Welcome to Book2 of Sylvia Darling's "Lost and Found - The Other Side Of Me"

(Printed with permission of Sylvia Darling author of "Lost and Found - The Other Side Of Me")


A Statue of a Greek god.

By the mid-sixties I was studying at a College Of Further Education, Simon and his family had moved out and my home-life had returned to its former sad and depressing ‘norm’. My Mother was either in her ‘Self-sacrificing Martyr’ persona, in which case I was the ‘millstone around her neck’ - a heavy burden that had been thrust upon her - or she was the ‘Tragically Bereft War Widow’, for which I was also held ‘accountable’ since she clearly believed that if I had taken better care of Eddie he would still have been with us! Either way I lived under a perpetual cloud of ‘disapproval’ and often even blatant dislike, always trying compensate for my failures and shortcomings without even knowing what they were or what it was I was supposed to have done, or not done. The only relief from these heavy, guilt-inducing personas came when she gave vent to her almost nightly vitriolic outbursts of what I now realize was in fact her ‘Spurned Lover’ fury! (Now I know about her longstanding affair with her boss I understand so much more about her extraordinary behaviour in those days and what was REALLY behind her venomous and incredibly spiteful attacks on him and everybody ELSE in the Office!) I suspect that that she originally started fighting with everyone at work just as part of her overall ‘strategy’ to become ‘Top Dog’ but when she had ultimately been rejected, humiliated and DETHRONED by her boss’s new bride, the majority of her ‘feuds’ were undoubtedly the result of her pent-up frustration and rage, her dented ego and hurt pride! She was certainly LIVING PROOF of the truth of the age-old adage “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”! She couldn’t possibly have BEEN more DELIGHTED when his marriage failed, nor did she even TRY to conceal her MALICIOUS PLEASURE when it finally ended in an extremely bitter and costly divorce that left him virtually penniless! She had been ecstatically HAPPY that ‘spurning’ her had ended so badly for him and, since she had been denied access to his money, she was absolutely OVERJOYED to learn that HE didn’t have it any more either!

A Young Woman.

Going to College had been quite an ‘eye-opener’ for me in many ways - it had been so completely different from High School, so ‘laid back’ and informal, that it had been like suddenly finding myself on some kind of ‘Mirror Universe’ that was the POLAR OPPOSITE of ANYTHING I had EVER experienced before! It had actually come as a shock and I’d found it rather disconcerting being swept along by what had felt like TIDAL WAVES of high-spirited and jubilant young people in between Classes!

My immediate reaction had of course been to try to find somewhere I could be alone, even just for a few minutes, but that had proved to be IMPOSSIBLE…even the ‘Conveniences’ were always far too busy for THAT! I’d gone out of my way to avoid making friends (which had become an entrenched habit over the years) but that too had proved to be equally impossible! Some of the students had been so warm and friendly that they had sought me out at Breaks and at Lunchtimes with the result that in no time at all I’d found myself with a small circle of friends, which had certainly been a VERY strange experience for me! At first, I’d watched them all warily, waiting for “the other shoe to drop” but they were all EXACTLY what they seemed to be…NICE PEOPLE! The boys in particular seemed to want to ‘protect me’ from the seamier side of life at College, even the young artist who was known to be pushing drugs on the side kept that part of his life well away from me!

When I think about it now I can only conclude that it must have been glaringly obvious to all of them just how inexperienced and naïve I actually was, but at the time I had been quite positive that my lack of experience along with all my self-doubts and insecurities, were well-hidden beneath my ‘confident’, cheerful and ‘happy’ façade! Apparently not!

After I’d been there a few weeks some of the “jubilant young people” who regularly ERUPTED joyfully into the halls and corridors at change of lessons were suddenly included in my English Literature Class and those Classes were NEVER the same again! Apparently, they were all on the Dramatic Arts Course, studying acting, dancing, music etc (which certainly explained a lot!) and they very definitely brought a refreshing spontaneity and an incredibly energetic, happy ‘vibe’ to every class we shared!

A Young Dancer.

Naturally they all seemed to be totally ‘Off-the-Wall’ and flamboyantly extroverted to me! I’d never seen anything like it! They had NO inhibitions WHATSOEVER and virtually EVERY occasion seemed to be “a performance opportunity” to them… they always seemed to be “ON”! I’m sure they must have had problems of their own just like everybody else, but they seemed to have the ability to push them to one side and LAUGH at Life…at least while they were at College or ‘performing’! They clowned around, burst into song, tapped out a few dance steps and even threw in the odd pirouette just going down a corridor! Whatever happened they would instantly ‘ham-up’ a dramatic scene or recreate a funny moment from a Film, Book, Musical or Play they had seen or read! I had never laughed so much in my life, but going home after spending time with them was WAY too much of a contrast! There was NOTHING light-hearted or humorous about Life with my Mother! There was one unfortunate incident though. It happened when I had a really bad coughing fit right in the middle of one ‘would-be’ actresses’ reading of a very moving speech from ‘Anthony & Cleopatra’ during an English Literature Class being taught by our Headmaster. Something was really irritating my throat and I just couldn’t stop coughing, although I certainly tried! It became so excessive that the Headmaster suggested I get a drink of water, which I did quite thankfully and with considerable speed, after which my throat finally cleared and I was able to re-join the Class. At the end of the lesson however, I had scarcely got out of the door before the young actress whose ‘performance’ I had quite unintentionally ‘ruined’, stormed up to me and let rip with a stunning tirade that was worthy of ANY Major Movie Star! She carried on and on (with remarkable breath control!) until I was eventually rescued by a very much nicer young actress called Cheryl, who pointed out that I hadn’t exactly ruined her audition for The Royal Shakespeare Company or R.A.D.A and maybe she should lighten-up a bit! I was so relieved! I HAD NO IDEA HOW TO SHUT HER UP! I thought she was building up to a MURDER SCENE with ME as the intended victim! “Thank you, Cheryl”, wherever you are today! They might clown around in the corridors, but let me tell you these people are deadly serious about their craft!

As I mentioned earlier, I had always considered my external ‘façade’ with its automatic ‘happy’ face and permanently ‘glued-on’ smile to be quite convincing and nobody had ever questioned it, but then one day, when a few of us were in the canteen together talking and laughing, an Asian friend suddenly blurted out “You know what’s WRONG with your face? You’re ALWAYS smiling, but your eyes NEVER smile!”. I was completely caught off-guard and just sat there speechless, acutely embarrassed by the awkward silence that had descended on everybody at the table. Fortunately, one of the boys came out with a daft, nonsensical remark that made everybody laugh and the moment passed, but it had rattled me nonetheless. Nobody was ever supposed to probe BEHIND the façade.

A courthouse Jester.

The next instalment of this true life story will be posted on 1st May 2024.

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