applying makeupA General Guide To Wearing Makeup

When it comes to wearing makeup, there are a few things you need to know. The first is that it’s important you always apply makeup in the same lighting conditions you’ll be seen in. What might look great in your bedroom lighting might look completely different in natural light. Spend time observing women in your everyday life and you’ll see there’s a difference between daytime and evening makeup. miracle make up cover kitDuring the day, makeup is generally more natural. To achieve this look, apply a sheer base such as our Miracle Beard Cover, followed by a micronised powder. With your base done, it’s time to apply a pale lipstick, eyeliner, a hint of blusher, and a pale eyeshadow. And don’t forget mascara! It really opens your eyes and makes you look awake.   lipstickEvening makeup is where you can get a bit more creative. We’ve produced a applying makeupreally helpful step-by-step Makeup and Deportment Training DVD that will show you how to achieve the perfect look.   The key is to keep practicing until it becomes second nature. Then you can start to experiment with different colours until you find looks that you’re happy with.   eyeiner         Here is a checklist of makeup essentials     transformation makeup kitWhy not check out the Transformation Complete Makeup Kit? This a great option for those of you just starting out. Simply visit to get started now.  

Stephanie's Autobiography - Stephanie - A Girl In A Million - Chapter 1

  Stephanie's Autobiography - Stephanie - A Girl In A Million - Chapter 1. This is Stephanie's Autobiography. It tells the story of Stephanie Anne Lloyd, one of the first openly Transgender Women to speak out about the struggles and achievements of someone who is openly transgender. At the age of 68 I have lived just over 50 % of my life as a woman and the other half as a man. If women knew how much easier it is for men I am sure there would be a revolution. Hopefully this very personaland honest account will give a unique perspective of the real differences between the sexes and also make the path of those who follow in my footsteps somewhat easier in these more enlightened times. As I undressed and changed into my hospital gown, I tried to avoid catching sight of myself in the mirror that stretched the entire width of the wall. I couldn't bear to look at my body and see the evidence of what I had become - an in-betweeny, with the full, firm breasts of a women and the genitals of a man. I felt, and looked a freak. That thought alone was enough to make me realise that tomorrow couldn't arrive soon enough. Was it really only twelve hours since I'd left my house to embark upon what I could only describe as the greatest journey of my life! It seemed like years ago. My memories of the taxi journey to the airport, the brief flight to London and my underground ride to Hammersmith Station were hazy; I'd been far too preoccupied with my own thoughts to take much notice of what had been going on around me as I had journeyed south to London for my appointment with my future - if indeed I was to have a future, I mentally amended. The staff at the Charing Cross Hospital were wonderful, as they took me through the normal admittance procedure before showing me to my room. Of course they knew who and what I was, but they were far too professional to display any prurient interest. Now, at long last, all the necessary first day formalities had been taken care of and I was alone in my hospital bed with just my thoughts for company. Soon, one of the night staff would come in to offer me the obligatory little white pill that would provide a merciful night's sleep, when I would be spending the next few days heavily sedated, I couldn't quite work out. I hoped they wouldn't come too soon, for I needed these few precious moments of solitude to sort out my conflicting emotions. It wasn't that I had any doubts about my decision, for those had all been resolved a long time ago. I simply knew that, before I could face the future, I had to come to terms with the past. Tears slid slowly down my face as I recalled the hurt and pain I had inflicted on others in the years during which I had selfishly avoided coming to terms with my condition. If only I had known that, no matter how I tried to fight the truth, I would still end up in this hospital bed facing the most dramatic moment of my life! Perhaps than I would have been better equipped to spare so many people I loved the anguish that I had unwittingly subjected them to. But here I was and nothing, not all the regrets in the world, could change the past. All I could do was try and change my future but I had no idea of the rollercoaster ride I was about to embark on which would eventually would turn in to the mantra I would come to live by: "The people who mind don't matter and the people who matter don't mind" I have long been a keen reader of autobiographies and have never before thought to question the exemplary lives the authors seem to have led. It was only when I came to write my own autobiography that I discovered the almost overwhelming compulsion to omit all of the parts one is ashamed of, or to censor the mistakes and errors that, with hindsight, reflect badly on one. We all have a natural tendency to gloss over the darker aspects of ourselves as well as those unhappy circumstances that are of our own making - yet writing an autobiography inevitably creates a dilemma: not only have I been forced to relive my life, but also to lay that life bare for public consumption and possibly even condemnation! It has been extremely difficult to produce, but here you have a painfully honest account of my life. The story you are about to read traces my life in excruciating detail. In forcing myself to record all of my mistakes, I have relived the torment and endured the pain of incidents that reflect my inadequacies and thoughtlessness. Yet nothing can undo the past and no one, I am sure, could judge me more harshly than I have judged myself. And so, as my story unfolds, I would ask you to remember that my increasingly inexplicable, irrational and sometimes outrageous behaviour was a confused and emotionally unstable person's reaction to a problem of sexual identity that was growing ever larger and more terrifying with each passing year. Sadly my estranged parents who were dedicated Jehovah's Witnesses are now dead but I fervently hope that this painful honest account will help my beautiful and loving ex wife and my three irreplaceable children truly to understand the complex and wholly untenable condition that I fought to come to terms with and which rendered them innocent victims. If, in addition, my story serves to educate to help minimise the mystery and prejudice that surrounds transsexuals and provide some solace to those unfortunate few who are forced to follow in my footsteps, then it will be an added bonus. My birth was an accident. Just how much of an accident no one fully appreciated until many years later. My father often used to say that I walked to the beat of a different drum - although I'm sure he had no idea of how prophetic his words would ultimately prove to be. My father's family, the Hulls, originally came from Redhill in Surrey, where they owned a successful chain of fish and chip shops. Successful, that is, until one of there trusted managers absconded with the takings. After moving to Harpenden in Hertfordshire and finding himself unable to get planning permission to open a fish and chip shop there, my grandfather started a decorating business in which my father, Frederick, assisted whenever he was not working at his other job, on the railways. One of four children, my father later grew apart from his brothers and sister, so I have few recollections of my paternal aunts and uncles. My mother, born Gladys Beryl Minall, came from far humbler origins. One of eight children, she lived in a small terraced cottage in an area know as The Folly on the outskirts of a picturesque Hertfordshire village of Wheathampstead. My mother's childhood was by any standards a hard one; on more than one occasion she and her brothers and sisters were placed in an orphanage when their parents were too ill to look after them. However, despite their poverty and the problems of having to sleep eight to a double bed (girls one end boys the other!) Despite their straightened circumstances with no running water, outside loo & only gas lighting downstairs they remained a close-knit, loving family. My parents married when they were both nineteen. (as with most of my aunts at short notice when they discovered they were pregnant) Six months after the birth of my elder sister Pearl, Dad was struck down with a mysterious disease. My poor father had to endure over ten years of painful traction, repeated lumbar infections, numerous operations and at one sage the total encasement of his body in plaster for a period of three and a half years, before his doctors were able to diagnose the mysterious disease as ankylosing spondylitis and arrest it with a series of gold injections. Unfortunately, by the time he was finally allowed home to live with his family, all the main joints in his body had become rigid, unable to dress himself or bend down and was thus crippled for life. At the time, social security and the welfare state were not yet in existence, so my mother was forced to experience again the poverty and deprivation of her childhood as she struggled to bring up my sister alone. In addition my father was unable to work on his return home and dependent upon my mother to dress him and help perform all the personal tasks that the healthy take so much for granted. A variety of cleaning jobs. enabled my mother to produce just enough to cover the rent and food and though life must have been very difficult, Mum did what she has always done: she coped. The one thing about my father's physical health and that remained unimpaired was his virility. Within weeks of his release from hospital, an unforeseen and unwanted complication arose which forced him to ignore the doctor's pronouncements that he would never walk again, as well as their warnings that he was medically unfit to work, because my mother was pregnant with me. Obviously, Dad's disability made it extremely difficult for him to find work; even when he did, a succession of employers proved only too keen to exploit his situation by paying him very low wages. Undeterred, he developed a tenacity and strength of character that were to typify his lifelong fight against his disability - the same inherited qualities of courage that enabled me to make the greatest journey a human being can undertake. My original birth certificate attests that Keith Michael Hull was born at the Oster Hill's Hospital for the Poor a St Albans, Hertfordshire on 25th May 1946. Although I was originally an unwanted child, when my parents took me home to 21 Weybourne Close, Harpenden, where I was to spend my first eleven years, they were delighted that I was healthy, whole and very obviously very male to complement my sister Pearl. My father was a strict disciplinarian. A tall man, whose disability caused him to stoop and reduced his height to five feet nine, he propelled himself around with the help of two walking sticks, rarely allowing a smile or any warmth to lighten his countenance. This, coupled