Monday morning and I’m up early Mam has gone to Mrs. Cooks cleaning and Dad is making toast I can smell it burning and hear him swearing.
I remember sitting at the table kicking my legs on the chair and Dad telling me to hurry up because we’re going to see a doctor today.
I feel sick. But don’t argue there was no use arguing he wont listen.
We stand at the bus stop in the rain Dads wearing his best jacket its brown like a teachers jacket but he still smells of tobacco and beer and carbolic soap.
We don’t speak.
We get off the bus in town Dad goes into the tobacconists I leaf my forehead on the shop window looking at rows of pipes and lighters then we get onto another bus I go upstairs sit right at the front Dad follows me.
Eventually we get off by Victoria Park as we walked through the park Dad asks me if I’m okay?
I shrug and I don’t know why but I want to cry.
‘You’ll be okay don’t worry’.
He bends down level with me I’m concentrating on the fine spiders webs on the rhododendron bushes the dew still sitting on them. Dad is saying nothing bad will happen to me if I just tell the truth.
‘Are you bloody listening to me?’
I nodded my head.
‘That’s my princess.’
’Tell the truth now no lies no Walter Mitty and they won’t take you away.’
TAKE ME AWAY?
’Take me were Dad? I don’t know who Walter Mitty is and I don’t want to go away.
Were will they take me.’
I’m crying now still staring at the spider’s web arms around his neck.
‘Hey now stop it do you hear me I’m your Dad I will be with you I promise’.
‘You just tell them that you don’t like that house that’s why you do daft things school and it will be okay we have to do this the school have arranged it. Have you got that do you understand?’
I nodded my head.
‘I think so Dad. Remember no bloody lies.’
‘I know you’re always making things up.
You’re like Walter bloody Mitty you are but if you tell them any stories in here they will take you away.’
‘Or they might take me away then they will send you to a naughty girl’s home now do you want that?’
‘Or your Dad to go to jail?’
‘Because that will be it then you wont see Pam or the kids again or your nanny or me and your Mam.’
I am absolutely terrified ‘Why cant I see my Nan again Dad?’ ‘Stop that now blow your nose and wipe your face and remember what I’ve said think about your Nan. ‘ He hands me a big old handkerchief I do as he says then shove in into my duffle coat pocket.
We walked on further through some huge green gates ‘child guidance’ it said in huge letters. We walk along a driveway past a school children my age are in the play ground the building is next to the school.
Through a red door and a smiling lady sits at a low counter it is like a doctor’s waiting room with toys and lots of books.
She smiled at me as we stand at the glass.
’What’s your name?’
I looked at Dad?
’It’s Joolz’ he said ‘We’ve got an appointment with Dr Gilbert.’
He passes her an appointment card.
‘Take a seat he won’t be long.’ Dad sits down I pick up a book sit next to him. My naughty little sister it is called I stare at it not really reading.
There was a boy sat on the floor playing with a train. ‘Do you want to play?’
he asked I shake my head.
’She’s shy.’ Dad says. I hate it when he says that.
I picked up another book. Its called the Pearl.
As I open it the smiling lady calls my name.
It is hurting me to breath.
Dad hold my hand and squeezed it three times his secret code that means
I love you.
He squeezed it as he said each word.
‘Come on the doctors waiting.’
Dr Gilbert’s office is brown bare brick behind his desk.
Green blinds. Huge cheese plant like the one in my old school hall.
Dr Gilbert is as old as Dad I think big with a suit on like Dad wore at weddings.
With a smart dark brown tie.
A white clock on the wall like a school clock.
He had blotting paper on his big desk like they had in the bank in town and a posh silver pen.
‘Hello Joolz’, he looked at me through his thick gold glasses.
‘Sit down’. Dad sit on a chair I push against him. I wonder how may children he has taken away?
’Can you come and sit here?’
He said pointing at the chair in front of his desk.
‘She’s really shy’ Dad says again.
She doesn’t speak much.
’I’m sure you will be okay’ he said smiling
I walked forward and sat on the chair.
‘Now then said Dr Gilbert. Do you know why your here?’
I shake my head concentrating on the big leaves that look like hands on the big cheese plant.
I have a lump in my throat and I can hear my heart its in my head.
