Larry was a bully, he liked to be in control and could use his physical size to get his own way, as well as psychologically terrifying me.
Under the stairs in the house was small cellar type space that went down some stone steps to a small, thin room. At the end of this area was a hole in the wall that went only a small way under the house. This space was used to store food cans and other bits and bobs and it was cold and dark.
There was a light in there but the switch was on the outside of the door. A punishment Larry frequently used was to shove me in there, kicking and screaming, lock the door and switch off the light.
It was probably the punishment I dreaded the most and I would much rather have endured a physical beating than be placed in that dark, cold room, with a gaping black hole, from which I was convinced that all sorts of monsters and ghosts would emerge and tear me limb from limb.
No matter how many times it happened it was a fear I was never able to conquer and I would sob, weep and scream to be let out but to no avail. When eventually I would be freed, often after several hours, I would be reminded “That’s what you get when you think you can do what you like, you stupid bleeding Yank!”
Larry and Sylvie would continue to argue, the financial stress and upkeep of the house increased, six children and mounting tension meant something had to give.
The day after Boxing Day, when I was aged about eight, I was told I was going away for a couple of weeks. I don’t remember the words said but I was made to understand that it was because of my behaviour, that I was causing too much trouble for everyone.
I have the overriding memory of it being a punishment but didn’t know what I had done. Years later I was to discover that Larry had given Sylvie an ultimatum, either I went or he did. I don’t know why it came to this: surely I couldn’t have been that badly behaved or troublesome?
I was put in the car, we traveled for a couple of hours and arrived at the Children’s Holiday Home,
I knew of the holiday home as we had often had day trips to the coast there, all piling into the car in the days before seat belts were the law, and there would be four or five of us in the back. We would set off in the early hours of the morning when it was still dark, arriving there early to make the most of the day.
It seemed as though the weather was always good on these outings and we would spend a long day on the beach, returning home late into the night, tired and sun-kissed. We even had the odd short holidays there, staying in the small chalets or a caravan on a few occasions.
We would walk to the beach and the sand dunes close to where the home was located and would often see the children staying at the home. They would be in large groups, with group leaders, playing games or walking along in a like snake like pattern.
Sylvie and Larry liked to point them out to me and remind me how lucky I was, that I didn’t need to go to the children’s home for my holiday.
In my young head, it seemed to me, that far from being unfortunate, they were having a whale of a time, laughing and playing along, chatting and singing songs. I was too young to consider any of the circumstances they may have left at home and would have to return to.