Saturday, 14 December 2013

My first visit to my boyfriend's family

The Easter holidays in 2012 were memorable in a number of ways. It was the first time that I had been invited to stay at my boyfriend’s house and the first time I had met his parents and his brother. I drove over on a horrible wet Easter Saturday morning in time for lunch. They live in a newish 2 story barn conversion with fields on three sides. I was taken on the guided tour by his mum and saw the massive master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom and the smallest balcony I've ever seen. It was about three feet from back to front. The other three bedrooms were in the other part of the upstairs of the house but you needed to go down stairs to go up a different flight of stairs to get to them. There were 3 bedrooms in a row, his younger brother's room then Stewart's room then the guest room that I was going to use. His mum managed to say with a straight face that if I ever wanted "private time with Stewart" it was probably best not to have it next door to his brother. I just smiled sweetly (blush)! In the afternoon we went off (all 5 of us) to see some Roman remains run by English Heritage. I didn't know if I should offer to pay my own entrance charge but decided I didn’t need to as I was their guest.

I had packed some smart clothes in case the family went to church on Easter Sunday. But they are not religious, just very nice and easy to get on with. They were the type of person you somehow feel that you have known for ages even when you have only known them a few hours. We had our first go in the hot-tub - outside but under cover if that makes sense. My second blush of the visit was when I realised that 4 of us were going to be sharing the tub, not just Stewart and me. I think if I had known this I would have packed my one-piece swim suit rather than my bikini. Stewart's mum gave me a knowing smile as I came down from the bedroom where I had changed. I knew I was going to like her!

We went out all day on Monday to see the local sites and to pubs for meals. At one point all the men mysteriously disappeared and Stewart's mum and I had a little chat. It seems as if I was very strongly approved of (smug emoticon) and she just mentioned in passing that she knew that my Mum and Dad had been killed in an accident but the kind way she did meant it didn't stress me at all. We had a little joke about Stewart's brother acting as a chaperone. Stewart had wanted him banned from the house except for sleeping. We had a haggis for supper which I've never had before. It was rather like meatballs in taste and texture.

Tuesday was a horrid, horrid day!! I was supposed to be going home in the morning but when I was getting dressed I noticed a web cam on the bookshelves in my bedroom. It turned out Stewart's silly younger brother thought it would be funny to record everything that happened in my room onto his laptop just two rooms away. I suppose it was a silly prank that got out of hand, although he hid the camera very carefully so only the lens was visible when the camera was pointed at the bed. I told Stewart, he told his Dad, his Dad told his wife and all hell kicked off. His brother was dragged out of bed and, verbally, beaten to death. He didn't really have a defense or an explanation. He has admitted watching all the recordings, fast-forwarding though the boring bits. I don't understand how ANY decent person would want to spy on me like he did! I thought at the time that he was being very evasive and I wondered if he has told the whole story about what and when he recorded.

What happened to his brother? Well he wasn't buried under the patio but he probably wishes he had been. Practically everything he owned was taken away for a month and he was grounded indefinitely.

Even now, 18 months later, I find it difficult to forgive and forget!

Friday, 29 November 2013

The saga of the missing lock on my bedroom door!

Nothing was ever simple when dealing with Nan and Granddad. I was paying to stay at their house but I certainly wasn’t treated like a lodger. He wanted my money and he wanted to be in control but he also wanted to be seen by his friends and colleagues as a generous and kind person. All this meant that he had a number of personalities and he switched between them depending on who was around.

I can remember arriving home a bit later from school than normal – a sporting event I was in had over-run by about 15 minutes. This would normally cause a major row because Granddad liked his life, and the life of everybody around him, to run to a strict timetable. But when I arrived one of his friends from the Bowls Club was in the house and so he switched on his interested grand-parent routine. Once his friend left I got well battered both physically and verbally as Granddad reverted to normal!

For several months after Mum and Dad were killed I was quite often in a frantically sad and stressed state. Quite little things used to upset me but my G-Parents just were not into feelings. Their way of coping with the death of their daughter was to act as if it hadn’t happened so if I even mentioned my parents I would get into trouble. It was only the support I got from the school that made my life even half-way bearable.

Having something as simple as a lock on my bedroom door turned into a massive issue that was never sorted out. They used to knock, wait about 3 seconds, literally, then march in. It was ridiculous. I was a paying guest, paying quite a lot actually, with zero privacy. Not nice at all at 17. Twice I remember sitting on the bed topless on purpose hoping that somebody would come in so that the lock would get sorted out. Nan was a great fan of M&S clothes so I used this to wind them both up. I purchased the briefest bikini in the shop and that summer I used to sunbathe in the back garden. Nan couldn’t say anything because all I would have said was “But I got it at M&S”. 

Nobody could say granddad was liberal and sometimes he could be quite creepy, I used to feel quite uneasy if he came into my bedroom for a chat at bedtime, even if Nan was with him.  I'm surprised that Nan allowed it even after I switched from wearing a nightie to wearing pyjamas! 

Escaping from them and going back to live in Mum and Dad’s old house felt like escaping from prison. As you might guess I was "bad mouthed" by Granddad whenever he was explaining why I had left their house. Nothing was ever his fault of course.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Christmas 2011 - "Cinderella Sally" (Part 2)

I was quite relieved to see Nan and Granddad off on their holiday on the 21st December. They hadn’t asked what I had arranged to do while they were away and I didn’t tell them that I had managed to find somewhere to go or someone to see for each day until they got back.

If they did bother to buy me a present I didn't know where they had put it. Mine to them vanished from under the tree so I guessed that they took it with them. My aunt came round for tea on the 22nd and from Easter onwards it was sorted out that I would live at her house during the university holidays. My cousin had moved out to live with her long-term boyfriend so there was going to be room for me. I think we were both rather shocked at how difficult Nan and Granddad had been. Me living with them was their idea but they seemed to do nothing but moan about it.
Christmas Day was always going to be rather difficult. It is supposed to be a happy, family day but I was feeling rather sad and abandoned. I was very firm with myself – so every time I felt sadness coming on I had a square of chocolate and then told myself to stop being so silly!  It felt rather strange opening presents on my own, particularly ones I had got for myself. But various relatives had been very kind about sending me something, although really I suspect under normal circumstances I would have counted as too old. GParents phoned at 7:45 to tell me that they would give me my present on their return from holiday. (I guessed that it hadn’t been purchased yet!).

