This is going to be painful and humiliating, but it is all pertinent to the big picture.
The Internet is full of characters. Some delightful, some several points past barking mad. Because I started my internet life as a moderator – my choice – I was bored witless when we first moved to France, on what was a general news site, (Anorak) but by force of circusmtances, became the most prolific ‘McCann’ site in existence, fielding some 1500 comments a day, I also started my internet life with at least half of those commentators convinced that I was a paid ‘shill’ (love all the cold war language) in the pay of MI5 and God knows who else, preventing the ‘truth’, or rather ‘their truth’, from emerging. Well, you know, I only had to moderate the comments that said the McCann’s were murdering scum protected by VIPs…da dum, da dum…..the fact that those were the libelous comments was not enough to deter the ‘truth seekers’ from their absolute belief that I was in the pay of….ad nauseum…..cont. page 94.
Some of those people moved onto the next globe trotting conspiracy theory – it came to be known as the ‘Hollie Greig Hoax’. That has now been debunked some four, or is it five years ago, but the die hards continue their obsessive search to uncover the truth….(also cont. page 94…) As an example, here is yesterday’s effort…fresh from my e-mail box.
FROM ROBERT GREEN THURSDAY, 17 NOVEMBER 2016
I rang Daly at 13.17hrs on his mobile phone. I asked him if he had ever had contact with individuals using the names of Anna Raccoon or Tom George.
He became nervous immediately and asked, as he did last time, if I was recording the conversation. I replied truthfully that I wasn`t. I just wanted a straight yes or no.
He then started to waffle about me having the cheek to ask him about his journalistic contacts. I said that was it yes or no or a refusal to comment. He said “I`m not going to answer that”. I said that in that case that was the end of the conversation.
For the record, I have only spoken to Mark Daly of BBC Scotland twice in my life. The first time was when he was alerted to the outcome of the fact that Old Holborn (yes, somehow he is still a friend!) had sent me a resume of the claims, asked me what I thought of it; it had taken me all of five minutes to debunk using original documents, I had replied ‘its rubbish’ and OH had said – ‘Go for it, I expect to see it up on your blog this evening’. I did so, entirely unaware that at that time there was a 25,000 strong Facebook group convinced that this was a genuine example of appalling abuse of a vulnerable girl – and they landed on my head like a box of angry hornets. Mark Daly was merely, as a human being to another human being, warning me that some of them were positively dangerous, and to take care of myself. The second time was on an entirely unrelated matter, I was merely using him as a useful BBC contact who could provide me with the correct phone number for someone else. End of conspiracy folks.
Oh, they also scraped a comment I left on Hoaxtead’s site yesterday – with an added ‘Get well soon’ message for me. Charming.
ANNA RACCOON SCAPES (sic) THAT BARREL
Masterly – you are doing the world a great service. I applaud you.
I still exist. I still have a voice. I still have fingers that can type. I will be using them again today!
The number of people digging into my background, my family, my life, my work colleagues, every aspect of my life, doubled overnight with the Hollie Greig post. Some of them are still at it. It’s not that they bother me, but I am aware that they have now gained birth certificates and are biding their time. This post is an attempt to take the sting out of their tail. They will not ‘reveal all’ after my death. I shall do so now. Balls to them.
There is a very sound reason why I have resisted all the well meaning attempts to persuade me to ‘write a book’ – it is that the book would have had a great big hole in the middle of it. I felt very strongly that to write the truth would have involved other peoples lives, and their lives were not my lives to write about. That is about to go by the board – my humble apology to anyone who thinks I am being monumentally unfair, but trust me, they have collected birth certificates, documents, all will be revealed just as soon as I am not around. Better it is done by me than a bunch of evil obsessive bastards.
One caveat. The first part of this is written entirely from my viewpoint. I am the only adult left alive able to pronounce on it. I will encompass what I imagine or believe may rightfully be your viewpoint later.
Deep breath Anna…you can do this.