with thinning hair and spectacles which gave him the appearance of being older than he was gave an impression of a remarkably formidable and forbidding sort of character. I lived in fear of him until the day I got married. I don't know whether he was ever aware of how very much I longed for a display of love or even affection from him and how disappointed and rejected I always felt at receiving none. To this day I am unsure whether he was totally without emotion or, as I would rather believe, someone who considers showing emotion to be unmanly. My mother, at five feet three, was fairly small, very slim and never still. Always concerned with helping others (who were usually in a better position than herself), she nevertheless has always been a strong, determined character who, once committed to a course of action, is completely unmoveable. Home was a typical 'two-up, two down' terrace. The back door, which was reached through an alleyway separating the two middle houses, opened straight on to the living room, which contained my father's special chair sandwiched between a large valve radio on a shelf and the dining table. The floor was covered in linoleum, which extended into the tiny kitchenette with its walk-in cold larder and old-fashioned gas stove. The stairs to the upper floor, which housed my parents bedroom and the one which I shared with Pearl for seven years until she left home - and a draughty, basic bathroom. The house was always freezing cold because rationing was still in evidence and we couldn't get enough coal. Despite the fact that my father had found a job as a sheet metal worker, luxuries (those things that today we call necessities) were still conspicuous by their absence - fruit, in the shape of half a banana, was a weekly treat, while a bottle of Corona was a cause for celebration! Pearl was undoubtedly favoured by my parents - particularly my father who, having missed the first ten years of her childhood, would often make a great fuss of her. But despite the fact that she was always being held up as a shining example, Pearl and I were very close until she left home. My father often berated me with comments like, 'Why can't you be more like your sister? - though I don't suppose he ever dreamed I would take him quite so literally! Pearl was a paragon of perfect behaviour. One of life's naturally good people, she was appointed Head Girl at school and never seemed to do anything wrong. Unfortunately by comparison I was considered the black sheep of the family. Certainly, my father would derisively condemn me as a sissy whenever I displayed cowardliness at the prospect of my weekly bath. It wasn't that I minded water, or even the bath itself. What filled me with dread were the terrifying antics of our ancient geyser, which was incapable of dispensing hot water without first undergoing a series if death-defying rituals before it would ignite. Its blood-curdling sound effects would have me petrified for hours afterwards. Weekly baths aside, life up to the age of five was fairly uncomplicated. We kept in close contact with my mother's relatives and were frequent visitors to my Auntie Elsie and Uncle Rays's house. My mothers parents, who were extremely frail and hard of hearing, were looked after by my Auntie Kath and Uncle Reg, who lived with them a the same house that my mother had grown up in. My grandmother, a large lady with thinning hair, wore dentures, which she couldn't abide and would spit out at every opportunity and a hearing aid which she took great delight in turning off whenever she had her say and didn't want to hear the response. Because Auntie Elsie and Uncle Ray were both so involved building up their garage business their youngest daughter, my cousin Barbara, who was just a year younger than me, spent a great deal of time at our house, often staying with us for such long periods that we regarded each other as brother and sister rather than cousins. Young as I was then, I can still recall the Christmases we spent at Auntie Elsie's; the presents, the silver three penny bits hidden in the Christmas pudding and most memorable of all, settling down after lunch in front of that rarest of luxuries - a vintage TV set with a tiny, pink, nine-inch screen which was the envy of the entire neighbourhood. Strangely enough, although I can't recollect the precise moment, it was around the age of five that I had my first conscious memory of the dream that was to haunt me continually At first my recollections were minimal; I remembered only that in this dream I had been a girl. Later, I was to discover that in my dreams I was always a girl and only in my nightmares was I male. I don't think anything can adequately prepare a small child for the trauma that is their first day at school especially in an age where pre-school was non-existent. By the time that day came, I had already made up my mind that the prospect was not half so attractive to me as it obviously was to my parents and so, like many other children of five, I was a fairly reluctant recruit to the education system. With me perched on the back of my mothers bicycle, we laboriously climbed Pickford Hill, at the top of whose steep incline stood the imposing house of horror that was Batford Primary School. Too frightened to put on a brave face, I was discharged, crying, into the playground where, in common with my equally bewildered companions, I surveyed this vast, new noisy, baffling world. Like timid sheep we were herded together towards the cloakroom, where an intimidating teacher ordered us to select a hook upon which we were to hang our coats and satchels. The girls, on one side of the cloakroom, had hooks identified by a variety of teddies, dolls and fluffy, cutesy animals. Predictably, the boys hooks had boats, trains and planes. Dutifully, I selected a train and claimed it with my coat. Just at the moment I noticed the approach of what was obviously from his demeanour the school bully in training. He was looking for a suitable target and the inferior specimen he chose was me. Lunging for my coat, he threw it on the floor, replaced it with his own and then shoved me over. Stumbling, I fell backwards on to an object so painfully sharp that I immediately yelped, propelled myself forward and accidentally cannoned straight into my opponent. What happened next couldn't have been more bloody (or more fortuitous) had it been staged and rehearsed by a master stunt-arranger. Caught off balance by the impact, my hapless assailant tripped over his own satchel and fell heavily against the very peg he had fought for, gashing open his head so badly that he immediately collapsed at my feet in an unconscious bloody heap. Chalk-white and still unconscious, the poor boy was carted off by ambulance to the local hospital. A peaceful week passed before he was well enough to return to class, by which time (and completely by chance), having gained the totally undeserved respect of my new school pals, I'd become a local hero and established a reputation that, while unfounded, was nevertheless to provide me with the protection throughout the remainder of my six years at primary school. Thus began eleven years of state education that were, supposedly, specifically designed to prepare this young lad for adulthood. Needless to say, thought they weren't entirely wasted, they were hardly designed to prepare me for what life had in store. Batford Primary School was a good two-mile walk from my home. Every day, summer and winter, no matter what the weather, my friends and I trudged unescorted to and from school. The shortest route took us down the steep slope of Crabtree Lane which, come winter and the much prayed for snow, was transformed into the perfect toboggan run. From there we would cross the ford of the River Lea at the bottom of the hill, skirt round by Batford Mill and then nip through the old deserted prisoner-of-war camp with its tall watchtower and rusty Nissen huts to emerge half a mile from Batford Primary. With my new friends and our exciting adventures to look forward to on the way home, it didn't take long to settle in. Towards the end of my first Christmas term I reached the highest primary school achievement: I was chosen to appear in the annual nativity play as one of the Three Wise Kings. Although fairly central to the storyline, my part and the four words I had to memorise for it hardly constituted adequate qualification for an Equity card in later life. Since our teacher was not one to give praise, I never knew whether my performance had come up to the exacting standards demanded of a troupe of five year olds - and much good would it have done me even if it had. I had just passed my sixth birthday when I fell ill with Yellow Jaundice. It was an illness with unfortunate consequences at school felt decidedly queasy one morning and more than usually dreaded the school dinner. As I stared miserable at the lumpy mashed potatoes, pulverised meat and mushy, boiled vegetable adrift in a sea of watery gravy, I suddenly broke out in a sweat. This was in the days when there was no choice and you were forced to clear your plate. 'Please, miss, may I be excused? I don't feel well, I managed to squeak. 'Certainly not!' came the peremptory reply from the dinner table supervisor. With a sadistic smile she advanced to my table and positioned herself menacingly beside me as I slowly forced the revolting mess down my throat and into my protesting stomach. No sooner was the last forkful in my mouth that the inevitable happened. I threw up with projectile vomit with so much force that I managed to cover my plate, most of the table and everyone within three feet of me. Revenge was sweet - my only regret was that I didn't fell well enough at the time to enjoy it. Once diagnosed. I was ordered to stay off school for several weeks, which neatly enabled me to evade any form of retribution. Pearl caught disease too and unfortunately suffered far worse than I did. However, once we were over the worst we were able to spend a great deal of time amusing each other. Eventually I recovered and was sent back to school to enjoy my second Christmas there. And although none of us was aware of it then, that Christmas was also the last we were ever to celebrate together as a family. This year 1953 was barely underway when a stranger by the name of Douglas Joyce called at our house. That knock on the door - just one of the many doors Douglas Joyce risked having slammed in his face every day of his life - was to prove both unexpectedly fruitful for him and enormously influential in the shaping of my family's life. For he was a Jehovah's Witness and before long he became a frequent and welcome visitor. My mother was the first to embrace the religion and though my father was much slower to make the conversation (which meant he would have to forswear smoking), eventually he, too became so staunch a member that he was ultimately elected to hold office. Having become fired with religious fervour, my parents naturally observed all the rules. Thus Christmas and birthdays like so many other celebrations, became something that only other people's children were allowed to enjoy. The common perception of a Jehovah's Witnesses central philosophy is that they should embrace the Bible wholly and literally - good and bad. It's by no means an easy religion, but I have