I went off for my Christmas dinner to one of my friends from school who lived 4 doors down the road from where I used to live. They made me feel very welcome but they were one of those families who open all their presents after lunch and it was a bit awkward just sitting there while this was going on. I just smiled and joined in the conversation.

Boxing Day lunch was at the home of a mature student who was on the same course as me. There were six of us altogether. All people who didn’t, for a whole range of reasons, have family to go to over the Christmas holiday: including two overseas students (Singapore and South Africa) who didn’t have enough spare cash to go home. We had a really good time and I was pleased that I went.

I know it seems a strange thing to do but I went home via the cemetery where Mum and Dad are buried. I “told” them how grim it had been staying with Nan and Granddad. The generation gap was just too much to deal with. We never seemed to want to do the same things. Even watching the TV was a stress. Once all they wanted to watch finished off went the TV, never any "anything you would like to see dear" to be heard. If I went to my room instead I was moaned at for being "anti-social".

I am quite proud of how I coped over the holiday. I could have spent the entire two weeks just sitting around feeling miserable. Instead I kept myself busy and the time went by quite quickly.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Christmas 2011 - "Cinderella Sally" (Part 1)

I have been rather dreading writing this blog entry and have postponed writing it a couple of times because the events around Christmas 2011 still make me feel so cross and sad. I had started at university in September and as my Mum and Dad’s house, the house that I had inherited, was being rented out the great unanswered question was, “Where does Sally go for the Christmas holidays?”

For all sorts of reasons the rest of the family had decided that it had to be at Nan and Granddad’s house and that didn’t please me at all. I had been battered and abused there before and I wasn’t keen to repeat the experience. However Mum’s sister and Dad’s brother managed to persuade me that Granddad had “changed” so it was all agreed. But at the end of November the weekly letter arrived from Nan and Granddad. They are all excited because they had been invited to go away over Christmas with another couple (long-time friends) from the 21st to the 28th December. How very nice for them but not for me! Typically they seemed to have forgotten that I was supposed to be staying with them over the Christmas holiday and that I had got nowhere else to go.

A couple of days later I invited myself around to their house for tea and it soon became clear that they had convinced themselves that I could stay at the university "with all your friends" for the Christmas week. They were so excited at the thought of their holiday that I just didn't dare say that I was going to have to use the money I saved during the term to stay in a cheap B&B for 7 nights. When I was driving back to the university feeling fairly wretched I remember thinking that if Mum and Dad are looking down on me they must be wondering what on earth was going on?

Luckily some sensible friends who were on the same course as me persuaded me to tell Gran and Granddad that I couldn’t stay at the university over Christmas. As my friends pointed out it was them that suggested renting out Mum and Dad's home (mine now) or else I could have gone there. Everybody knew from the start that Easter was going to be an issue because Grand Parents did their annual coach trip holiday then - but it was never suggested that I was going to be Christmas on my own as well.

Eventually, after lots of grumbling on their behalf, Granddad agreed that I could stay in their house while they were away providing I didn’t have any visitors round. How very festive! On the plus side the two of them being away meant that I would avoid the humiliation of the previous year when my Christmas present from them was a bar of fruit and nut chocolate they had rushed out to buy on Christmas Eve.

Rather than having a wail, although I was very tempted, I decided to sort out some “away days” with school or university friends. With luck I thought I might manage to fill my diary except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I vaguely hoped that my Aunt, who helped me look after my money, might find a spare place at her dining room table even though she was supposed to have a houseful turning up already. Otherwise it was going to be a chicken leg and a sprig of holly for me!

I casually mentioned on Facebook that I would be on my own over the holiday season and I had 2 offers for Christmas Day and 3 for Boxing Day! So on Christmas Day I went to one of my friends from school who lived 4 doors down the road from where I used to live and on Boxing Day I went to the home of a mature student who was on the same course as me. Good old Facebook!

Much later I found out that my Aunt had had a stern word with my Grand Parents to remind them that buying me a decent present "might be nice" - not just another bar of chocolate from the corner shop like the previous year.

So as arranged I turned up at my Grandparent’s house at the end of term. Talk about a frosty reception! I knew they usually went out for a meal on a Friday but I hoped that they would either not go as it was my first night with them or that they might invite me to go with them. But no, off they went leaving me behind. I knew just how Cinderella felt!

Both of them are a bit deaf so when they think they are whispering I could still hear them. I soon realised that they didn’t want me living with them even in the holidays - all the mess and noise - and it’s not nice feeling slightly unwanted all the time. But rather than mope around the house that first evening I made a couple of phone calls and by 8:30PM I was in town having a meal with some school friends! I even got back before the curfew at 10:30 that Nan and Granddad had as a "house rule".

I wrote in my diary, “Mum and Dad I’m missing you so much today. Sometimes my life seems such total and utter s**t. But wherever you are I promise that I will keep battling along as best I can!”

Saturday, 2 November 2013

When family mediation went horribly wrong!

As usual readers might like to remind themselves of my “back story” before reading this latest blog entry. My Mum and Dad were killed in a car accident in 2010 so I went to live with my Grand Parents who lived close by. This didn’t work out so when I was nearly 18 I was pretty much forced, for my own safety, to move out. My relationship with Granddad didn’t improve, in fact it got steadily worse, as did his relationships with almost everybody around him. Things got so fraught that “something had to be done”.

By November 2012 I was completely exhausted – both physically and mentally – by all the emotional, financial and physical abuse dished out in large doses by my Nan and Granddad to the rest of the family. So when we were offered the services of an external mediator to “make one final effort to resolve all the current problems” I was happy to co-operate.

We met in a large conference room with the tables arranged in a hollow square. In the middle there was a little table with a picture of my Mum and Dad on it and two candles that were supposed to burn throughout the meeting.

We had all made written submissions prior to the meeting and I saw that Granddad's document was much longer than mine, much longer in fact than all the other contributions put together.

At the start of the meeting we drew lots for the speaking order. My Uncle, Dad's brother, went first. The main point he made was how shocked he had been when Granddad had admitted hitting me “lots of times”; my uncle called it "a series of savage and sustained attacks". He went on to say how rude and unpleasant Granddad had been to him when Granddad had discovered that he (my uncle) had been put in joint charge of my financial affairs. He read out the letter that Granddad had sent him at the time in which the words "biased, dishonest and manipulative" were used by Granddad to describe my Uncle.