Turn the clock back to the end of May 1964. I am on the lam once again from Duncroft. I telephone ‘Joss’ (I would refer you to the series of posts filed under ‘Past Lives and Present Misgivings‘ if you are baffled by this reference) who is variously described as my ‘boyfriend’ in some documents, but in truth of fact has never so much as kissed me. His Mother doesn’t say ‘he is away working’, as she does sometimes, she hands the phone to him. We meet at Waterloo station. A regular meeting place. It is my sixteenth birthday the following day. Joss decides to smuggle me into his Mother’s home. He is around 27 by this time.
We spend the night together in his tiny single bed. Various fumblings take place. With the benefit of hindsight, and 54 years experience, I can assure you that the fumblings did not amount to anything that could be described as losing my virginity; any more than an earlier fumbling with a grocer whose path I fell into. I ended up with very sticky knees, totally baffled at this ‘sex business’ that everyone made such a fuss about. Some sort of right of passage through life. Neither of us had a blinking clue what we were doing. A sleepless night in half a very narrow single bed followed. It was to be another two years before we even thought, or had the opportunity, to repeat the experiment.
I returned or was returned to Duncroft. One more of my many escapades. Fast forward to the end of 1965. Christmas to be exact. The missing few weeks in my absolute certainty that Beryl Shaw, from the bed opposite mine, or Bebe Roberts as she prefers to be known, absolutely wasn’t telling the truth that ‘Jimmy Savile was running round our dormitory taking his pick of the girls’ – even had it occurred during the brief few weeks I was missing, I would have heard all about it when I returned in early January 1966.
So Christmas 1965. I am on the lam once again. I have a false birth certificate these days, and a job, with wages an’ everything. I pay rent for a small room in Hangar Lane. I also do the odd job for a trio of private detectives that had uncovered me on an earlier ‘excursion from Duncroft’ when I would up as the Telex operator for Marconi. (God, I’m sorry Marconi, I cost you a fortune!) Yes, it is true they did have a sort of ‘hold’ over me; they knew I was a runaway, but I was 17 by then, and it didn’t seem such a terrible thing to be employing me.
By extension, you could say that the fourth ‘private detective’ I was loaned out to that Christmas to perform some task – cannot for the life of me remember what, nor his name. I can see him, clear as daylight, but the name escapes me. Six foot tall, and hugely self confident, I neither look nor sound like a ‘vulnerable child’. He may not even have known of my background.
The only person I have discussed this with in the past 50 years immediately said ‘You were raped’ when I told him what occurred next. I don’t accept that. Nor will I accept any twaddle about the merits or demerits of victim blaming. I take responsibility for me. Not you.
I had a choice. I was perfectly capable of outrunning the fat bastard; perfectly capable of giving him a black eye; and perfectly capable of working out that if I did so, I would dismantle my entire ‘support network’. I chose not to do that. That is not to suggest for one moment that I was actively choosing to lose my virginity on that office floor, with that person, at that time. A bit like the presidential election, I was voting for the least worst choice.
A couple more weeks passed, life in the (post room of a major publisher – ye Gods, did I ever muck up their post!) but my period failed to arrive. Bullseye Ms Raccoon, pregnant first time round. Wouldn’t you know it?
I confessed all to Joss, over more tea at Waterloo station. His immediate reaction was to protect me, as he had done for the past three years, ever since we had met. With the benefit of hindsight, it suited his purposes as something of a mystery and slight disappointment to his family, to be seen as a man with a girlfriend, and a child on the way, just as everyone would have wished. There was never even the hint of a discussion of abortion; I’m not sure I would even have known of its existence. Family planning and birth control was still for married women only. There was never any question that I would give birth to this child. I wanted to. ‘It’ answered all my prayers to have a family, to belong somewhere. Now ‘it’ even had a father – called Joss.
A single mother was a rarity in 1965/66. There were a few, whose older sisters magically appeared to have given birth to a child no one knew they were carrying, or who had ‘left home to get married’ and returned a year or so later, the ‘marriage’ having ‘broken down. Adoption was still the main route out of this predicament. London was still a land of ‘No Niggers, No Irish, No Unmarrieds’ in rooming house windows. Nobody even bothered to spell out that ‘no unmarrieds’ definitely didn’t include unmarrieds accompanied by a squalling bundle of proof of sex having taken place.