always found them to be very sincere people who aren't in the least hypocritical. While many do undertake the biblical commandment that they should go out and preach to others, I think their courage, perseverance and continual good humour in the face of hostility, abuse or, at the very least, a series of closed doors, are much to be admired. They still believe that the earth is just 6 thousand years old Interestingly enough at precisely the same time as my parents became converted, out next door neighbour, a DIY freak who made our Sunday's unbearable with his noisy banging and sawing from dawn to dusk, also found religion in the shape of the Plymouth Brethren. From the moment on he gave his Sundays church, which earned my heartfelt approval as it meant that I could at last enjoy a peaceful, albeit very brief, lie-in before our newly acquired religious duties beckoned. My parent's conversion had a dramatic effect on our lives. Suddenly there seemed endless meetings to attend. Tuesday evening, eight till nine, we had group Bible study at the home of a Witness called Vera Fawcett. I always enjoyed these meetings tremendously, not so much because of what I was learning but because the moment we finished studying Vera would ply me with food. Thursday evenings, too, were entirely taken up with meetings and eventually our whole family life began to revolve around the church, Bible study groups and fellow members. Celebrations didn't just stop now we were converted - they went into reverse! The following Christmas was awful. In their attempt to ignore it, my parents went into overkill. There was no gaiety, no family get-together with Auntie Elsie, Uncle Ray and my cousins, no turkey, no Christmas pudding with silver three-penny bits hidden inside (in fact the food we ate that day was far inferior to what we would have had on any normal day) and worst of all, no presents. The changes, coming so abruptly and overwhelming, were very confusing and as time passed, the rigid rules and disciplines of the faith forced me further and further apart from my friends and peers. In retrospect, it was the perfect preparation for a future in which I would be forced to stand apart from the crowd to a degree that few people experience. But even if I had known that then, I'm sure it would have brought little comfort. Come rain, shine, snow and fog, I was made to tramp the streets besides my parents as they delighted in their new mission in life: the spreading of the word according to the gospel of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Every Sunday afternoon we would attend a public talk, which was often given by a visiting speaker from another congregation and afterwards we would indulge in an hour-long study of the Watchtower magazine. Weekly reports had to be filed, stating how many hours we had spent knocking on people's doors. The more involved my mother became, the more often I would be dragged along to strangers houses where my mother would lead study hour after study hour as she sought to convert and save as many souls as she could. Every weekday morning I had to get up at seven to help Mum get Dad off to work, a journey he would make in open topped, open-sided invalid carriage. As our road was at the bottom of a hill, the only way to start this vehicle was for Mum and me to push it up to the top of the road and back down again with Dad inside. Once the motor was running, Dad would swing round at the bottom of the close and puff his way off to work followed by a plume of blue smoke. On one such occasion he overdid the turn at the bottom and to our horror, his invalid carriage turned over. Panic ensued for several moments as we roused the neighbours to help right the vehicle. To our relief Dad was unhurt but the accident had shaken him so much that after he was always extremely careful when he swung the vehicle round a the bottom of the close. The fact that it was invalid carriage provided the few moments of closeness Dad and I were ever to enjoy together, when he's allow me to ride in front of him and even, on occasions, let me take the steering bar when the roads were quiet. When I was seven, my parents bought me a bicycle. An ancient bone shaker, hand-painted in black, it was the most fearsome thing I'd ever laid my eyes on. After Dad had left for work, Mum, determined that I would learn to ride it, would lift me, protesting, on to its uncomfortable saddle. Her method of instruction was basic, to say the least; as I wobbled from side to side in an effort to find my balance, she would alternately smack my legs and shout at me to pedal. Needless to say I proved an apt, though unwilling pupil. Pearl, who'd left school at fifteen and found a job at the same company where my father was employed, became more and more involved with the Witnesses, to the point where she even gave up one of her boyfriends because it was forbidden to marry outside the religion. When she was seventeen she decided to leave home and become a pioneer. Pioneers spend nearly all their time spreading the message by calling door to door. As the work is unpaid and often involves them being sent to live in another area, they have to rely on a part time job to support themselves. Life was totally dominated by the church and gradually I found that the multitude of meetings were impinging on anytime I have available to play with my school friends. Naturally, this resulted in my becoming somewhat isolated and alienated from many of them. Dad's disabilities prevented him from fully exploiting his many abilities at work - though, to his credit, he did get promoted enough to control a large part of the production process. Obviously, his limitations caused him great frustration. But he was a determined man and he soon diverted his energies into his religion. I'm convinced that the very restrictions that prevented him from advancing his career were the fuel he burned in his fervent pursuit of progress within the organisation of our religion. Respected for his leadership qualities and his total commitment, he soon became overseer of the Harpenden congregation. More of our Sundays were devoted to travelling further and further afield as he began to receive invitations to speak to other congregations. In time I grew used to the constant meetings and even to the way in which our religion encroached on every aspect of our life. I am sure that, as far as my parents were concerned, religion was their life. And even the drama of two particular events that stand out in my memory weren't enough to interfere with their devotion to their religious duties. The first drama caused by my fathers newly found interest in brewing. Someone had given Dad a recipe for brewing ginger beer, a fairly harmless substance, he believed. Having assembled a collection of old Corona Bottles with china stoppers held securely in place by metal wires, Dad applied himself to his new hobby with almost the same fervour he applied to the sect. On this particular Sunday Dad and I were patiently waiting, immaculate in our Sunday best, for Mum to come downstairs. 'Come on, son, we've just got time to nip down to the shed to see how the beer's coming along, Dad said. Once there, he inspected the bottles. However, as that did not reveal much, he then picked one up and started to ease the metal wire back to release the stopper. Suddenly, there was an explosive noise and a great fountain of gaseous, still fermenting ginger beer shot straight out of the bottle with all the force of a rocket ship leaving earth. Unlike a rocket shop, thought, it met an impediment - our ancient, rusty, corrugated iron shed roof! With nowhere else to go, the sticky beer, by now combined with years of rust, rained down on us in an avalanche of indelibly staining, muddy liquid. We looked such a fright when we emerged from the shed that my mother did not know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, she shooed us inside the house, stripped our clothes off, scrubbed us until we shone and lectured us both all the way to the meeting house. The rare experience of finding myself accompanied in the doghouse by no less a person than my own father made me feel closer to him in those moments than I'd ever felt before. The second dramatic event occurred when once again dressed up in my 'going to meeting' best, I was riding my bike up and down the close while waiting for my parents to come out. Suddenly I caught sight of Brian, the fourteen-year-old son of another neighbour, messing around with an old motorbike on the other side of our road. Intrigued by the noise and the smoke, I propped my bike against a garden wall and joined a group of other local children who were lounging against the wall avidly watching his antics. Keenly aware that we were giving him all our admiring attention he started showing off by mounting the bike and kick starting it with a display of cool nonchalance designed to show us he was an experienced rider. To his horror - and our pop-eyed, cruel delight - the powerful machine roared into life, jerked off its stand and shot across the road towards us at lightning speed. By now totally out of control, the motorbike crashed straight into my bike. The problem was that, thought the motorbike stopped, Brian didn't. Still in mid-flight and with me right bang in the middle of his flight path, Brian collided into me with such force that we both soared over the wall and crash landed in a heap in the flower bed on the other side. Thirty seconds earlier, or two feet to the right and my life - and my problems- would have ceased to be. As it was, although I was badly bruised and grazed, no great damage had been done to me. My parents, always anxious to avoid a fuss, promised his parents that in return for the repair of a replacement of my mangled bike they would not take the matter any further. Which was pretty fair of them considering that, as Brian was under-age, uninsured, untaxed and had committed half the motoring offences in the book, the police would have treated the matter far more seriously. As vivid as that memory of Brian is, it was his younger sister, Linda Newbold who was to provide me with far more reason to remember the family. For it was she who was to play such a significant role in the furtherance of my sex education a few years later and to end up pregnant by my cousin. All too soon, my life began to change. With secondary school looming large, we moved to a new three-bedroom semi bungalow my parents had had built just a few hundred yards away in Crabtree Lane. Having scrimped and scraped to afford the house, by the time we moved in we were flat broke. Still, at least we could look forward to a winter of relative luxury with part central heating and best of all as far as I am concerned there would be no noisy, frightening geyser to contend with at bath time. Life had taken a turn for the better and even though I still came out in a cold sweat every time I crawled between the bed sheets at night, fearing what my strange dreams might reveal, I look forward to joining the 'big boys and girls' at Manland Secondary School. It never occurred to me that becoming one of the 'big boys' would mean having to contend with the horrors of puberty and the flattering (though privately puzzling) interest of girls -an interest that was to give me a wholly undeserved reputation as a prolific Romeo.

