sort of people, but his new wife had a great love of children. They had bought a small cottage in the countryside and they were always glad to see the children. I had to work out how I could plan to establish a business and make sure I spent enough time with Kate.

Bedford had for a long time been sought after as a good place to retire to by professional people who had spent most of their working life in the Raj. Those who had children sent them at an early age to public schools in England. Bedford was an ideal choice because of the plentiful and cheap, big and beautiful houses and the Harpur Trust with its four excellent public schools, two for boys and two for girls.

I suggested to Bob that it might be a good idea to buy such a house and invite his father and his wife to come and live there with us in their own apartment and bathroom. They agreed. We bought a lovely house with three reception rooms, a beautiful stained-glass window facing the street, half way up a wide staircase, seven bedrooms, two bathrooms and a spacious garden full of shrubs and trees with a lawn where we could play badminton. We all loved it. We were close to the centre of the town and to the schools. The boys could ride there on bicycles and we had a garage. Bob had the whole place decorated. It looked wonderful when it was finished. We spent three very happy years there, then things changed. Bob’s father and his wife, although they were very kind to the children, decided they would leave and buy a small house at the other side of the town. Anyway, Kate was nearly ready to leave nursery school to go to Bob’s school.

Moreover, the house was costly to maintain. We reluctantly accepted a very good offer for it and bought a smaller one in a very pleasant part of Bedford that was, at one time, a separate village.

During those years I had rented a small shop near to the centre and set myself up as an antiques seller. For the first three years there I earned hardly a penny. That was hardly surprising since I knew very little about the goods I was buying and selling. Opposite me was an old man who had been a dealer in antiques all his life. He wasn’t best pleased to see me opening up, but he soon realised how little I knew and took pity on me by giving me some help. Not that it made much difference. However, I soon grasped that this work was not for me except for my meeting of many different kinds of people. I realised just how easily I could talk to anybody and quickly grasp some of the inner workings of the minds of complete strangers. I have always been able to do this, probably as the result of my magic camera and close observation of what people say and how they behave.

I was getting desperate and frustrated. I had a big car so that I could carry things I had bought and other objects that I had sold and delivered. At that time there were many auction sales especially  in very big houses that no-one wanted to buy. It was a bright sunny day. I parked my car and wandered around from one room to another until I came to the library. It was beautiful. I looked at the rows of well kept books, many of which looked as though they had never been touched.

I then remembered that every sale of old houses had lots of books, yet hardly anyone bought them. All my life I had read books of many different kinds. I like to learn new things especially about people and animals. Of course we are all animals but we speaking ones don’t like to admit it. I was just getting into the work of Darwin and his colleagues.

Books always seemed to be offered at the end of sales. Something new had crossed my mind, something so astonishing that I had never thought of it before. Why had I been dithering about with antique furniture and glass etc. when I could have been buying and selling books instead? The first block of books were being offered. There was a pause. The price was lowered two or three times and no-one raised a hand. I hesitated for a moment and then I put up mine. I got it for a very low price. After that I bid for every lot. Then there were offers of the old book-cases. They were all quite big. Only the small ones that would fit into modern houses were sold and not for very much.

I wondered whether the taller ones would fit into my shop. I decided they would. I bought several of them for low prices. At the end of the sale I had spent very little money, something like £250. A plan had presented itself to me. I hired two pantechnicons to deliver the lots to my shop in two weeks. This would give me enough time to have everything in the shop taken away to the nearest auction rooms which happened to be very close to my place of business.

Within a very short time I became a bookseller. The book-cases were very useful and fitted in well. For the rest I bought some cheap free-standing wooden shelves.

Everyone including Bob thought I had gone mad. Instead I had done exactly the right things. Very few people were interested in old books at that time. Most of them were old gentlemen. I knew of no woman who had done such a thing as I did. But I was right. I never looked back.



An Unexpected Event

It wasn’t as easy for Bob to find a teaching post as it was for me. He had to settle for a rather rough comprehensive school a few miles away from Harlow. At first he used to use the red Mini for the journey as I could easily walk to my school. However, I wanted to get away from Harlow. There were nicer places. We found a beautiful village, Little Hallingbury, in the depth of the country and we were very happy there. We had to buy a second car so that Bob could use it for his journey and I could take the boys and myself to Harlow.

