The wicked witch of the West
My father left when I was thirteen years old. It wasn't a good thing to happen. It wasn't, at least, a good time to happen and it had the profound effect that such desertions have. It will, I assume, always do so, and if I am often fearful, often angry and permanently distrustful of my fellow human beings, the sudden departure of my father, all those years ago, may be as much of a reason as anything else. The feeling of being screwed up and thrown away, like an abandoned piece of paper into a waste basket, has stayed with me ever since, and brought about its own echoes, desertions small and large, repetitions of the original catastrophe.
The desertion of a father is one thing. The denial of one's children is another. Some years after he left, I found out that he had started a second family. I had two half-brothers, therefore, that I'd never known existed. But that much, I was all right with. That much I understood. Even the guilty must be allowed to get on with their lives. What I had rather greater trouble understanding was that these half-brothers did not know I existed. The existence of a previous family, my father's two sons and his daughter, had been hidden from them. We had been written out of history. We were something to be ashamed of. We were not convenient. We would get in the way. We were screwed up, and thrown in the waste basket.
It's hard to describe how devastating it is to know that your existence has been denied by your own father. I don't propose to dwell on it. I don't know that I could. I'm sure that I could not explain it to those who do not understand, and sure also that it would need no further elaboration to anybody who does understand. It is not, that said, that difficult a point to grasp. In fact, though I have mentioned it many people, the only one who has failed to understand it is my father. (I have met him twice since I found out about it. The first time, he denied that he had done any wrong. The second time, when he started to tell me it was good to see me, I replied "who the hell are you?")
The mother of these children is a woman called Sharon Bowles. An ambitious woman called Sharon Bowles. It is impossible, of course, that any decision to deny the existence of a previous wife and children could have been taken without, at very least, her consent and support. If she had thought it important that children other than her own should be acknowledged rather than abandoned, it would not have happened. If she had thought that the feelings of another mother's children mattered, it would not have happened. If she felt that anything mattered other than what suited her, it would not have happened. But it happened. And the other, despised children were devastated when they heard about it. But they were not her children, and so they didn't matter. So it happened.
She is, as I said, an ambitious woman. Private school and professional career: she also has a high opinion of herself. She has made several attempts to get herself elected, to the Westminster Parliament and the European equivalent. I cannot say, not accurately, nor with any sense of levelheadedness, how angry and how futile this makes me feel. It's not just that this is the woman for whose benefit I was consigned to history, it is that this is the career for whose benefit I was consigned to history. I am the screwed-up paper - the career is the brand-new sheet. And I am screwed up about it. Of this morning (for I have learned something, this morning) I am shattered.
The point is that if the career succeeds, then she is vindicated. If she prospers, then the route she took and the means that she selected are rewarded. By God, it fills me with rage, with hopelessness, with an inexpressible loathing. I have tried to express it. I have even tried to express it to her face. When she stood in the last Euro-elections, I went to the length, the pointless and vindictive length, of attending a hustings in Dartford just so that I could make it clear to her how much I hated her.
I asked a loaded question, wondering how the electorate could trust politicians who trod all over people in their personal lives, asking whether they would not to the same when it came to their careers. She replied, evasively, that everybody was human, even politicians, and that people who make mistakes should be allowed to get on with their lives providing they had once apologised. This was good answer. It was an answer I agreed with. But it was not just an evasive but a specious answer, since she never has apologised, not once, not ever, not a word. She has not, and he has not. Not a word.
After the meeting I confronted her in person, and told her what I thought of her, and did not do so gently in my tone or my vocabulary. I also told her that she might like to pass this on to my father, such that he might then remember who his children were. I told her this, and told her what I thought she was, and then I left, as angry afterwards as I was before, as angry then as I am angry now. But I was delighted some days later when she failed to be elected. She then failed to emerge as a candidate in the General Election last month. And I rejoiced. And I rejoiced too soon.
Because, as I found out this morning (I had been warned that it might happen, but I didn't know until today) one of her fellow Lib Dems, already an MEP was elected to Parliament, and chose, therefore, to resign his Euro-seat. The rules state that when this happens, the seat should be taken up by the candidate of the same party who was next on the party list for that consitituency. That unelected candidate was Sharon Bowles.
So, without even being elected, without even having done anything to serve it, my stepmother, my Wicked Stepmother, has been achieved the pinnacle of her career. Has been appointed, not even elected, but appointed to the European Parliament. She has got everything she wanted, and all her ego, all her arrogance, all her callousness - to the eyes of a deserted son, all her wickedness has been rewarded. And I feel cheated. I feel, today, today, once again, like the screwed up paper in the basket. I feel again, once again, like the thirteen-year-old boy deserted by his father, bewildered, lost, unable to understand anything that has happened - except (as children feel, as children always feel) that it must have been his fault.