Second to speak was my aunt. She explained how devastated she had been by the loss of her sister (my Mum) and how she had wished "with all her heart" that I could have gone to live with her. But at that stage she simply didn't have any space. She explained that for some months Granddad was being paid twice for my board and lodging (she was paying for it out the estate and Granddad was taking from my living allowance as well) and that it was "quite impossible" that he didn't know about the double payment. Like my Uncle she was horrified that I had been physically and financial and emotionally abused by Nan and Granddad. She confirmed that Granddad had accepted that he had physically abused me and had stolen from me and that he had broken into Mum and Dad's house the day after they were killed and had removed money and destroyed legal papers.

Then it was my turn and I told the mediator how sad I was feeling and how shocked my Mum and Dad would have been at the way their own parents had behaved.

Finally it was Granddad's turn. The first thing he did was to stand up, slip through the gap in the square of tables and blow the two candles out. He called having them there burning "cheap theatricals". He then launched into a bitter attack against me (I'm a cheap tart, a whore and I had deserved to beaten like the animal) and he said all sort of nasty things about my Mum and Dad and my Aunt and Uncle. The whole meeting was a "pointless charade" and I had got what I deserved.

The moderator then read out a lengthy statement from Mum and Dad's solicitor. One thing I had not realised was that when I was 11 Granddad had got himself into money troubles. He then sold a 20% stake in the house to my Mum and Dad. He was supposed to pay "rent" for the 20% share to Mum (and the bank statements prove that he did) but that all these payments stopped when she died. The 20% lump sum was to be repaid when the house was sold, but providing 12 months notice was given Mum also had the right to have the money paid back whenever she wanted. He had all the signed and witnessed documents with him.

He then reminded all of us - but thinking of Granddad - of the agreement we had all signed about how the mediation meeting would be run. No personal attacks were one of the conditions. He also reminded all of us - but again thinking of Granddad - that confidentiality could only be maintained by him when acting as the mediator when there was no evidence of law-breaking. He promised that he would write a proper report but he was able to say at the time that there strong evidence of assault, theft, breaking and entering and fraud committed by "one of the participants here today".

It is fair to say that the meeting hadn’t gone well.


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Changing Mum and Dad's house into my house

Readers might like to remind themselves of my “back story” before reading this entry. My Mum and Dad were killed in a car accident in 2010. Their house became my house – although it took 2.5 years for this to happen. There was 6 months while the house was empty (although I used to visit to “hide” and cry when the stress got too bad). Then there was the year I lived there on my own while I was studying at school. Then for another year the house had tenants living it while I was in my first year at university before I finally moved back in and called the builders into action!

Early September 2012 was always going to be a rather busy time. During the summer term I had decided that I was going to live at home for the second year of my university course. Three close friends (one of whom was a very close friend if you get what I mean!) were going to live with me so most of what was happening was to do with getting things ready for them.

At the start of the month the estate agent who had been dealing with the tenants who have been living in my house backed down over some extra fee he claimed he was entitled to. The tenants were supposed to get their security deposit back but the agent said it was up to me to pay it - which of course was rubbish because all the tenant's rent and deposits was paid directly to the agent and not to me.

The tenants had to have left by Friday 31st August. They had looked after the house and garden very well and had always paid on time so they had been ideal tenants. I think they were a bit confused when I arrived at the house after lunch.  The lady though I was going to be renting the house so she was shocked when I said it was my home. I didn't bother to explain about Mum and Dad dying, it wasn't her business and it still made me feel sad to talk about it.

Only one thing rather annoyed me about the house move. My Mum and Dad's room wasn't being rented out because I was using it for storage. The tenants didn't need all 4 bedrooms anyway. The bedroom door was locked and it was agreed that nobody should go in the room - not the tenants, not the estate agent, nobody. Well somebody had been in. Things had been moved, folders of private documents had been opened and read and although I didn’t think anything was missing I was not happy.

It was strange waking around the empty house again and I found being alone there quite poignant. It didn’t take much to "make believe" that Mum and Dad were just away and would be coming back soon. Silly I know.

During the week that started on Monday September 10th I had various painters, plumbers and electricians coming and going all the time and as I didn't like to leave them in the house on their own I was pretty much been chained to the house myself. Food shopping was tricky so in the end I did an order over the Internet and had it delivered. That worked nicely and it became part of our weekly routine when all four of us were living there.

Getting the right mix of workmen in the house at the right time seemed hard for the boss to manage and there was some waiting around most days. But as I was paying for the jobs and not the time it didn't cost me anything extra.

Mum and Dad's old room ended up looking really nice. It was very different from before and felt like "my room" and I think it was the right decision to make a total change there. It would have been too full of memories to have it as my room but with their furniture.

The lounge and dining room walls were painted and a second sofa ordered so there are enough comfy seats in the lounge for the four of us. The kitchen and what had been Mum and Dad's study don't need anything doing but I found going into the study quite emotional because Mum and Dad spent such a lot of time there and it felt like they should still be there sitting at their respective desks <sad face>.

There was internet access in every bedroom plus downstairs (this is why I needed the electricians) and various taps, including the one in the garden, were replaced (this is why I needed the plumber). A few small bits of furniture were delivered but one had to be returned to the shop because it was damaged in the delivery van.

I felt quite proud of myself for sorting out all the work that had needed to be done all on my own.

Friday, 18 October 2013

My Mum and Dad's grave

In July 2012 – so two and half years after my Mum and Dad were killed – there was a horrible dispute between my Mum’s parents and the rest of the family about their gravestone.

I had returned from a holiday in Scotland with friends from university to find two letters waiting for me from Granddad. The first letter was a long moan about Mum and Dad's funeral complaining about how family and friends had spent more time supporting me than them and that how me standing out in front of the mourners talking about my Mum and Dad was "just showing off"!

The second letter said that they wanted to have the gravestone with Mum and Dad's details removed from the cemetery and swapped for one that didn't mention Dad at all.  Nan and Granddad wanted a new stone with no mention on the stone that Mum was married with children or that she had a sister. All it was going to say was "daughter of X and Y" with the date she was killed. It was like Dad and the rest of us don't exist, or matter. They said that as they owned the plot they could do what they like and that they were doing it because the family had been "so disrespectful towards them".