We were also looking for a good school for the boys. It wasn’t easy. Bob wanted to find a better post for himself but that wasn’t easy either. I was in the third year of my school and I was determined not to stay for a fourth year. I had just before Christmas landed myself with a maths post at an excellent girls grammar school in Bishops Stortford, which was very close to home.

Fate stepped in again to my astonishment. It was just after Christmas when I discovered that I was pregnant. The boys were nearly ten and nearly eight years old. I was looking forward to the time when I could start my business. The last thing I wanted was another baby. Robert Burns was yet again letting me know that my well laid schemes were going a-glay. Yet what I thought was a disaster turned out to be one of the very best things in my life. Despite all my planning it turned out that I did not know what was best for me, yet at the same time my constant plans, eventually, in a very roundabout way, led me to the path that I needed to tread. I was a late developer because I had a lot to learn. All my experiences were necessary to get me to the point where I could make the best use of my inherited talents.

The weather in the late winter of 1963 was one of the worst ever. Unlike my first two pregnancies I suffered from morning sickness for several weeks as I drove my boys to school. After that I began to feel amazingly well and was able to teach up to the end of the summer term. I had to notify the headmistress who had offered me a job, that I was expecting a baby in October. She was desperate for a maths teacher. We came to an agreement that, if I could find a reliable woman to look after my baby five mornings in the week, I could take the lessons in the morning only. This came to pass. A few doors away from our house was a young woman with her first baby. She was perfect and agreed to do this for the first year.

As the time went by, I began to think how nice it would be if it was a girl. I was certain that would happen. When my daughter was born I was overwhelmed with joy and so were the boys. Bob also was pleased and he took more interest in Kate than he had taken with them. Both the boys fell in love with her. She was such a happy and very funny baby. It was she, more than anyone else, who transformed me from a sobersides into someone with a sense of humour.

I didn’t stay very long in my second post. Quite by chance, we met a teacher who was leaving her job in The Girls Grammar School in Bedford. Her subject was Spanish, which was just right for Bob and he was able to teach some English literature as well. The school was one of the four members of the Harpur Trust. The two boys were accepted by the Boys’ Modern School. Although they were behind, the teacher who interviewed them agreed that they were intelligent. He was right. All three of our children are talented in their own way and have developed their particular gifts, mostly after they left school. But all three said that they had gained a lot from these schools, though they didn’t think that at the time.

At long last I got what I wanted from Bedford where I opened my first shop.



The Family Reunited

At long last it was time for Bob to come home. He decided to go by ship to Italy, taking his car with him so that he could come home at his leisure, visiting some of the places in Europe where he hadn’t been before. But one of my favourite poets, Robert Burns reminded us that “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a- glay.” And so did Bob’s. He had barely embarked and was still in the Carribean area when catastrophy struck. The boiler room blew up, two men who were working there died at once and the whole ship caught fire.

Fortunately the ship was very close to the island of Granada. It was forbidden to go back to the cabins. Everything happened so quickly. The crew took care of the passengers, shepherding them to the life-boats as fast as possible. Bob had his camera with him. He took pictures of the sinking ship from his place in a life-boat. Everyone was amazed at how speedily this happened.

Everyone had to leave their belongings behind them.

The people in Granada were very kind and helpful. They were given accommodation and went shopping for new clothes. Bob found a tailor who measured him and produced a suit within three days. Naturally most people wanted to get home as soon as possible. Within a few days arrangements were made for everyone to fly home.

Bob sent a telegram home within hours of the disaster to say he would be with us in a few days time. The boys were wild with excitement when they heard the news on the radio. When he arrived my magic camera was in full force. I can see him now, dressed in a very strange suit and carrying a particularly fine new piece of luggage. He and we were all ecstatic! Quentin, in his usual fashion threw himself into his Dad’s arms. Robin held back for a moment because he had forgotten what his father looked like. Once inside Bob told us every detail of what had happened. We all sat round the table to have our tea, and there was a wonderful atmosphere of the solidarity of our family again.