Stephanie-a girl in a million-chapter 2

Chapter 2

When I was made a prefect in my fourth year, no one was more surprised than my parents and no one was more disgusted than the games master! But even that accolade was earned more by default than merit, and it was my sister Pearl who was the unwitting cause: apparently the head teacher, Mr Bloxham, found it impossible to believe that any brother of Pearl's could be all bad!   My first (and last) ambitious project in woodwork class was a tea trolley which took most of my five years at secondary school to complete and provided a perfect weekly excuse for "money for materials"- half of which went to support my newly acquired "habit" of illicit smoking. When my parents enrolled me in private music and singing classes with a lady called Miss Toyer, it didn't take me long to discover a better use for my time and their money. Inevitably, after several weeks, non-attendance I got caught out and the tea trolley, which had been progressing at a cracking pace while I had an alternative source of cigarette funds, once more slowed down in production.   Our favourite haunt at that time was Le Capri café in Harpenden village. It was run by a chap called Benny who, no matter how much time (or how little money) we spent hanging around sipping espresso coffee and smoking umpteen cigarettes, remained unfailingly cheerful and chatty. My one and only period of truancy from school, which lasted a whole week, was spent almost entirely at Le Capri with Rodney and a few of the lads, plotting exciting (and foolhardy) escapades. It was there that we first dreamed up the idea of sneaking out of our houses in the middle of the night. As I lived in a bungalow this proved to be remarkably easy, though how the others managed to climb out of a second-storey window and shin down a drainpipe without being caught, I'll never know. On one of these midnight excursions we decided to paint a slogan on the side of a big railway bridge that spanned the main A6 road. For years afterwards, whenever I drove down that road and saw the words "KEEP BRITAIN GREAT" in enormous capital letters on the side of the bridge, I would feel faint, wondering how I had managed to conquer my fear of heights to take part in such a dangerous prank.   Not long afterwards, the husband of a bible study acquaintance of my mother's went to Spain, leaving his large motorbike safely (or so he thought) in storage at our house. The temptation proved too great, and before long Rodney and I had developed the knack of quietly wheeling the bike out of the garage at night and rolling it down to the bottom of the hill where, safely out of earshot, we'd kick-start it into life and embark on a hair-raising, heart-stopping ride at great speed around the Hertfordshire countryside. It makes me shudder now when I think of two fourteen-year-old boys with no insurance, no road tax, no crash helmets and no protective clothing doing seventy miles per hour down those dark, unlit country roads when our parents thought we were safely tucked up in bed.   Predictably, we got caught - not by the police, but by someone whose wrath was far more terrifying: my mother. We had sneaked the bike back into the garage, bidden each other a whispered goodnight and then, just as I had one leg over the sill of my bedroom window, the light snapped on. I froze in horror at the sight of my mother framed in the doorway with a grim expression on her face. Convinced they had given birth to the biggest sinner of all time, my parents refused to believe that my adolescent pranks were fairly normal for a boy of my age - if I'd been sneaking out at night, then it had to be for some deeply illegal or immoral purpose. It must have been months before they were able to get a good nights sleep again.   So my nocturnal wanderings came to an abrupt halt. Not so my smoking "habit" concealed, I regularly got caught. If I'd been to the cinema, I'd rub my fingers on the brickwork outside the house to remove all trace of nicotine stains and stuff myself with extra strong mints to mask the smell, but my mother possessed the nose of a bloodhound so all my efforts were in vain, and time and time again I'd be on the receiving end of lectures about my evil ways as yet another lighter and pack of cigarettes were confiscated.   Outwardly, I appeared to be no different from any other boy of my age. Inwardly, however, I was becoming more and more confused. My friends were clearly acquiring a sexual interest in girls, and they'd talk about it a great deal which as I found was mostly derogatory and related to the size of their tits and how far they would go, the top of stockings was referred to as "the giggle line" as once you were past it you were laughing. This does not change as at any age men still express the same attitude. It seemed strange to me that I didn't share their enthusiasm, but again I didn't dare tell anyone how I felt-it was too private, too confusing and far too difficult for me to explain or deal with - let alone anyone else. Besides, I was sure everyone would think I was gay; after all, people are expected to be one way or the other, and if a boy's not sexually attracted to girl's there's only one other conclusion that people normally reach. But in my case they would have been wrong. Although I was a very sensitive boy who would often be moved to tears in private by sad songs, books and films, I definitely wasn't attracted to boys either.   For any normal boy, being brought up a Jehovah's Witness would have been a heaven-sent opportunity as the girls of our faith were banned from dating anyone outside the religion and they far outnumbered boys. But for me it proved only to be a source for yet more embarrassing and confusing episodes - particularly as I was the only teenager male in our congregation. I had one or two innocent relationships with girls which involved a lot of hand-holding and a little kissing, which I didn't mind in the least, but when I met Sandra I soon realized I was totally out of my depth.   Sandra was a full figured comely girl who lived just a few miles from us, and went to the same school. I enjoyed her company and was quite happy to go out with her, to hold her hand and even kiss her. But, as I soon discovered, that the tame stuff to Sandra, who was not only sexually experienced but had every intention of continuing her education with me. I tried everything I could to prolong the kissing and hand-holding stage, but it soon became clear that what Sandra wanted was sex - not a romantic little seduction, but hot, passionate sex.   My parents were away one Sunday so we ended up on the floor of my parents lounge. With mounting fear and apprehension I panicked as she insisted on dictating the pace. My first mistake was to display my inexperience when I fumbled with the hooks of her bra, which only caused her to push me impatiently away and undo it herself. My second mistake was in pretending to be so overwhelmed by her charms that I spent far too long exploring her breasts with my hands and mouth - silently hoping and praying that things would stop there. Inside my head a million questions were vying for answers. Should I run? What would she do or say if I did? Should I give her what she obviously wanted? How could I? Should I refuse her? What would she say if I did? After all, it's usually the girl who refuses the boy, not the other way round!   Impatient with my dithering, Sandra discarded her knickers. And then I knew I was really in trouble. What I needed now was either a step-by-step instruction manual or a quick run through an educational film. I'd heard stories in the playground, but I wasn't sure how accurate or reliable they were. I knew the vernacular for the hidden parts of male and female bodies, but no one had even hinted at the existence of such a thing as a clitoris - and if they had, in my ignorance I would probably have thought it was a plant.   Eventually we were both stark naked, when Ray Taylor, our congregation overseer !! Unbeknown to me, my parents had asked him to keep an eye on me while they were away giving him a key to facilitate this, I was to be humiliated once again- it's extremely difficult to remain dignified when someone walks in unannounced, switches on the light and finds you absolutely stark naked with a girl! Mr Taylor was so shocked that all he could do was order me to get dressed, take the girl home and come straight back. Quaking with terror and a sense of impending doom, I set off with her to walk the two miles or so to her house.   The girl was clearly far less distressed that I was, because as we passed the common she dragged me into the bushes and, despite all my protests, insisted we finish what she had started earlier. Convinced I would never get out of there until I complied, I decided the best thing to do was find some other way of giving her the satisfaction she so desperately sought. And that's when I made the discovery that to give is far more rewarding than to receive-for some women, oral sex is not only a perfect substitute for the real thing, it can also earn a guy a lot of brownie points as a caring, unselfish lover.   After the Sandra episode I decided it would be far safer to stick with the girls who were Jehovah's Witnesses, reasoning that, as all forms of sexual contact between unmarried people were banned, I would always have a "get out" clause. It didn't occur to me until much later that a girl's religious beliefs didn't necessarily counteract the effects of nature and their libido!   One might think that after such episodes I would have steered clear of the opposite sex; but I honestly enjoyed the company of girls and, provided things didn't get out of hand, I was still quite happy to have girlfriends-particularly as, for some strange reason, girls seemed to find me so attractive. Although I wasn't aware of it at the time, in retrospect I can see that my submissiveness with women must have been partly due to the incident with Sandra. I was particularly anxious to avoid any situation which might call attention to my "difference", and having so many girls chasing me helped provide the perfect cover. So many incidents with so many girls somehow or other came to light that everyone was convinced I had a Casanova complex. I'm sure my parents thought I was a sex maniac in the making, and the lads I knew were certain I was having the time of my life, which was really quite ironic. However, thanks to the next girl I met I was able to sustain the notion that I was a full blooded, healthy male, and so nobody was any the wiser.   By now I'd reached the obvious conclusion that I just wasn't physically equipped for sex. So when I met Margaret Oakley, who at fifteen was a year younger than me, sweetly innocent and painfully shy, I was enormously relieved-particularly when I found that nothing more was expected of me than chaste kisses and long, hand-in-hand walks.  Margaret and I spent a great deal of time together over the next two years, though rarely alone as we'd either be in the company of our parents at one of our houses or surrounded by fellow members of our congregation at meetings. Perhaps it was our shared innocence that made me feel Margaret was particularly special; certainly, she was the first girl that I ever really deeply cared for.   My parents still insisted I attend all the meetings of our congregation, and these, together with my friendship with Margaret and my work for O-levels, left very little time for anything else. Mum and Dad were totally against my staying on at school. They believed that, as Armageddon was imminent, further education was a complete waste of time. Though Armageddon never came, they stuck solidly to this attitude throughout; later on, whenever I told them of my career successes, they would quote a biblical saying as "It's better to store up treasures in heaven than on earth" and "It's harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle", so I needed every bit of self motivation that I could muster.   During my last year at school I worked at Uncle Ray and Auntie Elsie's garage in the evenings, serving petrol; as it was right next door to the local cinema I was able to provide myself with a constant supply of cigarettes and chocolates. My job also provided a handy excuse for not attending the evening meetings. Unfortunately, that meant I didn't have much time to see Margaret either, so gradually our relationship began to dwindle. When I saw her one evening walking along the road hand-in-hand with another boy, I knew it was over altogether. I felt devastated and cried copious tears over what I considered to be the ultimate betrayal, but as time passed I eventually came to terms with my loss and am now so thankful such a great girl had such a close escape.   