I was absolutely frantic at this news. I spoke to my Dad’s parents in Florida who were equally shocked. I then spoke to the Head of the Cemetery department. Adding names to a grave is easy and isn't a problem but taking a name off a stone when they are ** known to be buried there** made them very uneasy indeed. They told me that If Granddad went ahead I could, as Mum and Dad's next of kin, apply to have their bodies exhumed (a word I had not heard until then) and to have them buried together again in another plot with a stone of my choosing. I would be under "no legal or moral obligation" to tell Nan or Granddad where the new grave was either.

In August my Dad's parents, my Dad's brother, my Mum's sister and I hired a solicitor to represent all of us against Granddad. The rest of them wouldn't accept any money from me from this which was very kind of them. Our joint case was helped by me finding a letter that Granddad had sent me in 2011 in which he said that although he paid for the grave plot he would let me choose the wording on the stone. Our solicitor was confident that this means that Granddad didn’t have the legal right to remove my stone and put another one there with his own choice of words.

Our solicitor phoned Granddad who agreed that my Mum would certainly have wanted Dad's name on the grave and he wasn't able to explain to our solicitor what removing Dad's name would do except upset lots of people. Granddad then offered to sell me the plot where Mum and Dad were buried at a 400% profit but a few weeks later he sold it to me for exactly what he paid in the first place plus a small transfer fee to the Council.

So then I owned the stone and the plot and all talk about removing Dad's name from the stone ended.  All the sensible members of the family were pleased that the nastiness was over, me most of all because it had been worrying and upsetting me so much.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Sally the Life Model - part 2

I'm just starting to understand when they talk about a pose being "on the limit". It is quite hard to predict when a pose will suddenly goes from being really exciting to do to being really stressful - or the other way round. Every model has their own limit and all sorts of things are supposed to make a difference. It is a bit scary for me finding out where my limits are!

What follows is a typical week during the summer break from studying at university.

The Monday course was at a Girls' High School. I was made to feel welcome and appreciated and there was female member of staff available to help and support me all day. That is really important because the modelling is emotionally quite draining and physically quite hard work. The model, well a new model like me anyway, needs somebody to do all sorts of little jobs like keeping an eye on the time allocated for each pose and to be there, robe at the ready, when the pose is over. At the High School the Head of Department (female) did the teaching and supervision of the year 12 students and her #2 looked after me. There were only 6 pupils (all girls) but as you might expect they were well behaved, well-motivated, well-mannered but perhaps not quite as talented/experienced as the adults from the last course I did.

I've put together a list of different poses around the theme of the female athlete and I've tried to put them into some kind of logical order. Each one has a suggested time listed beside the description so that when I met with the course organiser it is easy for the two of us to agree what I was going to do. I will have to change a few of the timings now I've done the course because odd bits were a bit rushed for the artists and others too long for me to manage.

One of the most interesting parts of the course was at the end when there was a short Q/A session. It is so sad that many of the girls had never really seen parts of their own bodies. I thought, but didn't say, that it isn't good when your boy-friend knows more about your body than you do. I'm really proud of my mum and dad and grateful for what they did for me on having a positive body image. 

I enjoyed the course a lot and would certainly go back there if invited. The staff gave me the highest possible feedback grades which was kind of them and which will go down well at the university.  


The Tuesday course was at a posh boarding school.  There were 7 pupils (all boys) and they were also well behaved, well-motivated and well-mannered. So it was a shame that the staff were not very nice. They treated me more like hired help rather than an invited guest and they made rather a drama of finding me a female chaperone. It clearly hadn't crossed the Head of Department's mind that a bare Sally posing for 7 male pupils and a male Head of Department would need a chaperone. Funny bloke! It took 20 minutes to find one so the course started late and the time lost was taken out of my lunch break. Not that they offered me so much a drop of fluid or bite of food the entire time I was there. Luckily I had brought my own supplies of both.

It was the Head Teacher's PA who was assigned to "help" me - she looked very fierce but she was excellent. There are only 4 ladies on the staff, excluding "domestics" as she called them, and she promised to keep a very close eye on what was going on. This is exactly what the model needs to happen.

The pupils were already in the room when I stepped up onto a raised platform with just a gown on ready to start. Pose 1 is a standing, full frontal pose lasting 10 minutes. It was so funny!!  I handed the robe to my helper and 7 pairs of male eyes, after a brief look at my breasts, went down to my lady bits and pretty much stopped there. One lad didn't seem to start drawing for at least 2 minutes. It is surprisingly ego-boosting to be the centre of attention like this but it doesn't reflect terribly well on the staff or pupils that had hadn't been reminded not to stare quite so openly.

You are going to sigh now.

I decided that it would be sensible to get all their embarrassment out of the way so I changed the order of my poses and I did the 3 minute groin stretch pose straight away. The rest of the session went really well after that so it was the right decision. My heart was thumping away while I was doing it through - keep looking enigmatic Sally!! 

The last bit of the course was rather strange. The last pose on the agreed list was a 10 minute reclining position (on my side facing the artists). It finished, the pupils thanked me very nicely and left the room followed by the Head of Department who I never saw again! He didn't thank me, didn't wait for me to get changed and then show me to the front door - he just vanished?

The PA filled in the appraisal form and gave me all top grades plus a very surprising big hug and "I think you are so brave". 

I enjoyed this course than Monday's. Posing to just ladies feels a little boring after posing to men. I must be very brazen!


I had a chance to look at some of the pictures created on the two days. There is a standing 3/4 back view of me that I really love. It shows my long legs off and the artist was generous with how much breast she gave me as well. It is a bit sad that I will never be able to buy it. It is the sort of picture I could show anybody without being (too) shy about having posed for it. Stewart would have liked a picture of me reclining on a couch. It is a bit more revealing than I remember it being but the artist has captured my face and body shape really well. The sketch of me in the groin stretch pose isn't one for general viewing although it is very accurate if you know what I mean!.  

Monday, 7 October 2013

Starting at university

The few days I had to stay with Nan and Granddad before I went off to the local university were rather tense! Nan and I did our best to get along – Granddad didn’t and he pretty much ignored me throughout. I was due to arrive at the university after lunch so I had my car packed by mid-morning. Just as I was finishing Nan announced she and Granddad were off out to do their usual social activities so I ended up cooking my own lunch before starting the next phase of my life without anybody even to wave me off. This little piece of nastiness rather caught me by surprise.

