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Almost married off at 12 with Angie McLachlan
Episode 828th November 2021 • Drawn to a Deeper Story • Cath Brew
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Cath: [:

You're listening to Drawn to a Deeper Story. I'm Cath Brew from drawntoastory.com. I'm an artist who illustrates and educates about marginalized experiences for positive change, with a particular interest in identity belonging, and expat life. This podcast is about the lives that challenge us and the difficult conversations around them.

Cath: It's a place to listen openly to absorb people's truths and to learn how to show up differently for the benefit of everyone. And that's you included. The person I'm talking to today, I know very well. Because I've been married to them for 14 years. It's my wife Ang. Ang has led a really interesting life to the point where a friend once asked a mutual friend whether everything Ang said about her life was actually true.And this fits the theme of this podcast, beautifully, the lives that challenges, but also lives that aren't seen because people don't quite believe your truth. And maybe that stops you from talking

Cath: [:

about your life and then makes you feel even less seen. So I invited Ang here today, not because Ang is my wife, but because having lived with Ang for 14 years, I see the other side of having lived that interesting in air quotes life. Ang grew up with an absent father and a mother with manic depression. Add neuro-diversity and being gay in there too and you start to appreciate the challenges, the grace, the opportunities, the wisdom that I see, which other parties may not actually be aware of. And so I think there's a lot that we can learn from Ang, and so Ang my wife, welcome to Drawn to a Deeper Story.

Angie:

Thank you very much.

Cath:

So it's such a massive subject that I struggled to try to find a way to start really, so the first question really I wanted to ask you is what words would sum up your

Cath:[:

childhood to someone who doesn't know.

Angie:

It felt very safe, but, when I was very young anyway, but I guess it was my childhood, so I didn't know anything different.

Cath:

And I referred to an absent father. When was the last time you saw him and do you have any memories of him?

Angie:

l. Um, I last saw him in late:

Cath:

It was around two or three years old.

Angie:

Yeah. Around two or three years old. I have one photograph of him, where my mother and I were with him sitting in my grandmother's garden. My mother moved to live in South Africa. Um, and the reason that she moved to South Africa, is a very long story, but her father was very ill and she needed some space.

Angie:

So she went out to Africa because my grandma had a cousin there,

Angie: [:

and it seemed to be a place where she could go and live relatively safely and in a, in a kind of controlled way with family. Um, but of course being my mother, she was very independent. So she soon moved away from family.

Angie:

e, in the, in the sort of mid:

Angie: From your point of view from the podcast, I mean, my mother became an ex pat and I think living in South Africa gave her some really quite interesting outlooks on life. And she had some amazing experiences,

Angie: [:

including teaching domestic science at Durbin girls high at one point. She was very drawn to my father who was extremely charming, spoke multiple languages like my mother's father did. And it turned out that he was, I'm not entirely sure how to describe him not having known him, but he was described to me by my mother as schizophrenic. I mean, I I've wheeled forward now to my teenage years, which were quite eccentric really, but whether there was an actual diagnosis of that, I don't know, or whether he was just incredibly neurodiverse and had meltdowns that looked as though it was changing personality. I don't know. But anyway, um, he was quite abusive, I believe. Um, my mother was very frightened off him and she came back to England, back to her parents, just in time for Christmas, 1959.

Angie: [:

She came with me and a suitcase and 50 pounds and I think she had decided herself at that point that she was leaving my father, but unbeknown to her, he was actually on the same aeroplane coming back to the UK. He hid on board from her, and turned up at my grandmother's house three days after my mum did. So where he'd been in the three days? I do not know.

Cath:

I bet she wasn't pleased.

Angie: She was and I only know this because after my grandmother died, in her bedroom, chest of drawers was a five-year diary that my aunt who was my mother's younger sister had written during the time that my mum was planning to go out to South Africa in the first place in 56 and it actually covered four years. So it finished just after Christmas when Andre, my father arrived on the doorstep, and

Angie: [:

apparently, he was incredibly charming and made everybody very happy in the family, except for my mother who went very quiet according to the diary.

Cath:

So she hadn't said anything to the other family members then about what she was dealing with.

Angie:

I wouldn't of thought at that time she would have opened up. The family did not naturally ever talk about emotions or how they were feeling. And so I would have thought that three days was not quite enough time to get used to the joy of a new grandchild and her coming back from Africa. I wouldn't thought that she would have sat down with her parents.