Even after my exams were over we were still required to attend school until the end of term; the only exception was for job interviews. Rodney and I must have applied for every job that was advertised, just so that we could skive off school for a day. Rodney answered an ad for a lab assistant at Adhesive Tapes Ltd, famous for Sellotape. Pretending to have an interview too, I accompanied him on the day trip to Borehamwood. Immediately after Rodney's interview I was called in and, though I protested that I had not sent in an application and was merely along for the ride, the manager not only insisted on interviewing me but at the end offered me a job at the princely sum of £5 a week.   Life at Sellotape was fun. All the lab assistants were young, we all got on well together and practical jokes were frequently played to relieve the boredom and monotony of the job itself. One of our favourite tricks was to smear the black, sticky mixture which was used to form the base of insulation tape all over the earpiece of a black telephone receiver. We'd then go through to another lab, partitioned off by a glass room divider, and ring the extension. The unfortunate person who took the call invariably ended up with a messy ear that took hours of scrubbing to restore to its former state.   Another favourite involved the use of acetone which, when sprayed, evaporates into an invisible cloud of cold vapour. In the summer we'd climb up on to the flat roof of the building where, with the aid of a giant laboratory syringe, we'd spray the acetone over the side. As acetone is heavier than air it naturally descended to engulf anyone who might be enjoying the hot weather below, and within seconds would transform them into a startled, shivering wreck. On one occasion when some of the staff were horsing around we unwittingly discovered another, far more interesting result when one of the lab staff squirted acetone down the lab coat of an attractive female research assistant. Acetone has a dissolving action upon nylon, and we had accidentally stumbled on the quickest method of denuding a woman yet devised by man!   As part of my training I attended Welwyn college, where I studied physics and chemistry as a day release student. As both the college and the factory were quite some distance from home I'd bought myself first a 70cc Capri scooter to make my journey more convenient, and then, when that gave out on me, a second hand 125cc Lambretta. This vehicle served me admirably throughout the spring and summer months, but winter snow and ice made the journey far more hazardous. One day while travelling to work the roads were so treacherous that, when I attempted to brake as a bus cut across my path, I skidded straight into it, flew over the top and landed neatly on the platform. Fortunately I was unhurt, but my pride suffered a devastating blow in the face of the conductor's and passengers obvious hilarity. Strangely enough, problems with my various modes of transport always seemed to bring out the best in my father, who never minded how much time he spent tinkering around with them. Sadly, though, they were the only occasions when I felt remotely close to him.   I continued working at the garage in the evenings, and my frequent visits to the cinema next door to stock up on cigarettes and sweets paid off when one of the staff informed me they had a vacancy for a part-time projectionist. Given my interest in cinematography, I jumped at the chance. The owner of the cinema was a grand old lady called Mrs Dempsey. The staff consisted of two managers, a cashier, a girl who worked in the kiosk selling sweets, drinks and cigarettes, a cleaner, a senior projectionist and two usherettes-Paula and Veronica, who were sisters.   Projection boxes in those days differed greatly from the modern, highly technological affairs of today. Each complete film took up several reels, which required changing every twenty minutes or so. The approaching changeover was signalled by a little white circle that would flash up on the right-hand corner of the screen to warn the projectionist that it was time to start the motor to enable the next projector to gather sufficient speed, followed by another circle which indicated that it was time to switch the picture and sound from one projector to the next. The changeover was always timed to coincide with a change in the scene, and if the switch was carried out by an expert it was virtually undetectable to the audience. Finished reels then had to be rewound and placed safely back in the can for the next showing. Obviously it was extremely important to be highly organized and efficient, as failure to rewind or keep the cans of film stacked in the right order could lead to disaster.   The Projected light source was generated by burning carbon rods, with the necessary gap between the rods being controlled by a slow-moving, motor-driven track. This was subject to all kinds of problems as the rods tended to burn at different speeds, which meant they required frequent manual adjustments, and during a lightening storm they would invariably flicker out.   For younger readers a quick explanation of how what we called "the movies" operated. Cinemas were grand buildings decorated in crimson and gold with the "stalls" the downstairs seats and the "balcony" upstairs. The programme provided a whole evenings entertainment lasting from 7pm through to 10-30pm. Big heavy curtains became visible shortly before the beginning when the "asbestos fire curtain" was raised. The projectionist would play music (vinyl records) whilst the audience was seated. Next the heavy curtains would open revealing the screen (with adjustable blackout curtains set for normal or cinemascope mode) First trailers for future films, then cartoons,  Pathe News, Pearl & Dean adverts and then the secondary feature film normally 60 minutes and quite often produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Close curtains, spotlight on ice-cream girl and the intermission. Then the main feature film and all of this for one shilling & nine pence in the stalls or 3 shillings and nine pence up with the Gods (less than 20p but there again a gallon of petrol was only 3 shillings and nine pence back then).   The projection box itself was completely soundproof, and there was an internal speaker to listen to the soundtrack when required especially at the end of the major feature where you needed to play "The National Anthem". We also had our own secret alarm system in case of fire or other emergencies: fading in "Land of Hope and Glory" over the soundtrack signalled a major emergency such as a fire, which required complete evacuation of the cinema. The procedure was that the usherettes would throw open the emergency exits while the cashier would grab the takings box and run for her life to the garage next door. But these carefully rehearsed plans all went wrong one night just as we had begun to run through a new programme. Unbeknown to any of us, "Land of Hope and Glory" featured as part of the film's soundtrack. This of course precipitated our emergency evacuation procedure, which all went very smoothly indeed. Unfortunately, as we'd had our speaker turned off in the box the senior projectionist and I were totally unaware that after that point we were playing to an empty auditorium!   Shortly after that event the senior projectionist fell out with the manager and handed in his notice; his job was offered to me. Fired with a sense of increased responsibility, omnipotence and a few extra shillings a week, I jumped at the chance and assumed complete control.   We were required by law to provide a secondary lighting system in case of a power cut, so that the "Exit" signs would always remain lit and enable the audience to escape safely during any emergency. The chloride batteries we used were frequently failing and the manager, who had been trying to work out a useful alternative, suggested placing night lights behind the Exit signs. Theoretically it was a good idea; practically it proved to be disastrous.   I arrived one evening to find that the chloride batteries had suffered a total breakdown of the system. The night lights were duly lit and we had just begun the evening performance when the phone rang in the projection box.  A panic-stricken usherette announced that there was a fire in the auditorium and begged me to rush down with a step-ladder and a fire extinguisher.  It quickly became clear that the flimsy Exit signs, which were made of cut-out wood heavily gilded with a highly flammable material, had caught light. Quick as a flash I pointed the nozzle of the extinguisher at the signs and sprayed them liberally. Unfortunately the main lighting bulbs inside, which had become overheated from the flames, reacted to the cold dousing by exploding, and showering very fine shards of glass all over the place. To make matters worse, other Exit signs around the auditorium caught light at the same time as the spool of film ran out, which meant that all that hit the screen was a blinding white light. Some of the audience had lingered behind to watch the fun as the cinema staff ran around in blind panic, squirting extinguishers wherever flames appeared and then ducking and diving to avoid flying sparks as the bulbs exploded. It was like Bonfire Night and the Fourth of July all rolled into one, and though we eventually got the situation under control I'm convinced that most of our audience went home that night with far more vivid memories of the free entertainment the cinema staff provided than of the comedy film they had paid to see!   Although I tried hard to be diligent, efficient and professional, being the only person in the projection box meant that with a three-hour programme of cartoons, advertising and two feature films, lights to control, records to put on for the intervals, curtains to open and close and umpteen reel changes in between, I was on the go for the entire evening. And although I was a reasonably good projectionist, inevitably there were times when I either forgot to rewind a film or showed reels in the wrong sequence. Whenever these disasters occurred, I often wondered how many cinemagoers went home totally perplexed by the plot or convinced that they'd wasted their money on a rotten film, when in fact I had simply missed out one of the reels or played them in the wrong order! Eventually I had to leave the cinema-not because I was bored or particularly wanted to leave, but because the antics of Paula and Valerie, the two usherettes, were getting beyond control.   The more I resisted their advances, the more determined they became. Together they tricked me into turning up at the cinema one Saturday morning on the pretence that the manager wanted to see me in the projection box. The box door had a key on the inside as well as a bolt for added security. When I opened the door I found I was locked in with two man-crazy girls bent on a venture that I didn't dare contemplate. What followed was akin to rape: I was held down and semi-stripped, with Veronica squatting on my face whilst Paula made every attempt to get me erect in order to achieve her aim. To say they were rough would be an understatement; it was weeks before the bruises and other marks subsided.   At seventeen I had just over one year's full-time working experience and two part-time jobs behind me. I'd also had more sexual encounters than most young men of my age could ever dream of, but where did my future lie?     Although I regularly attended meetings at our church and still accompanied my parents on their missionary work whenever I could, over the years their attitude towards me had developed into one of total perplexity. I'm convinced that in their hearts they really loved me, but they never could approve of me. The main problem was their inability to come to terms with the fact that I couldn't be more like my perfect sister. Though I tried very hard to be the kind of son they wanted me to be, past experience had probably taught them that sooner or later another unfortunate escapade would occur to confound and disappoint them yet again and who could blame them? After all, they appeared to have all possible reason to imagine that I was as susceptible to the sins of the flesh every other young adolescent male of my age. Certainly, if the other lads in the neighbourhood viewed my apparent success with girls as a sure sign that I was a budding Casanova, why shouldn't my parents - who believed they had real evidence to that effect - share that view? It was ironic when you consider that, now on the threshold of manhood, I was completely convinced that my total lack of any normal sexual responses meant that I was never going to be able to live a normal life.   