The writer of Band of Gold on her violent father, creative mother, ultra-supportive husband and her daughters
My mother,

The writer of Band of Gold on her violent father, creative mother, ultra-supportive husband and her daughters
My mother, Dinah, divorced my father because of domestic violence. My earliest memory is of finding her on the floor in the living room and of my father leaving. He beat up my mum. She threw him out. I remember watching him walk away with his trilby and his suitcase as I looked out of the window. I was two and my brother, Robert, was five. Mum brought us up singlehandedly for eight years.

Mum didn’t crumble. She was very strong. We were raised in Leeds in the 1950s – the only kids on my council estate from a single-parent family. She didn’t care what people thought. She wouldn’t wear a wedding ring and wouldn’t take state benefits. She worked as a tailoress. She did everything: making carpet for our rooms, wallpapering, cooking, sewing and had time to read us stories and be affectionate. A pretty amazing person.

My father, George, wasn’t in my life much after he left. He turned up a couple of times to ask Mum back. She wouldn’t let him in to the house. He made contact when I was 21. I did get to know him, but the relationship was soured by the images in my head. It broke down pretty quickly. He was remorseful. He said he came home from the war and was never the same. I suppose he had seen a lot of atrocities. You think: “Maybe that did affect him …” But there were a lot of men who fought in the war who didn’t beat up their wives.

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There are echoes of my father through my work. I have perhaps worked through my thoughts in my writing. My mother could tell a story. I get that from her without a doubt. She used to have us all in raptures listening.
I met my husband, Anthony, on a blind date. I was sat on the chip-shop wall and his sister Gail came up and said: “D’ya wanna go out with me brother? There’s a party on Saturday. He’s looking for a lass to take. He’s called Anthony.” I went: “Yeah, all right …” I went to the party and there was this handsome man called Tony. He looked like Ray Davies from the Kinks. I remember thinking: “Well, if this Anthony bloke don’t come, I’m going to make a beeline for him.” Gail turned up and said: “This is me brother …” It was the guy I was eyeing up. We’ve been together ever since. Anthony told his mate that night he’d marry me.

I had only had sex twice when I got pregnant. I was a naive 16-year-old and Anthony was 17 when we got married. On our wedding day, everyone said: “This is never going to last …” Everybody was crying and saying: “Oh, you’re just babies …” We were. We had no money. We lived with Anthony’s mum, Sybil, and slept in his single bed.
The morning after we told my mum I was pregnant, she said: “You’ve ruined your life. That’s it now, you’re a mother …” I remember her saying: “You were so clever …” I felt terrible, as if I’d let her down. At the same time, she was doing me a boiled egg and saying: “You’ve got to eat right, now you’re pregnant.” She was torn. She wanted the best for me. I promised I’d go back into education when my children went to school. Anthony was the breadwinner, a motor mechanic, so it meant I could do my O-levels and A-levels. I went to drama school when I was 27.

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Anthony is a constant. He does everything he can to help me. He is upset if I am upset. He loves me and he tells me he loves me. When you feel you have got almost unconditional love, you can operate in this world that much better. You sort of feel you can do anything with someone like that by your side.

I hope I have passed on my strength to my daughters, Yvonne and Gaynor. Strength and compassion – they should go hand-in-hand. I hope I have given them a socialist background: caring about, and having empathy for, other people. Education, too. And spirituality. I don’t have a religion, but I believe in not hurting another soul. I passed on dramatic tendencies – they are both in the business. I can see dramatic tendencies coming through my four grandkids, too. We all gather round the table two or three Sundays a month and chat and support each other. Family’s important. If it hadn’t been for family, I wouldn’t have survived. I certainly wouldn’t be the writer I am today.

Credit: Guardian

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