Chapter One - Holland 2008
I dedicate this book to my dear, beloved children. To my mother, brother and uncle, and to friends I have and have lost. I dedicate this book to you too, and hope you dream of the world you, and future generations would wish to live in, and believe the dream is universal, and has the power to manifest in reality to create paradise on Earth.
My mother, who has studied Buddhism for a number of years, believes the misfortune, insanity, and so on, which seems to plague our family, is due to the ‘karmic clearance of a group of people’, and perhaps she is right.
If I were to place my mother’s theory to one side, along with my own regarding this matter, I may assume bad luck has been to blame for my family’s hardships, and tragedies and disturbing events have led me to lose my mind, combined with an upbringing by troubled people living in a far from perfect world. The tiresome predicament I am in, therefore, which encourages me to write, would be nothing more than the kind of miserable situation others may find themselves in during this day and age.
To consider my theory, I should take you back to 1920’s England, which is the time and place my great grandmother, who was a full-blooded English gypsy, met my great grandfather, who was not.
My great grandmother and great grandfather embarked upon a love affair frowned upon by all, and despite their family’s furious objections, the couple were married. They began their married life with nothing, save their love for each other, as both were expelled from their families for doing so. My great grandfather lost his inheritance to one of England’s largest bakeries, while my great grandmother’s family disowned her entirely.
It is at this time I believe a curse may have been placed upon them. Perhaps by the family of my great grandmother, who were outraged she had married outside the gypsy community, or possibly by a jilted lover within the community, or maybe both, and, of course; maybe neither, since it is only a theory. Anyway, this is my theory, in short.
To expand on this theory, and describe how I think a curse may have affected my life, and the lives of those dear to me, I should lay the ground upon which I made my entry into this world, which means I should take you back to that distant past in England, once more, and travel with you, through time, until we reach what will be my present day.
My great grandfather and great grandmother had three children, and while their two daughters grew up unremarkably well, their son was a wild, troubled boy, who had to be carried screaming to school every day by his worried father.
Their son left school as soon as he was able, and began his working life as a coal miner in one of the Midland’s many collieries, where a serious injury drove him above ground to drive a lorry, and to work in an ammunition factory for the duration of the Second World War. Since the accident, he was plagued by ill health, depression and suicidal thoughts, all of which eventually led him to becoming home bound, and as familiar with the inside of the gas oven as any other part of the house. My grandfather’s homely existence was disturbed occasionally by spells in an asylum, where doctors attempted to jolt him into a healthier frame of mind with bursts of Electric Shock Therapy.
He was also prescribed a medley of medication, to relieve his anguish and better his health, which led him to become one of many unsuspecting National Health Service junkies of the 1950’s and 60’s, who were addicted to some of the powerful prescription drugs of the time.
‘Uppers’, with street names like Black Bombers and Purple Hearts, would magically wake my grandfather up in the morning, while ‘downers’ would send him, with the same magical effect, off to sleep at night. My grandfather’s smorgasbord of anti-depressants, uppers, downers, and all of his other drugs, were kept under lock and key by my grandmother, who, if she did not time the doses correctly, would find herself, together with her two children, and often with all three in helpless fits of laughter, pushing and pulling my peacefully sleeping grandfather up the stairs to bed.
Doctors were baffled by my grandfather’s maladies. They instructed surgeons to remove one of his eyes, believing it to be cancerous, and the possible cause behind his many unidentifiable illnesses. Upon seeing no improvement whatsoever, they asked a dentist to remove all of his teeth, since they were considered the root of his infirmities, but again, the condition of his health remained unchanged. My grandfather’s genuine ill health, combined with his tendency to hypochondria, left my grandmother, mother and uncle to advise their friends not to say – “how are you?” – when they saw him.
My grandfather knew the dictionary back to front, as well as the common and Latin names of all British fauna and flora, and he would impress family and friends by giving the exact dictionary definition of any word they chose. And since he was hopelessly addicted to gambling, he was as familiar with ‘the horses’ as he was the dictionary and British fauna and flora.
My mother left my father at the age of seventeen, after only three months of marriage, because he had kicked her in the stomach while she was pregnant with me, for leaving an unwashed fork in the sink. So, she returned home to live with her mother, father and brother, in their little red-brick, end-terrace house, which sat on the edge of a main road, weaving its way through the industrial heartland of the middle of England.
I was born in the year of 1964, and began my life within this modest, yet comfortable little home. Mum chose a strong name for me, believing I would need it, being a bastard child. She named me Martin.