‘Well shall I explain?’ Dr Gilbert continued.
’Your school, and your Mam and Dad are concerned about some of your behavior.’
’And I’m here to listen to you and help you to sort things out if I can but you have to help me.is that okay?’
I nod again.
I can’t see Dad he is sitting behind me but I can hear him breathing and his rasping cough occasionally and the smell of old Holborn.
Dr Gilbert asked me about the fire.
I can’t answer him I really can’t speak not like when I’m in school and I just don’t want too. this time I really can’t.
And how could he fix things anyway?
I can’t tell him because they will take Dad away.
He won;t believe me if I told him about my dog, about falling downstairs with Debbie.
That Dad told me wanted to shoot me when I was born because the cot was rattling. That he thought I was a Mongol.
That he hit me more time than I know That I was scared of the dark because of the monster. That there was something at the side of my bed that even if I kept my eyes tight shut it was still there. that Wendy came at night to help me.
How could I tell him any of it he wouldn’t believe me he was a nice man he wore a suit and tie.
He didn’t smell of tobacco he smelt like clean, like Pam’s washing after the launderette.
And so I said nothing. I didn’t want to loose my little Nanny.
Dad was saying ‘Come on now Joolz.
Answer the Doctor.
Its okay I’m here.’ I thought for a minute about screaming he had told me to keep quiet now he was telling me to talk.
The lump in my throat got bigger AND BIGGER.
Dad was telling the Dr I hated the new school I got picked on.
The Dr asked it that was true.
Before I tried to answer Dad said ‘Tell the truth now Joolz and it will be okay.’
’Why do you keep telling her to tell the truth asked the Doctor?
Does she often tell lies?’
’Oh yes Doctor. Dad was saying she’s a penny liar’
Now I wanted to scream, cry.
But I betrayed myself I really couldn’t talk.
’I DONT TELL LIES SCREAMED THE VOICE IN MY HEAD HE DOES!’
I looked over at the Doctor. He was writing something down.’’
Why couldn’t he here my shouting inside? ‘He was a psychiatrist Dad said. So why didn’t he know.
‘Do you want to go wait out side Joolz while I have a chat with your Dad?’ Said the Doctor.
I got up Dad winked at me I pulled open the big door and went to sit out side in the passageway it was bare bricks I sat there swinging my legs counting the bricks.
It seemed ages I was up to one hundred and seventy seven.
Dr Gilbert called me back in. I hadn’t heard him open the door.
He made me jump bending down in front of me. ‘Joolz can you hear me?’
I nodded. I looked down at his shoes they weren’t boots like Dad wore they were shoes brown shoes with buckles on.
‘Would you mind coming back next week to see me?’ he asked.
His voice was really big but his face was kind. I nodded.
Dad was stood behind him he reached out and took my hand.
We walked back through the big room with the toys and the smiling lady behind the desk.
‘Bye Joolz see you next week.’ she smiled again and waved.
The doors swung open into the big garden rain dripped from the huge oak trees surrounding the building.
I pulled my hood up the rain felt cold on my face and I’d felt so hot in the office.
Dad didn’t notice the tears as we walked they ran down my face with the rain.
The lump in my throat was getting smaller I could talk again but I didn’t just walked with my Dad in the rain.
We got off the bus in town and walked into Woolworth’s.
‘Here Dad said pushing fifty pence into my hand go get some toffees.’
I stood the wet from the rain looking up at him ‘Go on! Coz you’ve been a good girl.’
As I scooped up pick and mix Dad said I think you’re big enough now to have spend!
I looked up at him again.
‘Got your tongue back yet?’
It was the first time id spoken since going into the doctors.
He ruffled my hair as we paid for the toffees.
As we walked to the bus he said ‘don’t tell anyone at school were we’ve been okay?’
I nodded again mouth full of sweet peanuts.
‘Do I have to go back to school now I’ve been to the doctors today?’
‘No your wringing wet look at you!
Your Mam’s going to Auntie Eliza’s today after she finished cleaning at Mrs Cooks house.
‘We’ll go home get you dried and watch some telly okay?’
‘We got home and Dad put the kettle on cup of tea eh?’