The only refuge, the only place I could turn to, was Ms Jones and Duncroft. She was deeply disappointed in me. Of course she was. She was also a fine champion of women’s rights to independence, to make their own decisions, to live a life free of the dominance of the undoubted patriarchy. She agreed to help me keep my baby. It was as revolutionary a decision as her decision to turn Duncroft into a place where bright but ‘bad’ girls could have another stab at education and retrieve their life before it was too late. She was a women’s libber before they even invented the term.
Perhaps now you understand the passion with which I defend her against her miserable little squirt of a nephew who would portray her as a woman ‘bowled over’ by Savile, and prepared to let him ‘have his way’ with her girls. Only if the Pope turns out to be a one legged transgendered alien married to his younger sister….
Over the next few months, she prevailed upon Dave Hunt, sent by the Home Office to make new curtains for Duncroft, to part with a long bolt of very expensive terry towelling curtaining printed with brown Maple leaves, left over from some wealthy American’s redesign of an embassy somewhere. That was cut up to make nappies – complete with indelible ‘skid marks’ that raised some eyebrows in the Mother and Baby clinic! Mrs O and Miss Grey found money from somewhere, and a rudimentary layette was acquired. Miss Grey help me to make a maternity dress. Eventually I was booked into a Mother & Baby Home somewhere in London. It was nearly September 1966.
When I first spoke on the phone to dear (and she is the sanest ‘dear’ in the whole world) Ellen Coulson, who uses her proper name to comment on here, she told me that she had spoken to Ms Jones, who after 50 years only remembered some tale of the FBI surrounding Duncroft in search of me. I was completely baffled! Having now received my notes from Barnardos, I can follow the trail – and it was not Duncroft, but the Mother and Baby Home, and it was not the FBI, but the ever so slightly nuts Joss, found wandering in the garden, who replied that he was FBI when challenged, but was actually in search of me and making sure I was alright. You can feel Ms Jones’ cold fury and annoyance with the ever troublesome ‘me’ in my notes as she records how she is told to take me back from that home and find me somewhere else – nutty boyfriends wandering around claiming they are from the FBI, up with they will not put. Poor Ms Jones. She found me another home in Windsor. God bless her.
Three quarters of the way through that month of September, I am taken to hospital, and I give birth to a fine, oh so fine, perfect 8lb baby girl. I call her Samantha. Joss is recorded as her Father. I go back to the Mother & Baby home, and Joss sets off in search of accommodation for his new ‘family’. There is no world for me outside of that little face. To this day, I don’t need to see or hear her, just the faintest whiff of her DNA in the air she has passed through is enough to turn me into hormonal soup. I don’t have a rational bone in my body where she is concerned.
Joss finds us accommodation. It is the front room of a boarding house in St Agnes Place, next door to Kennington Park. It was later squatted by Rastafarians and turned into a Bob Marley Museum. Now I open my Sunday Times and learn that it is multi-million pound town houses…50 years eh?
Then there was a shared sink and toilet between the six other rooms in the house. The room has a gas fire, with a burner ring attached – hey, you can even cook here! (Mind your eyebrows!) The rent is £3 10s a week. There is one major drawback. The house is owned by ‘Beryl’ who runs a brothel. I only met her once, taken to see her to gain her approval – she looked like Barbara Cartland with a house full of Capo de Monte. The brothel is not in this house – this house is where her girls snooze away the day. At night it is empty. By day there was to be neither sight nor sound of an infant to disturb the girls.
Joss’ mother donates a secondhand carrycot in a wire frame on wheels. I cannot call it a pram – by God it got to do a lot of walking. Hour after hour, street after street, and parked in the bandstand when it pissed with rain. Old fashioned pram so to speak, not one of these modern efforts where the child faces outwards. We faced each other day and night. She came to the loo with me, there was nowhere safe to leave a crawling infant in that room. There was never a second that we weren’t in each others view. This was to cause huge problems some 9 months later when I acquired two rooms – she screamed blue murder every time I was out of sight. It had never happened before; it was outside her comprehension.