Cath:

No, there's not the space in any circumstance, let alone a family that doesn't really talk

Angie:

No and my grandfather was a depressive for many, many years and it was partly his depression and the way that my grandmother and my aunt dealt with or didn't deal with

Angie: [:

grandpa's depression, was that one of the things that drove her to become an expat in Africa? I think frankly, she would have gone anywhere but Africa was the place that her parents, because at that time, remember a young woman on their own, it wasn't quite so easy to make decisions to travel.

Cath:

No, but she wasn't showing signs of manic depression then?

Angie:

No, her illness really only manifested itself when I was 12.

Cath:

So just going back to your father for a minute, were you aware of his absence as a child? Until you got to school and started to meet other children were you aware that your life was different in that way?

Angie:

I don't think I really was. Just trying to think. I found a picture of my mum, myself and a man when I was really quite small and I must've, only just have started school. And I said to my mum. Is that my father. So obviously realized, I mean, I knew what the concept of father was. Whether it

Angie: [:

was through social interaction with, little friends and going to their houses or whether it was through reading, cause I could read by the time I went to school at three and three quarters though, I would have gone through the Janet and John, this is Janet, this is John. This is mommy. This is daddy.

Angie:

I was very aware of the concept of what a father was, but when I discovered that that was my father, I was quite interested and I was also interested. that I asked what his name was and my mother said he was called John, which actually he wasn't, but that there's a reason why she called him something that wasn't his name.

Cath:

And what is that reason?

Angie: The reason was that we had actually moved up to Yorkshire from my grandmother's home in the south of England, but we hadn't moved just because it seemed to be a nice thing to do. My mother had actually had to escape from my father, and had taken me and I

Angie: [:

didn't find out until I was in my thirties, that this had all been happening and only a couple of people outside close family knew where we were. It kind of figures because when I was sort of 5 or 6 our surname changed and mother's divorce went through, but obviously I was too small to have any of that explained to me. But I do remember standing on the corner of the road, in the dark, round the corner from where my grandma lived, clutching a cuddly toy that I didn't like very much. It wasn't my favourite one, which was a golly that my father had given me for Christmas. So that was Christmas 1959, but I was standing on the corner of the road, holding somebody's hand and we were waiting for a car to come and collect us on that must have been the escape. I can't think of any other reason why we were around the

Angie: [:

corner outside of somebody else's house.

Cath:

Did you wonder why, when you got to Yorkshire, did you wonder why you were there?

Angie:

I don't actually remember getting to Yorkshire? The earliest memory I have in Yorkshire was being taken for a walk by a chap whose house we were staying in and I was in my pram and he took me to see some horses and I remember standing up in my pram to look over the wall so that I could stroke the noses of the horses. And we were staying with that family, because they were around the corner from a cottage that had been condemned, but my mum bought it and had it done up. So she rescued it was literally, it was a Queen Anne A frame cottage with two stairs. So you couldn't get from one room upstairs to the other room upstairs without going downstairs. It's interesting. Looking back now, looking at the logistics, we moved up to Yorkshire because my grandmother's family were mill owners up there and we still had family

Angie: [:

up there. So the village was situated in between the little beck valley, which was owned by my Gran's cousin and Robin Hood's Bay where her best friend from boarding school.

Cath:

So she went where she had support.

Angie:

Yeah, absolutely

Cath: That also to me shows the state that she was in and what she was seeking for herself.

Angie: But I actually don't think that mum had very much choice in it. I think it was all orchestrated. Granny was the absolute matriarch of the family. She was the strong spine and the rod of iron that literally kept everybody together. She was dealing with a very badly disabled, younger daughter and a husband who was so depressed that he had bouts of mania and had to go into nursing homes and asylums and all kinds of things.

Cath:

An Incredibly strong woman

Angie:

Yes, what Granny said went really?

Cath: [:

Yeah and I imagine also with that environment, that the stressors for your mother if she was dealing with all this difficult stuff that not wanting to add to the stress, but badly needing to get help and to, try and have people help with her life.

Angie:

Yeah, absolutely and she did have most wonderful support. The cousin of my grandma's uncle and his wife were absolutely amazing. My mum adored them. She spent a lot of time with them when she was growing up and as a young woman.