I managed to park my car close to my allocated room in the hall of residence. All around me were hoards of new students with their parents in tow. But I was determined not to get upset so I unloaded the car by myself: making a total of about 6 journeys backwards and forwards before everything was safely in my room. I kept wondering if people noticed I was doing everything on my own but of course they didn't.

Gradually the parents started to disappear and my feelings of being different from everybody else started to fade. I was “Sally the new student” rather than “Sally the orphan” and I was pleased to have moved on. Doing the social and academic activities without any back story was an important step for me but it still felt strange when the other students talked about phoning home or getting money from their parents. I just looked interested but keep my dark secret to myself. I knew that eventually somebody was bound to ask a difficult question and that I would just have to improvise an answer. I think the girl living opposite me was in a similar situation. She never mentioned any family and seemed a bit more weary/sad/cautious than the rest but she only lasted a few days before she left, never to be seen again, so I will never know if my suspicions were correct.

It wasn’t long before I realised I was making a problem for myself. I found it difficult to know what, when and how to tell my new friends about my situation. I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable about talking about their parents, which some of them seemed to do rather a lot, but I felt a bit of a fraud saying nothing when the others talked about their families or going home for the weekend. I seemed to have been told quite a lot about them and they must have wondered why I never talked about my own Mum and Dad.

In the end I told my next door neighbour and the person three doors down who was on my course. I didn't make a great emotional scene out of it. I just told them in the canteen that my Mum and Dad died when I was in the sixth form and I that I don't find it easy to talk about them. I told them that I don't want them to treat me any differently and of course that they shouldn’t feel awkward about talking about their own parents in front of me.

The second weekend was a bit of a crisis point for me. Most of my new university friends seemed to have gone home for the weekend which was nice for them but which made me feel rather left out. Curiously my sadness at Mum and Dad’s death seemed to fade a bit each day but the feeling of being different seemed unchanging. At 9PM I got so bored sitting on my own that I went outside to look to see how many lights were on in the student rooms. Not many but I went back in and knocked on the doors that matched the lights and I managed to get 3 other people to go with me to a local pub for a drink and a chat. It did me good and I hope it did them good as well!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The complicated “money side” of coping with bereavement

When people die their bank accounts automatically get frozen – this means that you cannot get any of their money out of the bank. As far as I know there are no exceptions to this rule. So when Mum and Dad were both killed I had no way of getting at their money to pay for things like their funeral. The only money I had for what seemed like ages was the small amount that I had in my own bank account.

There was supposed to be some “emergency cash” hidden in the house but when I went round a few days after the accident somebody had already taken it. I asked Granddad about it and he pretended that he had given it to the solicitor/lawyer who was looking after all of Mum and Dad’s money but later on I discovered that he had just kept it for himself! I ended up having to borrow lots of money from family members until things got sorted out.

Once the Will had been read out there were more money troubles. Mum and Dad had left almost everything to each other and then it went to me - with just a couple of small gifts to my Mum’s sister and my Dad’s brother. This made my Nan and Granddad (Mum’s parents) very cross because they felt, for some unknown reason, that they were entitled to lots of the money. Mum’s sister and Dad’s brother were the two trustees of the estate and it was their job to pay me an allowance out of the money I had inherited. I was to be given control of 50% of the money when I was 21 and control of the other 50% when I was 25.

All this made Nan and Granddad even crosser than before. They felt that they should have been put in charge and they hated it when the solicitor told them, firmly but politely, that there was nothing they could do about it. They sulked so much that when I needed to go all the way to Birmingham to sort out paying the tax bill (inheritance tax) at the very last minute they wouldn’t go with me. The rule was that I couldn’t inherit any money until I had paid the tax due but I couldn’t pay the tax until I had got the money. I was too young for a bank loan (I was still only 17) so this was a big problem. I can remember sitting there with tears pouring down my face until in the end some of the rules were “bent” when somebody very senior from London gave his permission for this to be done over the phone. Perhaps this kind man took pity on me?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

2011 Exam success – off to university!

What would I have done if my grades hadn’t been good enough to go off to higher education? I honestly don’t know as I didn’t recall having a plan B to cover that eventuality. I suppose I would have had to trot off to the local Further Education College to do my resits?

However on Thursday August 18th 2011 I got my exam results. I was a mixture of pleased and relieved when I found out that I had got the grades I needed and knew for certain that I was going to be off to university as I had always hoped to do. I had needed 280 points, which was a BBC, and I managed to get ABB.

Exactly as had happened twelve months previously the Head of the Sixth form was lurking and clearly looking out for me when I arrived at school. I could tell by her broad smile that I didn’t have anything to worry about. She was very kind and made a special fuss of me knowing that I didn’t have parents outside in the car park or on the other end of the phone waiting for news. In the past I have moaned about how some school staff seemed rather casual or cruel in the things they did but they certainly all got 10/10 for the way they handled my results day.

All of my friends got the grades they needed and six of us went out for a celebration drink.  While I was at the school I saw two girls and 1 lad in tears so something must have gone wrong for them and I saw one parent having a real shout at a teacher, "Why didn't you warn us!!!"

It was disappointing that when I finally got home that I didn’t have anybody to share my exciting news. Nan and Granddad were away on a coach tour until Sunday and instead of taking the mobile phone and leaving the list of contact details they did it the other way round. The aunt and uncle who helped look after my finances both returned my excited phone calls between 5 and 6 which was better than nothing I suppose. The whole "telling the family" part of the day was rather an anti-climax.

Once I knew I was going to university there seemed to be lots to do in the month before the Induction Week! I had decided to rent out my family home (as inherited from Mum and Dad) because I needed the money to live on and it would have been silly to just leave the house standing empty. This meant I would be living with my Nan and Granddad during the holidays which, bearing in mind all that had happened before, was not ideal for them or me.

The Estate Agent came round a couple of times and it was agreed that the renting family were going to move in the week before my term started. This wasn’t ideal either. The man in the family that rented my house was a mature student at the same university as me who was doing a PhD. They signed up for a six months lease to start with and it was agreed that one bedroom in the house would have a lock put on it and some of my stuff plus some of Mum and Dad's that I didn't want to part with was going to be stored in there.

After a rather worrying few days in early September when it looked like they were wanting to postpone moving in until after Christmas I finally moved out of the house on September 4th so that they could move in on September 8th.
I said goodbye to the neighbours and explained about the house being rented out. One said "Do you need planning permission for that?”. I have never "fallen out" with the neighbours but they have never been particularly supportive either.