Joss and I started unmarried ‘married life’ together in that room. His Mother was delighted. The slightly odd, wayward son, had settled down at last.
I, in turn, finally discovered what she meant when I would phone his house and she said that Joss was ‘away working’. She meant he was away with the bally fairies… Joss, bless his harmless, good natured, heart, was a paranoid schizophrenic. Well, we did meet in a mental hospital if you have followed the earlier posts…brainbox here might have twigged that something was up with his claims to have ‘pleaded insanity’ to get out of some devilish plan from the government to stop him uncovering some…..cont. page 94.
I would take refuge in Doris’ house. Doris was another old Duncroft girl, some ten years older than me, who only lived half a mile away. She had had a very bright future having an incredible gift for looking at a garment and being able to cut a paper pattern that would reproduce it exactly. An earlier version of Ms Jones had secured a good job at Butterwick’s for her – they used to fly her to the Paris fashion shows. She got pregnant. Then she got pregnant again. And again. By the time I knew her, she lived in two rooms over the garage with four, it might even have been five small infants, none more than ten months apart, who snivelled in unison, wailed in unison and had permanent nappy rash. She was a lovely girl, but the situation was a panoramic dire warning as to how life could end up – eventually Tom, the children’s father, who was a good man, got crushed against a post box collecting Christmas mail, and was confined to a wheelchair – not even in that first floor two rooms. I don’t know what happened to her, for events overtook me once again.
I went to the launderette. Samantha sat in her carrycot on wheels in the sunshine outside. (You could do that in those days). I passed out. Willing hands called an ambulance. I came round in the ambulance, speeding towards the local hospital – near hysterical as I realised that Samantha was still sitting outside the launderette. The police collected her and took her to a ‘place of safety’ as they call it nowadays, and I was admitted to the hospital. The following day, a Doctor pronounced what was wrong with me. I was incredulous. True, Joss and I had made a few spirited attempts to master this sex business, maybe half a dozen times; neither of us were much interested to tell the truth – but the good Doctor was adamant, that was not scotch mist in my abdomen, I was definitely pregnant. Again. Joss retreated into la-la land. This was more than he had bargained for. Home to Mother.
I found myself two rooms and a kitchen in Balham. 12, Endlesham Road. Only £3 a week. (I hadn’t actually mentioned the baby to the letting agents – by the time the first complaints came in, I had a lease) It left me £2.10s of national assistance to live on. Samantha screamed day and night. There was nothing wrong with her, she just couldn’t understand how I could be there one minute and vanish the next. Two rooms, see. The expert advice was to let her cry. Easy to say, harder to do. I spent a lot of time sitting on the front doorstep, her muffled wails behind me, the ghastly spectre of Doris’ row of grizzling infants ever present in my mind, pondering what on earth I was going to do; the weeks and months were ticking by. There was no housing benefit then, not even the poxy £100 maternity grant unless you were married. Nada. Zilch.
‘Cathy Come Home’ indeed. I was living the dream, baby.
Rightly or wrongly, and my daughter would tell you – ‘very wrongly’ – I came to the conclusion that the best thing I could do was to agree to both my children being adopted together. They would have each other, a brother and a sister, and (I was insistent, a Christian family, none of the Roman Catholic nonsense for them), they would have a lovely lady and her ‘proper’ husband looking after them, and the only casualty, the only sufferer, would be me – surely that was better than all three of us going down the drain together? It seemed so logical. So practical.
So it came to pass, that on a wintery Armistice Day in 1967, at two minutes to eleven in the morning, my son was born in St George’s Hospital on Hyde Park corner. After two minutes of deathly hush from the entire world, they fired cannon outside the window. I have never been able to view Remembrance Day in the same light as others do. I hold my breath, and think of him. The living, not the dead. I have done for another 49 years.