It was nearly the end of the summer term. Bob proudly walked his sons to school and fetched them at hometime.

We went all over the place that summer. Bob loved the little red Mini Minor I had bought. He was so pleased to be back in England and the boys enjoyed telling their friends that they did indeed have a Dad who had been through the great excitement of being rescued from a burning boat.

Bob had finished his time with Shell and he got a very handsome sum of money when he left. Houses were incredibly cheap in England. We were still recovering from the war, very few people could afford to have a car. We were much better off than most people.

I asked Bob what he was going to do next. “Nothing” he said. After years of work he wanted to have a good few months to enjoy his freedom. He made it quite clear that he wanted to enjoy being with his family. When he first went to university he intended to become a teacher. He meant to do that once he had settled down. When we were still together in Venezuela we had discussed the possibility that I, who had ambitions, might start a business and once it got going he could join me in it. I certainly did not want to go on teaching for much longer.

I thought of us running a small hotel, but on afterthoughts that did not sound what I wanted. Charles, my brother-in-law worked in an antiques business that his father started after World War 1. It became very successful. I like beautiful things. He invited me to spend a couple of weeks in the London shop and I got hooked on the idea of running one myself. At that point we did not intend to have more children, so I could start a business when both the boys were comfortably settled in school. There was a fly in the ointment. I knew my boys were very bright but I soon realised that the education they were given was not nearly as good as our own. We began to think that we must find a public school with a good reputation.



Learning from Children

When my sons began to go to school I took up my post as a teacher at the nearest comprehensive school. I said that if either of my children fell ill I would have to take some time off. They agreed because they were so keen to employ me as a maths teacher. I employed a woman to come in and clean my house twice a week. She agreed to do extra time and stay with either of the boys if they were not well enough to go to school, which happily was on the opposite side of the street from our house so I could get home very quickly if anything should go wrong .

It was the children’s first experience of an English winter so it was almost inevitable that this would happen. In fact it did, but their share of sickness did not bring on anything too worrying so I rarely had to take time off. They were so excited by all the new things they saw in England, especially London where they loved going to the Zoo, beautiful parks, the botanical gardens and most of all the science museums where they loved the enormous reconstructions of dinosaurs. Both boys looked forward eagerly to Guy Fawkes Night and their first Christmas in England.

Bob wrote to me and to them regularly. He was hoping that when he returned to England I would have changed my mind about having a divorce. I was still uncertain. The boys missed their father but not nearly as much as they had missed me when I had to go home to sort things out when my brother died. Nevertheless, I did not like the idea of breaking up a family with divorce. Bob was a good father. He loved his children more than most fathers do, just as he loved me more than most husbands love their wives. Whatever I did he seemed to know that I meant to look after my own wellbeing even when he found it hurtful. I never found another man I could marry with the same intense integrity that he had about the rights of women. Whatever some people may say, I was convinced that all children need both mother and father until they are old enough to leave home. I wanted my children to have a much better childhood than I experienced. Bob and I had both suffered under rowing parents and both of us were upset to such an extent that we never, ever quarrelled. We sorted things out logically however painful the situation. Those who have children have a great responsibility.

I found it exhilarating to have a proper job earning money and best of all to be doing something for which I was, to my surprise, well-fitted. For some reason I got on better with the boys than the girls.

Adolescent girls can think up exceptionally crafty and nasty ways to make trouble. They were much more skilful at doing harmful things and causing pain with words than the boys who were far more straightforward and tended to settle upsets with other boys with physical blows. Both myself and my daughter gave birth to two sons. Watching them grow up I noticed the great difference of the sexes between the behaviour groups of boys and those of girls.

Here is an example of malicious teen-age girls at their worst. This one had fair hair and blue eyes and looked too good to be true. Her parents were very nice people. She was not. One day in the cookery-room everyone was making scotch eggs. At the end of the lesson, this particular girl said to another one, “Would you like mine as well?” She agreed and said “That is very kind of you.” The next day this girl told the cookery teacher that when she bit into her scotch egg she cut inside her mouth with broken eggshells. Whilst everyone else took off the shells before they wrapped the sausage-meat round them, this one obnoxious girl had deliberately left the shell intact around the egg.

