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Daddy’s Little Earner: A heartbreaking true story of a brave little girl's escape from violence


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  • Текст добавлен: 10 января 2019, 04:23

Текст бизнес-книги "Daddy’s Little Earner: A heartbreaking true story of a brave little girl's escape from violence"

Автор книги: Maria Landon

Раздел: Биографии и Мемуары, Публицистика

Текущая страница: 1 (всего у книги 4 страниц)

Daddy’s Little Earner

Little Earner

A heartbreaking true

story of a brave little girl’s escape from violence



Andrew Crofts

To Glen Love you and miss you always xx

‘Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.’

Charles Dickens – Great Expectations


‘Ria, you’re my favourite,’ Dad would tell me throughout my childhood. ‘All daddies love their little girls the best.’ I’d fill with pride at this announcement from my big, handsome, heroic father. I was his special one. My brother Terry might be Mum’s favourite but Dad loved me most and I’d have done anything to please him.

Mum says that right from the start he boasted to all and sundry that he was going to train me to be ‘the best little prostitute on the block’, but I only gradually got an inkling of what that meant. I probably didn’t want to know so I blocked it, even when he brought home his prostitute friends and dressed me up in their clothes. Even when he started breaking me in.

Years later, when my testimony put him in jail for living off my immoral earnings, he said: ‘You can cut me into a thousand pieces but I’ll always put myself back together again and I’ll be there for you, no matter what you do. I’m the only one who will ever truly love you.’

I think he genuinely did love me, to the extent that he was capable of love, and I stayed a daddy’s girl right into my teens. He was my dad, the only one I had, after all. And he had a lot of charm, he could talk the birds down from the trees. There are plenty of people, even now, who have a soft spot for him, despite knowing everything he’s done.

Without that charm, none of it would ever have happened. Mum wouldn’t have fallen head over heels for him, a lot of other people wouldn’t have got hurt, and I wouldn’t have found myself working the streets at the age of thirteen to keep him in booze.

Every little girl has the potential to be a pop star, a ballerina, a doctor, a barrister, a policewoman or a prostitute, but to make the right choices they need support and guidance from the people whose responsibility it is to care for them. With a dad like mine, I never stood a chance.

Daddy’s Little Earner

Chapter One

a glamorous couple

Terry and Jane, my mum and dad, were always described as a glamorous couple. Anyone who knew them when they were young in the early 1960s would agree on that, however much they might later disapprove of the way they both behaved. It was obvious to everyone that they absolutely adored one another; you might even say they were obsessed, and that it was their obsession with one another that led to so many of our problems.

If they were both the loves of one another’s lives, as they undoubtedly were, you would have thought that would have given us, their children, a secure start in life – but there were other darker elements of their relationship at work almost from the moment they met, which turned our family and our lives into a nightmare.

Everyone in the pubs that he frequented loved Dad. He was tall and handsome, with dark hair and a powerful presence about him. He was invariably immaculately dressed in a suit and tie and known for being good company wherever he was, never able to resist playing up to an adoring crowd of admirers.

Mum was only five feet four, but she had a perfect figure, slim but curvy, which she readily showed off with mini skirts, hot pants and tightly fitted tops, everything that was fashionable amongst the young in those days, even in Norwich, a good few miles away from ‘swinging London’. I don’t have any early memories of her but I’m told she was strikingly beautiful, with long jet-black hair, deep brown eyes and flawless skin.

Dad was the black sheep of his family, or so the legend was whispered, the one with a dubious past who never did the right things but who prided himself on doing the wrong things with style. He always claimed that he was conceived when his mother had a fling with another man during the war, while his father (his mother’s husband, that is) was away from home doing the honourable thing and fighting for king and country. If that was true it would certainly go some of the way towards explaining why Dad was so different to the rest of his family, and why we were always treated as though we were outsiders in some way that was never actually put into words. Having a different father to his siblings meant there was always a gap between them and him. His life seemed to travel on totally different tracks to theirs, partly from his own choice and partly because of the way he was and the things he believed. Maybe the fact that he had a different father was also the reason why Dad was his mother’s favourite, the one she would always stick up for no matter what he did.