It wasn’t nice moving back in with Nan and Granddad. I knew that there wasn’t reliable internet access at their house and that I would have to go to the local library to do any urgent jobs. I tried really hard to stay positive because I knew that there were lots to things to look forward to - it was just that I never thought I would have to go to university parentless!


Saturday, 7 September 2013

Leaving school and back to an empty house!

I remember the evening of June 26th 2011 so well. It was the night before my final exam and I decided that I had done as much physics revision as I could cope with and that if I don't know the material then I would never know it! I also recall thinking that if I didn’t get the grades I needed it was because I just wasn't good enough. I had given my final year at school all that I had to give.

I expect that almost everybody has vivid memories of finishing their final exam and so counting as having officially left school. As I walked out from the exam room I was intercepted by the Head of the Sixth Form who took me to see the Head Teacher. They said all sorts of nice things about me and told me that I was going to be awarded the Overcoming Adversity prize at the Celebration of Achievement event held in September.

Before I left I made a final visit to the Sixth Form Block. None of my closer friends were around to chat to and I already had a curious feeling of detachment, even remoteness, from my school days.  I had been focused on those pesky exams for as long as I could remember and I didn’t know what I was going do with all the free time. I left the school via Reception meaning to say goodbye to some of the people there who had helped me. But the long queue of people waiting to be processed meant I didn’t bother. I just gave the long-suffering staff a wave. It felt so strange walking out of the front door and towards the car park for the last time; especially as I could see that there were still lessons going on for most year groups.

I sat in the car for a couple of minutes just to postpone my final departure. I know that as I drove off I said something like, “Mum and Dad if you are looking down at me: Remember what Juba says in Gladiator "I will see you again... but not yet... Not yet!"

One of the hardest jobs I had to do in the time between school and university was sorting out all of Mum and Dad’s possessions. Going through their clothes wasn't nearly as bad I had thought it was going to be but I'm glad I had a former school friend with me to help. Some stuff I threw away but I took all the nicer items to a local charity shop. It did feel strange walking out of the shop leaving behind so much of what had made Mum and Dad look the way they did.

I also sorted through the books and magazines that they had collected over the years. I kept a few, including the ones they were in the middle of when they got killed, but most went to a different charity shop.

Finally all their more personal possessions were listed so the family could have anything that I didn’t want for myself. I kept Mum's engagement and wedding rings - perhaps for me to use myself when I get older. I also kept all the photos and a few recordings that had Mum and Dad's voices on.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Trying to survive on my own.

After a few months of living on my own in the house I realised that I wasn’t coping very well. I was feeling so angry and ashamed about all that had gone wrong while I had been living with Nan and Granddad and I was missing my Mum and Dad so much that every day felt like a battle just to carry on. I wasn’t feeling suicidal or anything like that but running a house and handling all the school work - plus all the sadness and stress in my life - was just too much for a youngster like me to manage.

In the end I realised that I needed some extra support so I phoned a group that specialised in dealing with young victims of bereavement. It was really hard picking up the phone, mainly because it felt like an admission of defeat, but in the end that is what I did and I said to the lady at the other end, "I'm 18, my Mum and Dad died 11 months ago. I’m not coping very well and I really need some help."

Perhaps the most useful advice they gave me was that I should think about finding somebody to share the house with me. They knew about a girl, she was 19, who lived a few miles away and who was in a similar situation to me. The lady assigned to help me wondered about the two of us sharing the house and "supporting each other a bit." The school helped me a lot while I was looking into doing this and the Deputy Head took me down to the CAB for a chat about what it would mean, emotionally, financially and practically to do this.

In the middle of January I did meet up with this girl. The main trouble was that I really didn’t like her very much, something just felt wrong and I worried that if she had started living with me it would have added to the stress in my life. I know it sounds mean but I don’t think 2-way support was part of her master plan. She was nearly 20 and lived in a tiny flat about 4 miles away. She relied on public transport (she had a car but hadn’t passed her driving test) to get to work and I thought (knew) she was going to expect me to ferry her around. Nan who was there with me thought the same. So I ended up saying “Sorry, but no” to her. Then I took her back to the bus station in my car and waited with her until her bus arrived.

A couple of weeks later I was put in touch with a young widow. The two of us met at my school and she seemed sensible and nice. She was 23 and had lost her husband in a motor bike accident in December 2009. At first having her living in my house worked really well. She seemed able to cope with her grief better than me, mainly because she seemed able to focus on the good memories she had of him. But after three weeks she told me that she would be working away during the week for a few months to cover a maternity leave. This removed most of the reason for having her share the house with me. The problem was that she was paying me rent for the full 7 days a week but was only able to stay in my house for 2 nights. The money side of this didn’t bother her because her firm was paying all the bills for her 5 days a week in a hotel while she is working for them away from home. I didn’t feel able to just chuck her out and look for somebody "better" but of course the whole point of having a house sharer was to avoid exactly what was still happening, which was me coming home to an empty house.

In the end she did start sharing the house with me again full-time and I was more cheerful. But then she suddenly announced that she was moving to Belfast. She paid all the money she owed me so that wasn’t the problem but it was only a few days between her telling me the sad news and her leaving me for good. She sent me a three line note when she started her new job and that was the last time I ever heard from her. I did feel that I had been rather exploited by her and that perhaps she wasn’t always totally candid about her plans.
Generally I think I was rather unlucky with my house-sharing. The money side worked well and the extra income was very useful but the disappointment of having this young widow – who I came to like and respect – being alternately in and out of my life so frequently for months made things quite stressful. What I needed was stability but what I got was almost constant coming and going.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

2010 Exam Results Day

That summer, when I was gradually getting used to living on my own was a strange time for me. Life felt almost unreal. All around me were memories of Mum and Dad and sometimes I felt that I hardly dared touch things because changing things was like accepting that they would not be coming back.

For most of my friends there was the anticipation of the dreaded Thursday in August when the external exam results were released, via the school, to anxious pupils – and even more anxious parents in some cases! Truthfully I can confess that I hardly gave a thought to this potentially life-changing event. By brain was so full with other, more immediate, problems that any hypothetical concerns along the lines of “What will I do if ….” never rose to the surface.