Another day this same girl was in the science laboratory. She said to the teacher “Shall I stay behind and finish the tidying up?” The teacher was pleased. When everyone had gone, she turned on all the gas-burners, went out and closed the door. Fortunately, as the caretaker was doing his rounds he detected a strong smell of gas, ran into the room and turned all the gas-taps off.

When I left that school at the end of the year the boys gave me a large chocolate box full of little things for babies. I was unexpectably pregnant for the third time. The girls gave me nothing.



Learning to Teach

I found a post at one of the new comprehensive schools. My first degree was in Hispanic Studies. The school already had a Spanish teacher but a maths teacher was badly needed. I had gained a distinction in maths in my school certificate. This was more than good enough to teach the pupils. I was accepted and taught the subject for five years, three at the comprehensive and two, part-time in a girls’ grammar school when we moved into our first bought house in the delightful village of Little Hallingbury. Didn’t the boys like that? We lived on one side of the village green. The boys loved the week-end and the holidays because they could ride their bikes freely and safely, exploring the beautiful countryside there.

What did I learn from my first teaching post? That I was a natural-born teacher. I knew instantly, after one lesson, who were the children who were not happy and what I could do to give them extra help. This was easy in a subject like maths because most of the time was taken up by teaching a new method on the blackboard and then giving the children examples to solve. As I wandered round the room to see how they were getting out, I soon recognised those who were in difficulties and I developed my own techniques to help them to work things out for themselves. I asked them to tell me about every step of the way, so that they soon realised where they went wrong.

If we respond quickly to a certain subject, it is because we have picked something up so fast that we are not aware of the small steps we take to get there. At school I was a good mathematician but not a brilliant one. I had to spend more time on my work than the best pupils. Unlike many other subjects, if we miss out a step in solving a maths problem, it will hold us back until we have found the missing part.

I think it is likely that most of us have found ourselves in a position that we find difficult and someone else says “It’s easy!” It doesn’t do much for our ego does it? However we must remember that the cleverest of us soon have to struggle when we find ourselves in new ground. It happens to me many times when I am using my computer. We older ones who are faced with new procedures, entirely different from anything we have ever seen before, get into this position. No-one has ever written a simple enough manual. Too much is left out. If we ask a question, what usually happens is the “helper” goes through each step so fast that we have to keep saying, “Slow down, slow down”, or “What button did you press then?”

My colleagues in the department were far ahead of me with degrees in maths but that didn’t matter because I had enough knowledge to teach them what they needed to know. But I managed to help a larger number of pupils who were convinced that they were stupid. I happen to know the answer to the secret of being able to find a way into most other people’s minds when it is necessary. No-one is ever taught how to do this, it is a gift which you are either born with or without. This applies also to all the REAL painters, writers, and discoverers of all sorts of things but without it, we are stuck with merely copying other people. Don’t waste your time on learning how to write a good book, for instance. You will only learn techniques and grammar. The source of all the best comes from our inner self and life experience. Real writers tell stories as soon as they can talk. They find new material every day by noticing and wondering about everything that they see. We all have our own way of noticing (or not noticing!) the world around us. The character of the writer, artist and all kinds of creative people is reflected in their work. That is why it is so easy to recognise who writes or paints what. We like those things that reflect back to us our own choices of what is beautiful and what is not.

Teaching in two very different kinds of schools taught me many of the main characteristics of both teachers and pupils. I also learned that the new ideas were going in the wrong direction. There has always been a lot of bad education, as some of our best writers, such as Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw and the Swiss psychotherapist, Alice Miller, with her ideas about the damage done to children by poisonous pedagogy, have told us because the aim of those in power have concentrated mostly on fitting people into the cultures into which we are born and teaching them to do monotonous and dangerous jobs for the benefit of a small number of greedy people who want to make money. Real education is helping children to find out what they do best and to encourage them. If people are treated as individuals from the moment they are born, instead of slaves, society is likely to provide all of us with what we really need. Karl Marx had the same idea but he was misunderstood. Those who want to dominate us and turn us into slaves will always misinterpret good writers. Nietzsche is one of my favourite philosophers who really cared about the freedom of men and the damage that is caused by many kinds of organised religion. People often quote his well-known phrase: God is Dead. Everyone has their own ideas of what the word “god” means. It is not a rejection of spirituality: another word which tries to give a name to something we all recognise but cannot know. Hitler turned his ideas into their opposite to suit his purpose.