Her husband, who was a farmer, got into a lot of debt when he came back from the war and, unable to see a way out, he shot himself in the shed at the bottom of their garden. Dad said he was the one who found the body when he was still just a small boy. No one else ever verified that story for me so I have no way of knowing if it was true, but I certainly believed it at the time. Maybe it was true. Whatever happened, I certainly didn’t have a grandfather on that side and Nanny lived alone in her bungalow a few miles away from us.

Rumour also had it in the family that my dad and my grandmother slept in the same bed until he was fourteen. That seems very believable, given how close they were and how she tried to protect him from everyone, including me. It might also have explained why he was as relaxed as he was about everything to do with sex and nudity.

My aunts and uncles all grew up to be very different to Dad, quite middle class in their values and successful in their lives. They’ve bought their own homes and run their own businesses and none of them would have wanted to have anything to do with the sort of people that Dad liked to hang out with, the thieves, alcoholics and prostitutes who trooped in and out of our home at all hours of the day and night, and drank with him in the pubs of Norwich.

Dad didn’t learn to read and write until long after I could – and I know he spent some time in an approved school as a boy, although no one ever told me what for. There was a story about him throwing a bus driver off the bus when he was still quite young and I believe the chap later died of a heart attack, although I don’t know any more details. I doubt anyone could have been sure the two events were directly linked but it sounds like the sort of thing Dad might have done. As well as being a charmer he was also a bully and a show-off and he had an uncontrollable temper, which he frequently vented with violence.

Although Mum’s family lived in a council house and hadn’t done as well as some of Dad’s relatives, she had been a bit spoiled by her father. Like Dad, she was always a problem to her parents in her early teens, running away from home, being wild and causing them no end of worry. Mind you, she can’t have been that wild because on the night she met Dad, when she was still fifteen, she had gone out to the pictures on a date with another lad and when he tried to put his hand up her skirt in the dark she was mortified and slapped it away. Apparently affronted by such forward behaviour she immediately ran out of the cinema and set out to walk home alone, having successfully protected her honour. Just up the road she bumped into Dad, whom she had never met before. He was only a couple of years older than her but was already very skilled at laying on the charm and flattery. He was tall and well-dressed, a proper ladies’ man, and her head was turned. He must have worked some magic because he didn’t meet with any of the resistance the poor guy in the cinema had encountered and they ended up having sex together that very first night. That was how the great love affair, which was to destroy so many lives, began.

When Dad first brought Mum home, my grandmother was overjoyed and immediately encouraged them to get married and start having children, but of course they had to wait until Mum was old enough. Dad had been in a fair bit of trouble when he was younger, always drinking and mixing with the wrong crowd, and Nanny was probably relieved to think she could get him off her hands, hoping he would settle down now that he had met the right woman.

Mum’s parents were not as pleased by this great love match as Dad’s mum was. In fact they went to court to try to stop her from seeing him. As she was only fifteen I suppose they thought they had a chance of saving her from him before it was too late. They must have been able to see through his charm and bravado immediately and they despised him, believing he was no good and would end up hurting their daughter. As it turned out they were completely justified in their fears. They had probably hoped she would meet some steady guy with a regular job who would be able to calm her down, and anyone meeting Dad would have known instantly that he was not going to be the man for that job.

The more her parents told her not to see him, of course, the more determined she became. By disapproving of her choice her parents had turned the affair into something illicit, adding to its glamour and excitement, making Dad seem like a forbidden fruit. From the first moment they spoke up against him they didn’t stand a chance of keeping two such wilful, self-destructive kids apart.

Mum was nineteen when she fell pregnant for the first time, and they got married a week or two after my brother Terry Junior was born in 1965. Dad’s mum was thrilled; I think she paid for the marriage licence and everything. Mum’s parents must have realized they had lost the battle by that stage and were going to have to make the best of a bad job. Perhaps they hoped that having a baby would make Terry and Jane settle down a bit and take their responsibilities seriously.