I can remember driving into the school car park and feeling mildly aggrieved that my usual space had been occupied by a yellow Mini. Then, quite suddenly, the full disgusting horror of my situation leapt out of my subconscious and grabbed me by the throat. It was all the parents sitting in cars, or standing in little worried groups, while their children went into the Sports Hall to collect the infamous “brown envelope”, that had done the damage.  

It was several minutes before I felt able to get out of the car and walk towards the main building. The year 12 and year 13 results came out on the same day so half of the pupils were relative strangers to me. Despite this the many signs of success and the few signs of tears were obvious at a glance. I particularly remember two lads from my physics group having a “frank exchange of views” with their angry parents.

There was a massive queue to get the brown envelopes. I had only been waiting for about 30 seconds when the Head of the Sixth Form dashed over to me with a beaming smile and my envelope in her hand. This is just so typical of the kindness she showed me over two years. She knew I would be coming in on my own and that I would have nobody to share my modest triumph with so she kept looking round and waiting patiently for me to arrive – and then she pounced! My results were excellent, better than the most optimistic of my predictions made immediately after the exams.

Going back home, via the shops as I needed to buy some food, was rather an anti-climax. As was phoning my aunt and uncle with my good news. All I really wanted to do was to be able to tell Mum and Dad what had happened but of course that was impossible. I was relieved of course that this educational hurdle was behind me but I didn’t experience the real jumping up and down with excitement feeling that I noticed some friends displaying.

That night I had my first invitation to a social gathering in ages. I also had my first proper kiss from a boy. I don’t suppose for a minute that he even remembers it, but I do!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Why I stopped trying to change the unchangeable.

I came across something I wrote in December 2012 that I would like to share with readers.

I have made a big decision. I think that it is time that I stopped mourning for my Mum and Dad and moved on with my life. That isn't to say that I will ever stop loving them, missing them or wishing that we could have had lots more years together. That isn’t it at all. It is just that it will soon be three years since they were killed and I think that is long enough for my full-on sadness to last.

I had been thinking about this for a little while and last night I had a long dream about them that helped me to make up my mind. I have had this dream a couple of times. In it Mum and Dad are sitting with me in an enormous sunny park full of benches. It was such a calm, loving and peaceful place – no feeling of sadness at all. On every bench there are just three people and somehow I just knew that this was the special place that God had created where all the teenagers who had been left behind come to see their dead parents.

In the dream I would talk to them both and they would promise me that we could meet in the park again and again until I was ready to let go. Well last night in my dream I told them that I thought that I was ready.

They seemed really pleased and reminded me that they would always be inside my head if I needed them. I know that I will have a few wobbles along the way - times like my graduation or my wedding day but I think I will be able to cope.

The most important influence of all was that my Mum and Dad loved me far too much to want me to keep on being sad. I absolutely know that they would want me to have a long, happy and fulfilled life making the best of every opportunity that comes along. They would be so cross if the accident that killed them both also ruined my life.

So how do I feel about how the last 8 months has gone?

Overwhelmingly I am glad that I made the conscious decision to change. When a bad day comes, as they still do sometimes, I reach out for emotional or practical help from people around me or I go for a long run. What I don’t do is to sit at home crying or feeling sad wishing that I could change the unchangeable.  I still visit their grave but I know that isn’t where they are. They are inside me and I carry them around every minute of every day.

By doing this I think I’ve honoured my Mum and Dad’s memory far more effectively than perhaps I would have done otherwise. I would not want to have been thought of as “that girl who never really got over the death of her parents.”

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Escaping from Nan and Granddad - Part 2

Mum and Dad used to make running the home look simple. Trust me when I say that it isn’t. 

My first job once Nan and Granddad had driven off without seeing me was to find some clean bedclothes so that I had somewhere to sleep. But of course since the heating had been turned off the clothes cupboard wasn’t warm and so all the bed clothes were cold and slightly damp feeling.  So I put them on the drying rack in front of the fire to air and warm through while I wrote down the list of jobs that I needed to do. And so it went on for several hours; every routine job seemed to take an age and before I realised it was tea-time.

Ah, no food in the house. Food shopping had been Mum’s area so off I drove the superstore. I never realised that food was so expensive! Who needs meat anyway? Cooking I could manage so I had a decent tea before looking again at the massive list of chores that needed doing.

The garden was a mess. It had been designed to be low maintenance because neither Mum nor Dad liked gardening but low maintenance doesn’t mean zero maintenance. I never did master this part of running a house and I think the neighbours used to fret a bit at how untidy it was.

I went to bed fairly early and it was such a pleasure not to have to worry about Granddad coming into my room without knocking. I remember walking around with nothing on feeling very adventurous.

And then I started to cry. Almost my first real, let it all come out, cry since the accident. When people talk about floods of tears they must have been thinking about me.  I just lay on my bed bashing the pillow as hard as I could saying again and again to Mum and Dad, “Why did you have to leave me to face all this crap on my own?”  This wasn’t some silly game, this wasn’t some horrid phase with a clear end point, this was how it was going to be for as far into the future as I could see!

Eventually I calmed down. And as I lay there thinking I realised that I had a simple choice. Force myself to be a grown-up long enough to finish all my exams and go off to university or give up on all my dreams by being weak and feeble.  I knew I didn’t want to go through life wishing, if only I had done this, that or the other so that first night really was the first day of the rest of my life.

It was what they call a steep learning curve for the first few weeks. My aunt came over to help me with some paperwork jobs that I had no idea how to start and she brokered a “peace treaty” between Nan and Granddad and me. Basically we ignored each other and agreed never to discuss what had happened when I was living with them. This was an agreement they broke later on and this will be part of a later blog entry.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Escaping from Nan and Granddad

It was just after school had closed for the summer that I decided that I was going to have to move out of Nan and Granddad’s house and back into my family home. By now all the paperwork had been sorted and all the tax had been paid so the house was mine.

I had to move out because I simply didn’t feel safe living with Nan and Granddad. I was tired of being battered, both emotionally and physically, by him. The number and severity of the hits I was getting was going up and up and it was just a matter of time before something really serious happened. So I decided to leave and once the decision was made I felt much calmer in myself. Of course I didn’t give either Nan or Granddad any hint at all that I was leaving. I chose a morning when he was at the Bowls Club and she was having her hair done. I just packed everything I had into my little car, drove the short distance to my house, unpacked the car and started the rest of my life.