I was about seventeen and a half  when I got a new job as a costing clerk at the Murphy Chemical Co., just three miles away in the village of Wheathampstead. To my consternation, I found that once again the young women vastly outnumbered available men. But, having learnt a very painful lesson, this time I decided that if rumours of my sexual inadequacy were not to flourish I would have to be very careful to avoid any situation which might give people cause to speculate.   Now that I was earning more money I was able to part-exchange my Lambretta for a more powerful BSA 350cc motorcycle on which I lavished all my pent-up emotion and pride. Each weekend I'd clean and polish it till the chrome sparkled, and frequently I'd strip it right down and clean all its innards so that even the piston and cylinders gleamed like mirrors too. Reluctantly my mother agreed to be my very first passenger, gingerly hitching up her skirts as she hopped aboard the pillion behind me. All went smoothly until I stopped at an intersection and put my feet to the ground. Unfortunately my mother, unsure what to do, decided to emulate me, and when I roared off she was left standing in a decidedly inelegant, legs-akimbo pose in the middle of the road.   That year the Jehovah's Witnesses held a large weekend assembly at Luton Town Football Club. As I'd been asked to help out on all-night security duty, I went straight from work on the Friday evening and reached the ground just in time for the closing sessions of the Assembly. Two other lads and I took turns to snatch the odd hour of sleep in between patrolling the grounds. The following day one of my fellow guards introduced me to a bright, bubbly, young girl with jet-black hair. Sarah stuck by my side, chatting throughout the day until after the evening session when she had to leave. I'd found Sarah's company pleasant and enjoyable, but that was all. She didn't attract me in the least, and I didn't believe I had given her any encouragement to think otherwise. But, as I very soon fount out, I was wrong. I was shaken awake at around two in the morning by one of the guards whispering in a horrified voice that Sarah had somehow managed to get into the grounds and was demanding to know why I hadn't turned up for our prearranged date. Totally mystified, convinced there must have been some mistake, I none the less felt I ought to see the girl and find out what was going on. Anxious to avoid a fuss, I took her to the control box. But no matter how much I asserted that I hadn't arranged a date, Sarah obstinately maintained that I had. In the end, and partly to pacify her, I kissed and cuddled her in the hope that, as a good Jehovah's Witness, she wouldn't be looking for anything more. But I was wrong again, for it soon became clear that Sarah was intent on seduction, and nothing less, than total surrender was going to satisfy her.   Once again my ingenuity saved the day and I took refuge in my old stand-by, allowing my tongue to accomplish what other parts couldn't. Thrashing around in a demented frenzy, Sarah finally exploded in an incredibly violent - and incredibly noisy - orgasmic ecstasy that was, at that very moment, also being relayed, courtesy of one of the most sensitive PA systems in the counter, to the entire population of Luton! With one of her wild jerks Sarah had switched the machine on. The first we were aware of our unfortunate 'broadcast to the nation' was when we were alerted by the arrival of a breathless, panic-stricken guard begging us to 'get your clothes on and get the hell out of here!' I imagine a new world speed record was set that night for the time it takes two people to get dressed!   Living my life in fear of God's - and my parents' - wrath was by this time an all too familiar state. Since the age of five I had been brought up to believe that God had the power to strike me down should I even think bad thoughts - the fact that I'd not only thought them, but acted upon them and then allowed thousands of local residents to eavesdrop on them, had me quaking in sheer terror. I found myself imagining what horrors awaited me in hell and also, of more immediate significance, what horrors awaited me here on earth when my parents found out the culprit was none other than their very own son. I don't believe I have ever been so scared in my entire life. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep (though given the nature of my disturbing dreams, that was a blessing). I didn't even dare leave the house unless it was to go to work or to meetings. It seems to me in retrospect that my life was like a Woody Allen farce: every opportunity was there, but it always led to disaster. I blamed my parents for having brought me up to be unfailingly polite, particularly to women; I blamed Sarah for her stupidity in turning up uninvited, for her determination to seduce me and her mindless thrashing around that had accidentally switched on the PA system; but most of all I blamed myself for being to cowardly to say no. Why did these things keep on happening to me? What was it about me that attracted all these women so? No matter how many times I asked myself these questions, I never could come up with an answer. Inevitably, each question led me straight to the most fundamental question of all: What was wrong with me? God's punishment, as it seemed to me then, was not going to be long in arriving.   With my part in 'The Luton Town Incident' still undiscovered, over the next few weeks I gradually regained the confidence to resume my outwardly normal life. Having arranged to meet some friends one evening, I rode my motorbike home from work through torrential rain, stripped off my soaking protective clothing, changed into dry clothes and then dug out an old set of yellow oilskins which I hoped would protect me from the downpour.  

Stephanie-a girl in a million-chapter 3

Chapter 3

  Travelling out of Harpenden on the A6, I accelerated up to 70 miles per hour along a clear stretch of straight road when, without warning, a van suddenly pulled out of a side turning in front of me. I didn't even have time to brake before I crashed straight into it. My engine stopped dead as the force of the impact buried my treasured bike completely in the van's engine. Still travelling at the same speed, I was propelled 120 feet along the road.   Two things saved me from death or terrible injury. The first was the fact that I had hit a van with a low bonnet, so there was nothing to impede my propulsion; the second was that, as the aquaplaned for most of the distance and so prevented massive damage to my body. I recovered consciousness to the sound of horrified whispers. 'I think he's lost his legs,' said one man. 'I don't think he's going to make it,' declared another. Fortunately, they were both wrong. For 20 agonising minutes I lay there, unable either to move or to be moved, until an ambulance arrived to take me to St Albans hospital. The police were despatched to notify my shocked parents in the middle of one of their meetings, but they insisted on waiting until the meeting had concluded before visiting me in hospital. I was taken to the theatre so that the surgeon could assess the damage. Two nurses leaned across my body to prevent me seeing the injuries I had sustained while the surgeon carefully cut away the yellow oilskins and the trousers I was wearing beneath. Miraculously, though my legs and feet were badly cut and damaged, no bones were broken. The most difficult and painful task was removing the gravel embedded in my limbs, and in fact I still bear the scars today.   When I was finally sent home, it proved impossible to manoeuvre the stretcher around the back of the house to my own room. So it was that I spent several weeks confined to bed in my parent's bedroom, a captive audience to their continual exhortations to mend my evil ways and do something worthwhile with my life. Privately convinced that my accident had been both a small demonstration of God's wrath and a timely warning, I was physically, emotionally and mentally too wrecked to resist their constant pressurising any longer. 'What do you want me to do?' I asked weakly. I should have known what their response would be: 'Follow in your sister's footsteps and become a missionary, or pioneer as they classify it Desperate to win their approval and prove once and for all that I was not the black sheep of the family, as they so firmly believed, I gave in.   Being a missionary in Leighton Buzzard is probably not as romantic or hazardous as in the Brazilian rainforest but, believe me, it's every bit as onerous - or at least it was for me. For if I'd found a few weekly hours of door-to-door preaching an effort, finding myself committed to a minimum 100 hours of preaching each month in addition to holding down a part-time job in order to support myself was  to prove downright gruelling.   As luck would have it, my arrival in Leighton Buzzard coincided with the onset of winter. As I've never been able to tolerate the cold, the sad sight of this freezing me from the downpour. Travelling out of Harpenden on the A6, I accelerated up to 70 miles per hour along a clear stretch of straight road when, without warning, a van suddenly pulled out of a side turning in front of me. I didn't even have time to brake before I crashed straight into it. My engine stopped dead as the force of the impact buried my treasured bike completely in the van's engine. Still travelling at the same speed, I was propelled 120 feet along the road.   Two things saved me from death or terrible injury. The first was the fact that I had hit a van with a low bonnet, so there was nothing to impede my propulsion; the second was that, as the aquaplaned for most of the distance and so prevented massive damage to my body. I recovered consciousness to the sound of horrified whispers. 'I think he's lost his legs,' said one man. 'I don't think he's going to make it,' declared another. Fortunately, they were both wrong. For 20 agonising minutes I lay there, unable either to move or to be moved, until an ambulance arrived to take me to St Albans hospital. The police were despatched to notify my shocked parents in the middle of one of their meetings, but they insisted on waiting until the meeting had concluded before visiting me in hospital. I was taken to the theatre so that the surgeon could assess the damage. Two nurses leaned across my body to prevent me seeing the injuries I had sustained while the surgeon carefully cut away the yellow oilskins and the trousers I was wearing beneath. Miraculously, though my legs and feet were badly cut and damaged, no bones were broken. The most difficult and painful task was removing the gravel embedded in my limbs, and in fact I still bear the scars today.   When I was finally sent home, it proved impossible to manoeuvre the stretcher around the back of the house to my own room. So it was that I spent several weeks confined to bed in my parent's bedroom, a captive audience to their continual exhortations to mend my evil ways and do something worthwhile with my life. Privately convinced that my accident had been both a small demonstration of God's wrath and a timely warning, I was physically, emotionally and mentally too wrecked to resist their constant pressurising any longer. 'What do you want me to do?' I asked weakly. I should have known what their response would be: 'Follow in your sister's footsteps and become a missionary, or pioneer as they classify it Desperate to win their approval and prove once and for all that I was not the black sheep of the family, as they so firmly believed, I gave in.   Being a missionary in Leighton Buzzard is probably not as romantic or hazardous as in the Brazilian rainforest but, believe me, it's every bit as onerous - or at least it was for me. For if I'd found a few weekly hours of door-to-door preaching an effort, finding myself committed to a minimum 100 hours of preaching each month in addition to holding down a part-time job in order to support myself was  to prove downright gruelling.   