I was born a year later, in 1966, followed three years after that by Christian and then by Glen in 1970. Right from the word go I was a proper little daddy’s girl. I adored him, while Terry was more of a favourite for Mum.

‘The moment you were born you were his,’ Mum once told me, and I knew it was true. He loved my brother Terry too, but once I was born Terry became Mum’s and I was his. The night of my birth I’m told he paraded around the hospital, completely drunk and smoking a cigar, much to the annoyance of the sister in charge.

‘Right from the start,’ Mum said, ‘from when you were born, he used to joke that he was going to make you the best little prostitute on the block.’

Chapter Two

early home life

Beneath the glamorous act that Mum and Dad put on for the world when they were out around the pubs, things must have been pretty grim for them. While Terry was a baby they lived in a bed-sitting room, and it was only after I was born that they were given their own council house. If Dad had a job in those days it would have been painting and decorating, but I never knew him to do much work when he was a grown man and I can’t imagine he was any different in his early twenties. He always says he worked in the early days when he and Mum were together, but she would say he didn’t do much.

As a some-time decorator, Dad was able to do the house up a bit himself, but he only bothered with the parts that he saw and wanted to show off to the people he brought home at night. Their bedroom was beautiful and so was the sitting room, but the kitchen and outside toilet were horrible and our rooms were all bare boards and disgusting old wallpapers left by previous occupants; we had no curtains or furniture or light bulbs. We were given a couple of blankets each and there was no heating. I used to get myself dressed under the blankets in the morning, unable to face stepping out into the freezing room until I had on as many layers as possible.

Mum was very glamorous in those days, good at making the most of herself with make-up and clothes, and she owned an array of wigs to change her look when she wanted to. She used to sing around the pubs and clubs she and Dad frequented and she was keen to do more with her talent, maybe even going professional. She had a terrific, soulful voice and got a chance to appear on Opportunity Knocks, which was like the X-Factor of the time, but Dad wouldn’t let her do it. I guess he was frightened he would lose control of her if she became successful, that he would be out of his depth amongst the sort of people she would meet and that she would leave him behind. Perhaps he was frightened she might meet someone else, someone who would treat her decently. It’s quite likely that the audition would have come to nothing, but then again it could have been her chance to get out of her life with him, make some money and get some independence, and he wasn’t about to let her do that. Everyone, even people who seem to have drawn all the short straws in life, gets a few chances to make something of their lives. If enough of those chances are missed, the options begin to shrink.

Not that the two of them weren’t enjoying themselves for a lot of the time in the early days of their marriage, despite their money problems and Dad’s violent temper. They both liked going out drinking together and Terry and I would be left at home or would have to sit outside the pubs with Cokes and crisps and wait for them to roll back out. Sometimes we would be sitting there for hours on end before they finally emerged, weaving around and slurring their words. I’m told that when I was about three they came out of The Lamb in Norwich and found I’d gone from wherever they had told me to sit. Suddenly frantic for their lost child, they got the police involved and they found me at the bus station with a woman who was about to board a bus with me. I wonder sometimes what would have happened to me if the police had got there a few minutes later. Could my life with this stranger have been any worse than it was soon to become anyway? I’ll never know.

They were already developing a habit of spending every penny they had on drink. I’m pretty sure Dad wasn’t working at that time because Mum’s parents used to come round to our house every week with groceries and Mum had been in trouble with the law for breaking into the electric meters and things like that; so money must always have been pretty tight.

Apart from regularly announcing that he was going to make me a prostitute as soon as he could, Dad made plenty of other declarations that showed how little he took his role as my father seriously. Mum told me that when I was three he asked her to go down to the bookies to put a bet on for him. She didn’t leap up immediately and he grew impatient. Dad liked to get instant obedience from all of us. Grabbing hold of me he pulled my dress up and yanked my knickers down.

‘If you don’t hurry up,’ he shouted at her, ‘I’m going to have her by the time you get back.’