I left a short note on their kitchen table to say where I was but I didn’t bother explaining why I had left. They never agreed with anything I said so it wasn’t worth the effort. I knew that as soon as they read the note they would come round and sure enough at 12:30 their car arrived. I was hiding upstairs where they couldn’t see me and I stayed there until after lots of door bell ringing and banging and shouting they finally left.

It was so strange being in the house on my own. It felt as if Mum and Dad were just away for a while and that if I was patient I would eventually hear them arrive back. I knew in my head that they were dead but a part of me was still struggling to accept the truth. Strangest of all was going into their bedroom. One of Dad’s astronomy magazines was on the bedside table just as he had left it the morning of the day he was killed.

The phone was still working so I phoned my Aunt – Mum’s sister and my Uncle – Dad’s brother – to tell them what had happened. Well part of what had happened because I didn’t know whose side they were going to be on. It was a little while before I realised that they were 100% on my side – basically once they found out about the lies Granddad had told them and about all the hitting.

I didn’t know very much about running a home and the first few months were very difficult but they were a lot, lot better than feeling scared all the time. And that is how it felt when I was near Granddad. I did know enough to cancel the standing order that paid the rent that Nan and Granddad had been charging me and that was one of the very first jobs I did. I can remember feeling quite grown-up sorting that out on my own.   

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The isolation created by parental bereavement.

There was a time when I worried that I might be overwhelmed with people trying to help me “get over” Mum and Dad’s death. That certainly didn’t happen; it was a lack of support and normal social contact that was so horrible. Neither Nan nor Granddad was in favour of expressing emotions. Their way of mourning for their daughter was to never mention her name and if I mentioned Mum, or, far worse, mentioned Dad, is wasn’t long before I got a warning or a slap or both from Granddad. Even the weekly phone chat with my Mum’s sister was very heavily monitored by Nan.

I had never had a proper boyfriend but I used to get quite a lot of invitations to birthday parties or social trips to the cinema or the pub and if it was an event that needed a partner there was never a shortage of lads from my year at school willing to take on the job. After the accident the invitations pretty much stopped coming. I suppose people thought that I wouldn’t want to come or that I would suddenly burst into tears and spoil things for everybody else. Of course what I really wanted was the chance to feel normal, if just for a few hours, but knowing that a party was happening but that I hadn’t been invited made me feel like a total freak. I almost stopped going on Facebook for this reason. All the pictures of people having a good time just made me feel even more isolated.

Mum and Dad’s friends were the same. I saw lots of them at the funeral but then most of them just vanished and I have had no further contact with them. Mum’s best friend – a good enough friend to be an “auntie” to me – hasn’t had a conversation with me since a week after the funeral!  I see her in town sometimes and although she might say “Oh, hello Sally” it is never anything more than this.

Once I moved out of Nan and Granddad’s house and back into the family home I had inherited things improved a bit. The neighbours knew I was living there on my own and although if I ever needed to ask them for help they were fine they absolutely never initiated contact with me.

In year 13 at school when we were doing small group projects we sometimes used to meet up at somebody’s house to do extra work. It wasn’t long before I realised that one or two of the Mothers were unhappy about their sons being unsupervised in my house. I never dared ask if they worried about what their son might do to me or what I might do to their son!

It wasn’t until I started at university, 18+ months after the accident, that I felt that the social side of my life was starting to get more normal.

Monday, 12 August 2013

How much I loved my Mum and Dad

I came across something I wrote about my Mum and Dad in June 2012 to a friend of mine. What I wrote then is still what I feel now so I’m happy to share it.

I loved my mum and dad. Not all teenagers would say that but I really did love them so much. It was like some utter nightmare when they had to leave me. They were both science teachers but they never worked in the same school. They were both Head of Science so we were fairly well off. They met when they were on their PGCE course and got they got married when the course finished. They always encouraged me with my athletics and it we were running late I used to get changed in the back of the car as were drove along with dad under strict instructions not to look in the mirror! They were always interested in me and me in them and so we had lots of happy shared times together.

Mum was tall and slim (5ft 10 in her 20's) and dad taller still at 6ft 2 which explains the way I look. I know now that they loved each other very much and it would have been so horrible for one to have died and the other survived

Mum had me quite late in life (35) and had such a terrible time while she was pregnant that she said "never again". That is why I am their only child.  Me being so late was a bit strange because Nan had my mum and aunt very young (she was still in her teens). Given what happened I don't know if it was a good thing or not I was an only child. I think we would have been separated - Nan and Granddad moaned at having just me stay so having two of us wouldn't have happened. But I would have had somebody to share the pain.

Mum and dad didn't have many friends (they were a bit nerdy) but the ones they did have were very close. I have always been cross and hurt that apart from coming to the funeral almost none of these friends have ever been in touch with me. Not even a card at Christmas.

We used to go on holiday every summer. I can remember Florida, Cyprus and Malta best of all. We used to do a mixture of cultural and fun things and they were good times. I can remember going topless in Cyprus - because mum was brave enough to I did to. Neither of us had very much to show!

Mum and dad were very progressive and sensible about things like periods. When I started, I was 11, it was all very low key and non-stressful. I was quite OK about telling them both that I had needed to use the supplies kept in the bathroom cabinet. She, a bit later (14?), talked my through how to explore my own body. It was just taken for granted it was something daughters should be taught. When I was 16 all three of us talked a lot about relationships. How sex was for both parties and all sorts like that. I'm so very proud of my mum and dad for teaching me these things!

I don't dream about mum and dad that much which is quite sad. The only one I can remember, I think I have had it 3 times now, happens in a brilliantly lit room, rather like a hospital waiting room, with nothing in the room except 3 chairs around an oval table. Mum and dad are standing on one side of the table and I am on the other but no matter how fast I ran they are on always on the other side to me. Although they know I was at university they still ask me all sorts of questions about what had happened to me since they had died. In the middle of the conversation they just walk over to one of the doors, wave goodbye and leave me behind. It isn't a happy dream.

Mum and Dad wouldn't be pleased at how Nan and Granddad treated me. Mum and Dad never spanked me but I wasn't a naughty girl either so it was easy all round. I didn't have the terrible teens. But Mum and Dad wouldn't be pleased with me that I sometimes seemed happy and cheerful to outsiders when I was actually being beaten, slapped and deprived of food. "You should have spoken up" is what they would have said.