Temper Tantrums

It was wonderful to be back in England again with my sons. I went to Harlow New Town because my sister was there and I could help her to lighten the burden of Mother. We stayed at first in Mary’s flat. Charles came over every week-end from London. He was very popular with the boys because he always came laden with chocolates and sweets. In a very short time I was allocated to a small rented house with a garden. There were open fields and woods carefully left close to the rows of houses. Robin was six years old and loved going off on his own to look at the trees and the birds throughout the summer. He was six years old and would be starting school in September.

Today we would not dare to let children of that age wander off. But then, in a fairly small community, we assumed he would be safe. However, one day he had stayed away much longer than usual. I got more and more worried. It was well past tea-time. Finally he sauntered in through the garden gate with a faraway look in his eye. His mind was still there in the woods. I flew at him and started to shake him. I couldn’t stop crying at the same time. I soon stopped. He was so upset poor kid.

I had never done such a thing before and I never did it again. I think it is unforgivable to strike children who are too small to defend themselves. I never did it to my other two, except for when Kate stayed out much later when she was sixteen with a boyfriend. I didn’t have many rules for the children. The two main ones were that they must go to bed at a certain time which got later every year and when they were in their ‘teens and still living with us, they must let me know if they were going to be home later than usual.

Once we moved into the house I furnished it and bought a Mini Minor car, one of the earliest ones. It was a bright red. The boys still remember the many places we went to in it. Everything was so new and exciting for me and even more so for my sons. They particularly liked to go out for the day in Epping Forest with a picnic at the week-end and once every Friday we went to the cinema. Films were so much better, for all ages, then than they are today. Quentin was a particularly independent child. He was outgoing and friendly. Old gentlemen would pat him on the head and press a sixpence or shilling into his hand when he gave them a dazzling smile and said “Hello.”

Robin was the opposite, he was shy with strangers and didn’t speak to them. Quentin knew what he wanted and usually tried to get it. One day, coming out of the cinema, we saw the ice-cream man standing outside waiting to catch a few customers. My rule was that they had one ice-cream once they were inside. Quentin said at once “Can I have an ice-cream?” I said “No. You have had one already.” He then flew into a rage. I took Robin’s hand and walked off towards the car. Quentin of course, ran after us, bawling with all his might.

I opened the car door, Robin climbed in and Quentin too. He cried all the way home, which was not very far. I took the car round to its garage which was just round the corner from our house. Both boys got out and I headed for the front door. I opened the door, Robin went in and Quentin was running after him, still crying. I slammed the door in his face. His voice rose to a roar and he banged on the door. I went in and put on the kettle to make a cup of tea. Robin kept his eyes on me to see what I was going to do. I didn’t get cross often, and he rarely saw me so quietly angry.

Outside our door was a bus-stop. One of the people waiting knocked. I opened it and she said “Your little boy is crying.” I said “Mind your own business” and slammed the door in her face. Quentin was still in full temper.

I waited until he stopped. It seemed a long time but probably it was not. Finally he slowed down to a much subdued intermittent sob. Then I opened the door. Once again he began to rage. I shut him out again. Very soon he stopped completely. Then I let him in. I laid the table for tea and we all sat down and ate. I said absolutely nothing. Both the boys watched me carefully. I had never behaved in such a way. After we finished, Quentin was still snuffling but the tantrum was over.

He said to me “Would it be rude to ask if I can do the washing up?” He said that because he often asked for something he knew I would not give him. I paused for a minute. “Yes. You can” He did it very well and I said “Thank you”. I did not hug him. I remembered a saying I read somewhere. ‘Never reward bad behaviour’.

I was longing to take him in my arms, but I knew it would be a mistake. I thought to myself, if I let him get his own way now, how can he respect me when he is much older and bigger than I am? One part of me was angry with myself. But I was right. He never had a tantrum again. He had accepted that it didn’t work for him.