I guess he was joking, but not many fathers would make any sort of joke about raping their three-year-old daughter and it was just one more comment that sowed a seed of concern in Mum’s mind. She could never be sure what he was capable of or where he would draw the line of acceptable behaviour. Dad saw life differently to most decent people.

Occasionally Dad would come into a lump sum of money, mainly when he’d had a win on the horses, but also later when he bullied Mum into going on the game, and then he would really flash it around. No one could ever have accused him of being mean – quite the opposite. Even though he couldn’t drive he bought himself a Mark 10 Jaguar one time and hired a friend called Eric to be our chauffeur. He took particular pleasure in being driven to the dole office to sign on each week, smartly suited and smoking a big cigar, thinking he was the cleverest man in the world because he was getting the better of the system. I don’t know how he got away with it except that he was always so plausible people tended to believe whatever he told them.

His friends in the pubs loved him for these sorts of shows of bravado, and so did I. To me he was a hero. I remember sometimes when he was in the money he would actually light his cigars from the fire with ten or twenty pound notes. I thought that was the most brilliant thing imaginable, to have a father who was actually willing to burn money. How many little girls like me ever got to see such a shockingly extravagant sight?

Dad kept ferrets and he liked to put them into the inside pocket of his suit jacket when he went out to drink. It was like his little party piece in the pub to get them out and make all the women scream.

‘Oh, Terry, Terry! You are a one!’

They all thought he was such a card. He always managed to collect a little mob of admirers around him wherever he drank; he was a born crowd puller.

Whether they had money or not Dad was always immaculately turned out with smart suits and ties and a clean shirt every day, even though he only ever went drinking in scruffy city pubs or into the bookies, never to anywhere where he needed to be dressed up. He would polish his shoes every night till he could see his face in them, wash his hair and shave every morning, preparing to put on another show for his public.

When he had cash he was always happy to spend it on things for the family, as long as they were things that would impress other people as well. We were the first people in our road to have a colour television and an automatic washing machine, for instance. Despite these flamboyant displays during the boom times, most of the time, of course, we didn’t even have any food in the house or a change of clothes for either Terry or me. There was actually no spare money at all.

Dad loved his dogs and mostly had corgis, just to be unusual I think and because it meant he could boast that he had the same dogs as the Queen. Her Majesty is the only other person I’ve ever heard of who likes the breed so Dad could be fairly sure he wouldn’t bump into anyone else with one down the pub. When I was little we had a standard poodle called Gina and a St Bernard, both far too big for our house but perfect props for Dad as he swaggered around town or welcomed friends into his little kingdom to drink, play cards and whatever else they got up to.

When he was a teenager, Dad’s nickname had been Pussy because he used to wear a long pointed pair of winkle-picker boots and everyone started calling him ‘Puss in Boots’, so he called the first corgi Pussy too, making it an extension of his own ego. That dog used to follow him everywhere he went in the city, waddling along on its short little legs, panting eagerly, never wearing a collar or lead. Dad would have loved the idea that the dog was so fond of him and so well controlled it would never wander off; having it on a lead would have created completely the wrong image for him. Whenever Dad ended a day out by getting arrested for being drunk or for causing a fight, which was quite often, Pussy the corgi would be sent home on his own in a police car or a taxi. Everyone knew who he belonged to and it all added to the image Dad cultivated for himself of being a lovable local rogue and ‘a bit of a character’.

Even when he had no money to feed or clothe his children, Dad thought it was perfectly normal for a man to go out drinking from the moment the pubs opened at ten thirty in the morning. As far as he was concerned it was his right to do whatever he wanted in life and he wouldn’t tolerate anyone telling him any different.

One of the rights he insisted on was to do as he pleased with his children, and part of this meant beating us whenever the urge took him. We were as much his property as Pussy the corgi or his well-shone boots. We trotted eagerly around behind him on our short little legs just like the dog, desperate to please him and avoid punishments.