As luck would have it, my arrival in Leighton Buzzard coincided with the onset of winter. As I've never been able to tolerate the cold, the sad sight of this freezing individual with blue fingers and a red nose often melted the heart of even the most hardened atheist, so much of my time was spent sipping form a steaming mug of hot chocolate or coffee in the warmth of someone's kitchen.   The problem of where to live was solved by the kindness and generosity of Arthur Howe, the congregation overseer, and his wife Audrey, who offered me a room in their tiny two-up, two-down terraced cottage in the nearby village of Linslade. Arthur and his brother ran an electrical contracting business and, being the selfless, honest and charitable individuals that most Jehovah Witnesses are, they kindly offered me part-time work two days a week. Their offer was all the more generous as my knowledge of electrical wiring was minimal.   If there's one thing I hate more than the cold, it's heights. So you can imagine how I felt when I discovered that most of Arthur's contracting work, rather than being carried out inside buildings, was in fact conducted on top of them. How I managed to conquer my fear and nausea I'll never know, but by some feat I mastered the art of precariously balancing myself at the top of impossibly long ladders and dangerously high gantries without throwing up and falling off  - though I have a feeling that this was only accomplished because the sub-zero conditions froze the vomit where it lay in the pit of my stomach! But on the whole my native wit and strong sense of self-preservation enabled me to manoeuvre my two days so adeptly that I only worked on the inside jobs. The congregation at Leighton Buzzard differed dramatically form the close-knit, harmonious atmosphere I'd enjoyed at Harpenden. I couldn't help but be aware of a marked division of loyalties between those who supported the Howe faction and those who surrounded the Oddie family. As a missionary I knew I ought to remain neutral, but this proved impossible as I was constantly being invited to different houses on the pretext of sampling one family or another's hospitality - only to find myself subjected to a series of thinly disguised attempts to enrol me in my host's particular 'camp'. Matters weren't helped any by the fact that I lived at Arthur's house and was also employed by his firm.   This precipitated my decision to establish my independence - and there my neutrality - by finding myself a bed-sitter and self-employed work. Without any capital, it soon became clear that my choices were severely limited. With great ingenuity I acquired a few vital necessities, the lofty title of Plate Class Restorer and a partner (well, given my fear of heights someone had to clean the upstairs windows!), though to be fair 'partner' was a rather grandiose title for Colin, the youth I'd recently met at the local congregation and whom I'd press-ganged into service. Colin was an unusual lad in that he'd become a Jehovah's Witness without any parental encouragement. I often wondered whether he'd joined us more out of a need for friendship than through any religious convictions, particularly when I learned that, though he still lived with his mother (his father had left some years before), she showed no interest in him at all.   As business prospered and Colin and I became reasonably close companions, he seemed to grow more attached to me and to look upon me as his guardian and provider. Despite this, I still managed to keep an evening or two for myself, when I liked to take long, solitary walks along the towpath of the Grand Union Canal, trying to make some sense of the troubled thoughts and emotions that were always lurking in the back of my mind.   I was almost nineteen and yet, no matter how many friends I made or how much company I enjoyed, I still felt incredibly isolated from the rest of the world. Sometimes I wondered half-hopefully whether what I believed to be my life might in reality prove to be nothing more than some terrible nightmare.   My first inauspicious encounter with her occurred when my resolve to live a blameless life was still burning. I was standing on the doorstep of an ordinary prefabricated, chalet-style house preaching to the door when I caught sight of a pretty girl who kept shyly peering, then disappearing around the edge of a door. I thought no more about the incident until a few weeks later when I was walking home from a meeting. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Susannah stepped in front of me and asked whether I was the same person who had called upon her mother. When I acknowledged that I was, we fell into an easy, friendly conversation and I walked her home.   Over the next few weeks Susannah seemed to pop up miraculously wherever I went. The significance of her frequent appearances, alone and always at night, was not lost on me, but as she'd never made any overt moves I  was happy to pass time in her company. It became a habit for me to see her safely home and so, little by little, I learned more about her and the difficult life she had led.   Susannah, who lived alone with her partially disabled mother, had suffered greatly at the hands of a sadistic father who had beaten her frequently and severely throughout her childhood. All my chivalrous instincts were aroused as I began to understand why, despite her age, she still seemed little more than a frightened, shy girl. So I allowed our harmless friendship to continue, safe in the knowledge that Susannah didn't have a scheming bone in her body.   When Susannah's mother issued an invitation to tea I eagerly accepted, anticipating a pleasant, undemanding evening and better food than I was used to. During the meal, however, when Susannah had popped out of the room, her mother suddenly turned to me and said, 'Susannah is very keen on you, Keith.' Not knowing how to reply, I merely smiled and stuffed another piece of her delicious home-made cake into my mouth. 'And I just want you to know that I, approve,' she continued pointedly. At first I wasn't sure what she could possibly mean. What, precisely, did she approve of? And then it began to dawn on me. At that point I thought it would be best if I made my escape. 'Good heavens, is that the time? I really must be off.' I responded nervously. 'You can't go yet - it's far too early,' Susan's mother quickly replied. 'Besides, Susannah's just made another cup of tea.   Another half-hour passed as we sat round the table drinking more tea. Susannah and her mother kept exchanging meaningful looks, and I was beginning to feel more uncomfortable with each passing minute. Several times I stood up with an excuse to leave, but each time I was thwarted by their apparent determination that I should stay. Then Susannah's mother spoke, and what she said numbed my brain so completely I couldn't think of anything to say. 'Why don't you two go off to bed and leave me to clear up down here?'   Though she put it as a question, it was more like an order. Panic began to rise in me. Should I stay? Should I go? Would they let me go? What possible valid reason could I give for leaving? I didn't live with anybody. I had no one waiting up for me at home. No one even knew where I was! It may sound a weak excuse, but I was in such a state of shock that I just gave in and meekly followed Susannah to her bedroom. I'd been in unusual situations with girls before. But nothing had ever prepared me for a situation like this. Not only was Susannah's mother condoning this sexual liaison - she was actively encouraging it!   Nervously, I undressed and slipped between the sheets of Susannah's bed. She had a beautiful body: her skin was so white it almost seemed translucent, and her long dark hair, which trailed across her breasts, was soft and silky enough to drive any man wild. But all I could think of was how much I envied her, and, lovely as she was, I knew I couldn't make love to her. At the same time, there was something so shy, so appealing and so vulnerable about Susannah that I couldn't possibly do anything to hurt her.   I decided the only way out was to confess. I pulled Susannah into my arms and, without daring to look her in the eye, whispered into her ear everything I felt she had a right to know. I had no idea how she would react. Half of me anticipated that she would laugh, while the other half expected her to be angry. Instead, she cried - not out of a sense of rejection, but with real sympathy for my plight. It was then that she confided more about her own past to me. Her father had not just beaten her but had sexually abused her too. We lay there throughout the night, taking it in turns to weep and comfort each other, knowing that we both had serious problems. In the morning we had breakfast with her mother, who seemed rather pleased with what she thought she had accomplished, and then I left.   I wouldn't have blamed Susannah if she had never wanted to see me again, but I desperately hoped that she would, for I felt I had at last found a soul mate. Three long and lonely days passed, during which there was no contact. Just as I was beginning to resign myself to the fact that Susannah was probably laughing behind my back - as so many other girls had done before - she reappeared, to accost me once more in the street. 'come home with me, Keith,' she pleaded. I agreed, but first I insisted on dropping my bag off at home. Somehow, taking my Bible along to this kind of assignation just didn't seem right. Susannah's mother was busy preparing supper. When we sat down to the meal she suddenly looked at me closely and I froze as she said, 'Susannah's been telling me about your problem.' Unsure whether I had unwittingly offered myself up as a victim for humiliation or, worse still, blackmail, I just sat rooted to the spot, waiting for the other shoe to drop. She then proceeded to explain to me how difficult it had been for Susannah to form any normal relationships because of the way her father had used her. 'You're a nice young man, Keith. As soon as I met you I could see you would be perfect for Susannah. And now that I know all about your own problems, I'm convinced you can both help each other to lead a normal life.'   The sense of unreality, I'd always lived with deepened over the next few months as I tried desperately to develop a normal satisfactory relationship with Susannah. And always there was her mother, encouraging us and trying to help with her cool, calm, analytical discussions of our mutual problems.   At the same time, the situation within the congregation was getting worse as the rift between the two warring factions grew wider and more bitter each week. The pressures of being stuck in trying to please Susannah and her mother inevitably began to take their toll. My pioneering work, which I'd undertaken with such zeal, had, like everything I seemed to do, degenerated into farce. I was no true missionary.   Rescue came in the form of the circuit overseer, who, by now well aware of the huge divide in the Leighton Buzzard congregation, ordered me back home to Harpenden. I took my leave of a tearful Susannah and her even more regretful mother with much sadness and many promises to keep in touch. But I think we all knew that it would be far too painful to keep those promises. Looking back now, I can see how some moralists might decry what Susannah's mother did, but I truly believe that she had her daughter's best interests at heart. As for Susannah, I can only hope that this sweet, kind, caring, unselfish girl has found happiness with a sensitive, gentle and patient man who has been able to eradicate the nightmares of what she suffered at her father's hands.   So I returned home to Harpenden with another failure behind me to add to the growing store of disappointments I could see reflected in my parents' eyes. With no job, no money and no real skills to offer, I did the only thing I could. I took an early morning job helping out at the local newsagent's where I'd been a paper boy in my youth. Seven days a week I'd get up at four thirty, mark up forty-five newspaper rounds and then help the paper boys and girls disperse their hefty bundles throughout the town and rural areas. I was supplied with a van - a decrepit one to be sure, but to me it was sheer luxury because it meant that at least I now had wheels. When the steering wheel came adrift from the drive shaft while I was out on my rounds one day, I thought for one awful moment that my time was up. Helplessly I waited for the almighty impact that was sure to follow as the van slowly mounted the pavement and demolishing a lamp post which, in excruciating slow motion, folded in half and came to rest on top of the van. Fortunately I escaped without injury, and as soon as the state of the van was discovered it was immediately replaced by a smart new one which proudly proclaimed 'Whitehouse's' in the freshly painted livery colours of the shop.   