He has always fought for the important things he wants with great determination and it has always helped him. He grew up knowing the difference between flying into a useless rage and standing firm for what he knows he must do to get the important things in life.



Reluctant Revenge

My first reaction to being back home was one of joy. After a few days I began to realise just how much Quentin had suffered from my absence. It was easier for Robin because he was older. He missed me very much but he knew he would see me again. The bond of the child to the mother grows weaker as he gradually becomes more and more independent. This is how things should be. The younger children are, the more time stretches out longer and longer without the beloved presence of the mother. When a child is only two or less when the mother goes away, even a few days can seem like forever. Two months seemed so long for Quentin, that although he received me back with delight I was not the same to him that I was before. Argenida, my maid, told me that for several days after I went, he cried a great deal and kept looking about him to see where I was. When that stopped, his behaviour was re-arranged to annoy those around him. Yet he was still his cheerful self. He was a born optimist. Nevertheless there was a distance between us that wasn’t there before.

It was nice to be a family again but there were some undercurrents. Things were not right between Bob and me. My enjoyment of Venezuela was wearing thin. I wanted to go back to England for good. We knew that Bob’s work would come to an end in another two years. One of the messages I wish to pass on to my readers is that when we are in a difficult position emotionally, those of us like me who are imaginative and like to plan for the future work out ideas in our conscious minds, but make our real plans in our unconscious mind. Only that part of us understands what we really want.

I knew, first and foremost, I must go back to England with the boys and find myself some work to do. It would have to be teaching because I had the right qualifications and would leave me enough time for the boys. I was still angry inside with Bob because he had so badly failed to understand my motive for going home. I found it very difficult to give him what he wanted from me. Like most men his sex-life was very important to him, but I always felt that he was not giving me anything. How could he when he knew so little about me?

I decided to do something positive. I would have proper swimming lessons and so would the boys. The club swimming teacher was a big, strong Italian employed by the company. He often walked past my house and I liked the look of him. He had a solitary air and appeared to have no friends. He never joined in with any of the entertainments at the clubhouse as far as I could see.

Quentin went every morning to an infant school run by a Dutch woman who was very kind and loved children. Quentin was happy there. Robin was in the first year of school. He liked everything except the senorita, the Venezuelan teacher who taught Spanish. “I am an English boy. Why do I have to learn Spanish?”. This was surprising with two Spanish-loving parents. Despite the fact that the boys were three and five when we left, neither of them remembered anything at all about those years.

I had made up my mind that I would have an affair with this man that would bring me some kind of male comfort. With both boys at school and his flat outside in the town of Maracaibo, I thought I could meet him in private.

I didn’t fall in love with him, but he did with me. He was a kind and philosophical man who had never married. He was fifteen years older than I. He appeared to me as something like a father figure. Most of the men who have liked me have been in that category. This is hardly unexpected when I think of my own father and our lack of closeness.

Our relationship had a kind of unreal feeling, tucked away in his tiny flat listening to extracts from the opera “La Boheme” with a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice. He talked about marriage and that he couldn’t marry me because my children would say to him “I am not your father.” From what he told me about his past I guessed he had never really wanted to marry. He had not the slightest thought of such a thing.

I like to be truthful in all aspects of my life. It wasn’t long before I began to feel very guilty. I am not one who can easily behave in this way. Again in hindsight, I knew this couldn’t last much longer.

One day I told Bob, who said “Yes I thought something was going on.” He was very upset. I couldn’t feel sorry for him. He sent that cruel letter and I felt I had my revenge. My Italian friend provided me with a good reason for going back to England with the boys. Bob stayed on to finish his contract. From what he told me about it he had an enjoyable time, free from all this high drama. The Venzuelans loved him.

I realised once and for all that I must take good care of myself and I knew that my family was and is, the most important aspect of my life.

What was I going to do? Yes. I still wanted to have my great career and I still didn’t know what I wanted. I was thirty and I thought I had wasted time in some respects. But I had not. I was always trying things out, reading everything that could teach me what I wanted to know, finding out more and more of other people and myself and enjoying studying my boys by spending enough time with them.