Maybe it was the help they got from their parents that meant they were able to cope with looking after Terry and me when we were babies, or maybe it was just the energy and enthusiasm of youth that carried them through. But by the time my little brothers Christian and Glen came along Mum and Dad were no longer coping as parents. For some reason Dad just couldn’t bear having them around. Chris annoyed him so much that once he crammed him into the washing machine and threatened to switch it on while Mum was screaming hysterically at him to let him out. Not surprisingly Chris was absolutely terrified of Dad, cringing and shaking like a puppy expecting a beating whenever Dad was around, and clinging on to Mum’s skirts for protection.

Mum’s solution was to keep Chris and Glen locked in their bedroom together whenever Dad was in the house. I hardly remember seeing them at all, even though I was four when Glen was born. Mum would bring them downstairs to feed and bath them when Dad was safely out of the way but the rest of the time they were locked up. Normal babies would shout and scream for attention but they didn’t. It was probably fear that kept them so quiet, making it easier for our parents to gradually forget that their two youngest children existed at all. Chris wouldn’t have wanted to cry out for fear of attracting Dad’s wrath and Glen probably started by following his brother’s example and then eventually didn’t have the strength to cry anyway. I suppose they must have given up hope of anyone responding to their needs and just fallen into a hopeless, fatalistic silence.

Chris and Glen’s silent room really frightened Terry and me. We hated the terrible smells that it emitted, of faeces and stale urine, and we didn’t dare to open the door or go in on our own, never knowing if we went in there whether we would find them dead or alive. I can still remember those smells and I will never forget the squalor of the room on the few occasions when I did go in there with a grown-up, but I don’t remember ever hearing either of them cry.

I wish I could have done something to help them but I was only tiny myself. Besides, by this stage everyone in the house knew better than to defy Dad and risk his temper igniting. I was desperate to please him and to be in his good books, but more and more I seemed to get things wrong. One day when I was about four, we had been playing Ludo as a family and I must have got overexcited and rolled too violently, accidentally losing the dice.

‘Find it immediately,’ Dad ordered, his voice steely, but I just couldn’t; however hard I searched through the carpet and under the furniture it remained stubbornly gone. Looking back now, I wonder if perhaps he secretly slipped it into his pocket to ensure that its discovery wouldn’t spoil his fun. Once he had set his heart on beating one of us nothing was allowed to get in the way of his gratification.

Mum says he went out into the garden that day and cut a stick from a bush, choosing a particularly strong and bendy specimen. While the rest of us continued searching frantically for the dice he took a knife and methodically cut away all the leaves and twigs, leaving himself with a vicious-looking weapon which he swished through the air menacingly as if testing its suppleness. Mum knew what he was planning to do with it and pleaded with him not to but he took no notice. Dad never allowed anyone to talk him out of doing anything he had decided on.

When he was finally ready he ordered me to take down my knickers and laid me across his lap, holding me tightly and whipping me until I bled. I screamed with utter shock, completely devastated that my adored Dad could turn against me like this. The emotional betrayal was worse than the pain, although that was excruciating. I couldn’t sit down for a week afterwards. That was the first time he ever beat me, but from then on the stick stayed on display in the sitting room, ready to be used whenever he lost his temper.

The blows themselves hurt badly enough, but it was the expectation of them that became the real torture. He would always tell us in advance that he was going to beat us, leaving the stick standing by the fireplace, just glancing at it now and again, reminding us what was coming, prolonging the dread and making me cry before he had even struck a single blow. He would tease us with it. ‘Do you want some of this?’ he would ask as he tested it against his own palm.

He didn’t always use the stick – sometimes he would use a slipper – and he didn’t need to be drunk in order to decide to grab hold of one of us, wrench down our pants and put us over his knee. Sometimes he was stone cold sober, feeling pissed off with life and wanting to take it out on someone smaller than himself.

‘It’s about time you had ten of these,’ he would announce and we would know there was no getting out of it.

One day I remember in particular Dad issued one of his usual orders for me to go over to him to take a beating with his slipper. ‘Take your knickers down,’ he commanded and I was so frightened I stayed rooted to the spot and started to cry and plead with him even though I knew it was hopeless.

‘Stop crying,’ he ordered, ‘or you’ll get twenty hits instead of ten.’