Whitehouse's was part of a chain of five shops owned by Councillor Ken Hill, who at that time was Mayor of St Albans. Councillor Hill was a kind and a generous employer who allowed me to assume as much responsibility as I could cope with, culminating in promotion to joint manager. My co-manager, Miss Culley, and I worked well together, and over the two years I spent there we were so successful that we were able to add records to the existing lines of gifts, tobacco and stationary. One of our more famous customers was a Mr Freddie Bartholomew, otherwise known as the wonderfully funny Eric Morecambe. When we used some of our profits to splash out on a refurbishment of the shop, I boldly knocked on his door and asked Mr Bartholomew if he would preside over the Grand Reopening. It never occurred to me that celebrities could (and invariably did) charge enormous fees for such appearances, and to his eternal credit Eric never saw fit to enlighten me. But that was typical of the man, who was as genuinely nice in private as he was in public.   The work was hard and the days were long, but for the first time in my life I was, if not happy, at least far too busy concentrate on my own problems. In addition, as I had very little time for social life I was able - with one or two minor exceptions - to avoid repeating any of my former abysmal failures with the local girls. But even those exceptions turned out to be not quite as bad as I had feared. The first occurred when one of the female employees made a misguided play for me; fortunately I was able to deflect it to on the basis that it was unwise to mix business with pleasure. The second proved to be more difficult to extricate myself from with the same degree of dignity, but by now I was becoming so inured to being the object of female interest hat, outwardly at least, I was able to deflect it with dignity. Inwardly, however, each failure cut just as deep as the last. It is an eternal puzzle why I allowed myself to be drawn into these situations. Part of me obviously hoped that this time things might be different. But it never was. The fact is, my life seemed to me to be like a badly scripted B movie filmed in black and white, while everyone else was experiencing the real thing in colour.   Things were slightly different when Linda, whose brother had nearly killed me with his runaway motorbike some years before, re-entered my life. Linda was a very unusual girl, who, apart from being enormous fun and an outrageous flirt, was also refreshingly frank. But what made her unique in my experience was the fact that she lacked any sense of shame or embarrassment. For some reason Linda latched on to me and, welcoming the light relief, I did nothing to discourage her friendship. Because I started work so early in the morning I kept odd hours throughout the day. This meant that I had one and a half hours' break between nine and ten-thirty, when I'd go home for breakfast, and another break between one and three-thirty in the afternoon for lunch. Taking advantage of the fact that my father was at work all day and my mother was also out for most of the time, Linda very quickly adopted the habit of popping in and out of our house on occasions when I was at home alone.   Naturally it didn't take long for Linda to uncover the truth about me, but unlike all her predecessors she simply chose to ignore it. She would frequently have me on the verge of an apoplectic fit when she innocently made some remark in front of my parents that had me convinced she was on the point of blurting out an incriminating detail about the various intimacies we indulged in. Although she always stopped short, I lived in constant fear that one day she just might reveal all. In fact, though Linda caused me so  many heart-stopping moments of fear, I was filled with admiration for her nerve. She'd think nothing of interrupting me while I was in the middle of decorating our bathroom and calmly stripping off to take a bath - apparently oblivious to any thought of my mother walking in. And on the few occasions when my mother did come home - while we were both in my bed, I might add - she'd simply throw on her clothes, perch herself on the bed and greet my mother as sweetly and nonchalantly as you please!   Despite Linda's brazenness, I couldn't help being drawn by her apparently irrepressible sense of fun and though she was far from being the brightest of girls, her naivety and straight-forwardness endeared her to me. Perhaps those characteristics endeared her to my parents as well, for the one thing I could never quite work out was why, when they had ample justification for regarding me as the local stud, for some strange reason they never displayed the slightest shred of suspicion about our friendship. By coincidence she got pregnant by & later married one of my cousins.   Wednesdays were the only night I had off, and these I spent in the West End seeing a show or film with a girl friend. On our way home we'd stop off at the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant for a meal, and then round the evening off by going upstairs to the Nine-Ten Gambling Club to watch the punters lose their money. It was on one of these occasions that I got chatting to the owner of the club and learned that they owned a large house which he wanted to let. I was earning a great deal of money for a young man of my age - which, I realised, enabled me to seize this opportunity to make even more: I leased the house from him and then promptly sub-let the 4 bedrooms. I had already lined up my first tenant in the shapely form of Dulcie, my friendly local traffic warden who popped in to the shop for a warming cup of tea and I didn't believe it would be too difficult to find another three.   Unfortunately my friendship with Dulcie, a divorced women of around thirty-five, was misinterpreted by my father, who caused a terribly embarrassing confrontation when he refused to believe that I wasn't 'keeping an older woman', as he'd heard. The arguments between Dad and myself on this issue produced a lot of tension between us, and our relationship, which had never been good even at the best of times, began to deteriorate further. It upset me greatly that Dad and I seemed to have such difficulty in developing the kind of relationship I had always wanted and needed. Sometimes I felt as thought we were becoming close, only to find it all disappear again.   One occasion that does stand out in my memory as a time when I felt very close to my father was when, as the proud owner of an ancient Austin 16 car which I had recently acquired for the princely sum of £25, I took him and my mother on holiday to North Wales.   Dad was in his element as he navigated, choosing secondary, and even unclassified, roads that took us through pretty countryside. The car doped well with the bumpy terrain as we climbed a steep, unclassified road, and when we had successfully negotiated the summit to start our descent she began to pick up speed at a cracking pace. Unfortunately, older vehicles had a tendency to suffer from 'brake fade' when the brake drums became overheated, and to counter this I was forced to change right down into first gear, apply the foot brake and even the hand brake.   Meanwhile, Mum was chattering away in the back seat, blissfully unaware of the fact that, despite all my efforts, we were still picking u speed. Dad and I exchanged a silent look of panic when, as we neared the bottom of the incline, a sharp bend loomed in front of us. There was only one thing left: I had to steer the car at a slight angle in the hope that hitting the chain link fence along the roadside would hold the car firm and, I hoped, push it around the bend. The mudguard hit the fence with a thud, then scraped along with a harsh metallic sound. Miraculously the fence held, we made it round the bend and gradually came to a halt several hundred yards further along. 'Now's as good a time as any to stop for a while to give the brakes a chance to cool down,' Dad wisely advised. While we were waiting I walked back up the road to take a look at the spot which had caused us so much concern. I wondered whether I would have had the courage to take such a gamble with our lives if I had known that beyond that chain link fence lay a forty-foot drop!   On the Sunday night I walked alone determined to find a pub and enjoy a quiet drink unappreciative of the fact that parts of Wales were "dry" on Sundays. I only became aware of this when I asked 2 girls for directions. Taking sympathy on me they invited me back to their place for a nightcap or three. A mind blowing threesome ensued which resulted in me stumbling and exhausted back to the b&b quietly fishing out for the door key which was on a string accessible via the letterbox, sneaking up the squeaky stairs and slipping into bed shortly before dawn broke. At breakfast my mum observed that I looked "peaky" and might be "coming down with something".   When we returned home the distance between Dad and me returned also, and as it became more and more intolerable I began to realise that it was time I bought my own home. It was while looking around for a suitable property that Linda popped up again in my life. I was in the shop one day when she appeared, obviously deeply distressed. It wasn't hard to work out why. Linda was in a very advanced stage of pregnancy. Apparently her parents had thrown her out and, having nowhere to go, for some strange reason she had decided to come to me.   By now I had let all the flats in the house I was leasing, so that option was closed. However, vulnerable women have always managed to bring out the soft side in me, and so I came up with the bright idea of temporarily installing her in the room above the shop while I worked out what to do. For three days and nights Linda slept, if not in comfort then in blissful contentment, certain that good old Keith would come up with a solution to her problem. Meanwhile, I spent three sleepless nights trying to work out what to do - in between worrying what would happen if either my employer or parents discovered what was going on.   I eventually found Linda temporary accommodation, provided her with money for food and rent, and spent endless hours worrying about her plight. I even took her to the hospital when she went into labour (protesting my innocence to the midwives all the while), and then took it upon myself to visit her mother and inform her of the arrival of her new grandchild.   To my relief and surprise, Linda's mother seemed to accept this fact with some resignation. She merely said: 'Oh, well. you'd better tell her to come back home when she gets out - and bring her bastard with her.' She and my cousin John (sadly now deceased although I am still in regular contact with his brother) did not last long and I have no knowledge of where Linda found her future but wish her well as she was a really nice person who got a tough break in life.   My parents were baffled and deeply disappointed with me, every girl I met inevitably wanted more than I could give. Somehow, it seemed as if the harder I tried to please, the more I ended up disappointing people. There had to be some way of getting my life in order and of making my parents proud of their son. My mood was so desperate that, when I bumped into Margaret Oakley again, it seemed a good idea to pick up our relationship where it had left off. After all, Margaret was a sweet girl who was not only comfortable to be with but still shy enough not to think it odd if we did not go past the heavy petting stage and, equally important, she was a good Jehovah's Witness of whom my parents would wholeheartedly approve. Thus we embarked on a fairly easy courtship that everyone assumed would some day end in marriage, and for the first time in my life I actually began to experience some sense of calm. I hurt her badly at the end when I met my wife to be, Marylin, but I do know that she went on to marry and have children, so for her at least a very lucky escape as she deserved someone much better than me.