Dad made two cups of steaming milky tea. I put the telly on played about with the dial behind the curtain only Payton Place was on Mam liked that bet she was watching it with auntie Eliza.
I sat down with Dad.
I played with his buttons he laughed. ‘Tinker, Taylor, soldier, sailor, rich man. Poor man, beggar man, thief!’
When he laughed his belly jigged up and down. I liked making him laugh I liked it when he was happy.
‘Come here lie down with Dad.’
As quick as a flash Wendy was beside me.
‘What’s up? Come here give your Dad a cuddle.’
Wendy lay down next to him he lifted her over his big belly so she was lying with her back against the sofa.
Dad lay perched on the end I thought he might fall off but he didn’t.
I stood and watched Payton place there was a woman crying
I could here Dad telling Wendy what a good girl she was I knew she wouldn’t be long now then we could go out and play.
Dad got up fixed his shirt and told me to go wash my face.
‘Can I go out Dad?’ For an hour because you’ve been so brave today at the doctors.
‘ I told you it would be okay didn’t I.’
’I’ll always look after you.’
Go on now sort your self out I’m going over the club for a pint.’
Here and he pushed another fifty pence into my hand.
’He laughed you keep being good no more acting the goat and there’s plenty more were that came from!’
I smiled and ran out of the front door.
We went back to Dr Gilbert the week after then every two weeks after that.
I’m not sure for how long.
But I remember when we started to see him it was the very beginning of spring. Then going back it was almost christmas
I have often wondered what was his conclusion as to why I was referred in the beginning.
Why our communication consisted of nodding and the occasional one word.
It was a long time ago and things thankfully have changed for the better.
I wonder if I had been seen alone without the presence of my father would I have managed to confided in someone how desperately unhappy I was.
But I wasn’t and I didn’t!
And eventually I remember thinking if they see that I’m happy then I wont have to come again.
The out of the blue Dad told me that we were moving house again. Back to be near my sister.
He said Dr Gilbert had written a letter to the council and they were re housing us. Dad said he knew now that my bad behaviour was down to him taking me away from my old school and our other house. ‘So we can have our old house back then I thought I was going to burst!’
I was over the moon. ‘No Dad said it would be near our other house on the same estate but not the same one. We would live near the Dam again, see thunderbolt the horse I loved but the house would be different. And I could go back to my old school.
‘What about Toby our new dog can he come too?’ Was my first question?
‘That mangy flea bitten dog?’ said Dad! Then he laughed. Course he can.’
I was so happy that day It wouldn’t happen straight away but we were defiantly going and I didn’t have to go back to that school! Horay!
When we went back to see him Dr Gilbert asked how I felt about moving I remember telling him I was really happy one of the few occasions I actually spoke in front of him.
In my heart I knew without him we wouldn’t have the new house.
Most of his questions had been directed to my Dad.
I remember him ruffling my hair and saying it was nice to see me smile. He was wearing a red tie that day and the same brown shoes.
Dad told him I was much better now at home, and much happier now we were moving house and I knew I would be going back to my old school.
He asked me to wait out in the waiting room
Gave me a drawing pad and some colored pens while he chatted to Dad.
I sat at the kid’s table drawing a picture.
They both came out of his office together, Dad in his donkey jacket Dr Gilbert in his smart suit and his buckled shoes
I carried on drawing and colouring.
That’s a beautiful drawing I like the colours said Dr Gilbert he perched himself beside me on a child’s chair. He looked silly and way too big.
‘Who is the picture of?’
‘It’s my dog Toby and me.’ I whispered to him. ‘In our new house and the sunshine.’
He smiled at me again.
‘Well I’ve just been talking to your Dad and I think things are much better now at home things will be better when you get back to your old school. This is the last time you have to come to see me.’
‘Is that good to hear?’ I nodded.
‘Could I keep the picture he asked?’
’You could write your name on it and we could put it up on the wall with the others?’
I picked up the red felt pen and wrote on the back in my best writing.
To Dr Gilbert from Wendy and Joolz thank you for our new house.
He ruffles my hair and smiled.
‘Joolz be good for your Dad now’.
I nod again.
Dad squeezed my hand three times.
He want going to jail.
We turned and left that was the last I ever saw of Dr Gilbert I often thought of him and his shiny buckled shoes.