The short walk across the sitting room towards him seemed impossible and I stayed rooted to the spot, out of his reach. I knew what would happen if I defied him but my legs just wouldn’t move, like in a nightmare.

‘Get here now!’ he bellowed, furious at being disobeyed, and I jerked into life, lurching forward.

The nearer I got to him the more he smiled and for a split second I thought he had changed his mind, that he was just teasing me, having a bit of fun. Although my whole body was trembling with fear I forced my mouth to smile back at him, trying to make him love me enough not to want to hurt me. The moment I was within reach he grabbed me and threw me across his long legs. As he raised the slipper in the air I let out an almighty scream, which made him laugh.

‘I haven’t even touched you yet!’

I couldn’t stop the crying and it made him angrier still so he doubled the number of hits to teach me a lesson, to teach me to be brave and strong, to teach me to obey his orders the moment they were issued. His lessons worked because I soon learnt to stifle my screams and take my punishments in silence. I always concentrated hard on counting each stroke to try to distract my mind from the pain and to keep myself from crying and angering him more.

Once he had finished he would throw me to the floor and I would scrabble to pull up my knickers, the tears silently streaking my cheeks, a wave of relief sweeping through me at the thought that it was over and that I had survived an ordeal that I had thought a few minutes earlier was going to kill me. Why had I made such a fuss? I would ask myself. It wasn’t so bad. I was still alive even if my bottom did hurt. Maybe Dad was right and I was making a fuss about nothing. I would then crawl into a chair and try to sit down, but it would hurt too much and I would have to lean on my side. My punishment was over, but however hard I tried I wouldn’t always be able to stop the tears. I would try to sniff them back up before he saw them.

‘Stop snivelling,’ he would bark, ‘or you’ll get another lot and this time it will be the stick!’

Him shouting would just make me want to cry more. I wanted to run over to him and tell him I was sorry for whatever I had done and that I still loved him. I wanted to ask him to hold me and cuddle me, but I knew better than to do that because such weakness would only aggravate him. So instead I would desperately fight to swallow my sobs and stop the tears from flowing.

I remember witnessing him beating up Terry really badly one day, punching him with his fists. I watched Terry sliding down the wall, the wallpaper behind him smeared with his blood. I couldn’t intervene because I would have received the same treatment for daring to go against him, so I just had to watch and wait for it to be over. If you tried to ask why he was angry or to argue with him you would merely make the ordeal last longer and give him an excuse to become more vicious.

Mum was useless at protecting us because by this stage she was utterly terrified of him as well. He wasn’t the kind of man that many people found the courage to resist. Gradually he undermined Mum’s confidence, telling her she was ugly and useless. He used to beat her about as well, kicking her in the mouth once and knocking out some of her teeth so she had to get false ones. She still has a prominent scar on her chin from that attack.

Things must have been volatile between her and Dad right from the moment they met but it was when she fell pregnant with Glen that she says it all started to go badly wrong. Dad was drinking a lot by then and when she was a few months pregnant they passed a Chinaman in the street on their way home from the pub. Maybe it started as a joke and then got out of hand, but Dad accused her of having an affair with him and then became convinced that Glen really was the Chinaman’s baby. The whole idea was patently ridiculous since Mum had never set eyes on the man either before or after that chance passing in the street but Dad seemed to have convinced himself until he became so incensed by her imagined treachery that he threw Mum down the stairs with Glen inside her, sending her into premature labour. She had to have an emergency caesarean and, as they prepared her for the operation, the doctors discovered that she was suffering from anaemia and malnutrition. She was kept in hospital for a while receiving treatment for all her ailments.

Dad’s theory about Glen having been fathered by a Chinaman was shown to be ridiculous once Glen was born because he looked more like Dad than any of us, but that didn’t stop him from continuing with his delusion. He started claiming that he couldn’t go out to work for fear that he would find Mum in bed with another man when he got back. I don’t believe this for a moment, but he repeated it time and time again over the years to get sympathy, and I’m sure his cronies in the pub took him at his word. Poor old Terry, with a wife he couldn’t trust.

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