I am not proud of myself. I refused to look at him, I refused to hold him, I refused to feed him. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. He knows that, we have spoken of it. I have a very different relationship with him than I do with his sister.
I never set eyes on them for another 27 years.
Meanwhile, I entered the Westminster Hospital for a D&C as it used to be known, and somehow managed to emerge having had a hysterectomy. I try not to join the dots and emerge with theories as to why. The truth is I don’t know. There was a woman with a name very close to mine who had ended up with a D&C when she had been expecting a hysterectomy, so the dots are mighty tempting. Even more so when I discover some 30 years on that the NHS only hold notes for me post the age of 27…. I only remember the surgeon telling me that ‘I had completed my family’ (he didn’t know I had willfully given my family away to strangers…) and that he had ‘taken away the carrycot and left the playpen’. This strange euphemism had to be explained to me later. You didn’t speak to consultants in those days.
You don’t need to be Freud to psychoanalyse me at this point. Any layman can do it competently. I mentally whip myself daily and spend years doing every good deed I can find in the hope that if there is a God (I am a Quaker so don’t take this for granted) he might possibly overlook my past transgressions. Or put it another way. A right psychological mess.
I can run through the various punishments I award myself over the next 27 years another time if you insist – this is not the place.
Now my daughter would, and does, have a totally different viewpoint. And I do understand. She may sound like me to the point where I have to work out who said what in a tape recording, she may look like me (here’s one I made earlier) she may mirror my every body language – in so many things you would imagine were nurture not nature, but she is not me.
She has her own personality, her own narrative, she has grown up in her own culture where single mothers are treasured, she has her own view of the ‘kindly Christian couple’ with their clear ideas of what represents good and bad, she has been shaped by the forces of her own life – and has her own prejudices, likes and dislikes. The situation is not helped by the fact that she has traced me, not through one of the adoption agencies that are supposed to oversee these tinderkeg emotional situations, but via a boyfriend who works for a well known tabloid and has stumped up the £500 to the we ‘never employed any such character’ private detective who has access to national insurance records…..he never does get his £500 back, but he is a good man, and he never does take advantage of the situation, ever more tempting that it became….
It is also not helped by the minimal information my daughter has been given about her birth parents. I spent most of yesterday trying to work out whether what I think I remember of the short precis written by a social worker that she was sent off into the unknown with actually said I was a bluebelle dancer who wanted to resume my career, or whether that has become embroidered in my mind in the sense of ‘he might as well have said that’. He was right in that I had just come back from Paris – despite being pregnant when he interviewed me, I could still earn a few bob from the trusty private detective trio with the aid of a visitors passport and my false birth certificate – and I did have long legs; and he would have no inkling in 1967/68 that one day the law would change and the two of us would meet over that report he wrote….
Either way, my daughter whether imagining her tone deaf, two left footed, aversion to feathers, mother was a bluebelle dancer, or just a flighty bird who wanted to resume ‘her career’ has already spent 27 year nurturing her view of me and its not about to change overnight. She is cautious and restrained, slightly distant, a little prickly – who can blame her, I don’t. Me? I just want to hug her to death and never speak again. Hugging a porcupine is not for the feint hearted. Hormonal overload.
Funnily enough, all this takes place on Valentine’s Night 1992. Mr G has summed up the courage the pop the question tonight, he has booked a table in the Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds; it costs more than he can afford, but it has taken him 45 years to find the right woman, no children, no family, free spirit, loves cooking (one of my businesses at the time is a restaurant).
We never get there. Fortunately he has been such a good friend for so long that he is one of the only people on earth who actually knows the truth (and bear in mind I have meanwhile been married to someone else for 20 years who never had a clue!) and I pick up the phone and gasp – “my daughter, she’s coming here, now…….right now”.
You’ll just have to wait for tomorrow or maybe the next day to find out the next bit, and even longer to answer your questions Owen….
I will do this in my own way, at my own speed.
But do it, I will.
No proof reading, I’m off back to bed.