Cath:

Yeah. You've talked about your mother and your father and the kind of the situation. What was happening for you at this time? How were you fairing being in a new location? Were you starting to question who you were with being a lesbian? Because you've already said it was quite young.

Angie:

I was very young. I knew when I was first at school. I've grown up knowing kind of operated slightly differently to everybody else, but it was instinctively something that I didn't talk about. It was something very internal and something that was, it was quite a safe space in a way it was, you know, go into my head and feel the safety of being surrounded by people that I actually wanted to be surrounded by. But

Angie: [:

my mum had to work so when mum was at work and I wasn't at school. Um, I was looked after by a retired shepherd and his wife who lived just up the road and he I'm going to cry.

Cath:

It's all right.

Angie:

Loved him, loved him and his wife. They taught me everything is important in life values, practical things, how to tie my shoe laces. Their cottage had no electricity. They had a single cold tap in the parlour where they ate and cooked and did everything. Cooking was on a big black range and there was washed copper out in a shed in the backyard with a fire underneath it and a blue bag and a Dolly to do the washing. It was a real, additional, grow your own vegetables, keep chickens kind of upbringing with them.

Cath:

So what do you think that gave you that you didn't feel you were getting otherwise?

Angie:

Well at the time, I didn't think that it did anything. It was just

Angie: [:

where I went and it was my life and I really enjoyed it. Looking back, I absolutely value having been brought up without any technology. So oil lumps at night, candle to go to bed.

Angie: And the garden and natural history. Mr. McNeil used to be the local hedger and ditcher, kept the village, hedges in trim and I used as just wander up the road with him. He had string tied around the ankles of his trousers so that things didn't run up.

Cath:

So these are a very happy memories of your childhood and you speak very positively of them. When did things start to change with your mother's manic depression? Cause other people won't know, but you've spoken to me a lot about the difficulties of it, coping with it and how you coped in the kind of things that happened. Can you talk a bit around that?

Angie:

The time when things really started to change for me was when we moved from Yorkshire. And of course being small I didn't know anything very much

Angie: [:

about that either. I was just told we were moving . We moved to Bristol and I went to boarding school just before my seventh birthday. So from our Yorkshire village where, my accent was "bugger me, cows got out" to a posh, all girls boarding school in Bristol was a hell of a shock. I have to say. it was dreadful, absolutely awful. So from my point of view, that's where my life changed, but we had quite a long way before my mother actually started getting ill. She was very, very well in Bristol. She earnt her living, making ships in bottles and when we moved to Bristol, she kept her job, but just did it by post.

Cath:

So that massive change that you felt in moving to Bristol, why was that difficult and how did you cope with that?

Angie:

It was difficult because it was such a different way of life from living in a rural village, and existing in a fairly natural

Angie: [:

environment with, mentors who were relating to the natural environment and animals and birds, flowers to living in a block of flats on a newly built estate and going to boarding school, which was a completely alien environment.

Cath:

Completely different world.

Angie:

There was absolutely nothing in that environment that I was familiar with.

Cath:

Did you have anyone to talk to about it? How did that make you feel?

Angie:

I didn't have anybody and I was frightened.

Cath:

Hmm. Must've been incredibly painful to not know where to go.

Angie:

And at the worst thing was I had to leave my cat.

Cath: Aww. I think though with hindsight, you now look at your mother and what she was dealing with and trying to get away from and you can see it with an adult's compassion. Does that help you now? Look at how it was.

Angie: [:

I never have blamed my mother or my family condition at all for anything. I mean, you know, my reaction, my responses to things I've always sort of held as my own really.

Cath: I think that's one of the things that's always fascinated me with you is that I think your childhood has been quite a challenging one and I'm always amazed at your grace around it and the way that you talked really positively about it, but I'm also aware that it's all you knew and it's no different to any of our childhoods in the sense that it's all we know until things start to change and you start to learn that there are other options. And I just wanted to say really how I think one of the things that, that I've learned from you very much so, is about looking at what you do have and being appreciative for what you've got, even though things might have been difficult.

Angie:

I think that's quite interesting really. I mean, my mum was very aware that because I was

Angie: [:

an only child with a single parent that. She always gave me as much opportunity to spend time with other children and other people and I always had really positive male role models around and other children with diverse parents and outlooks and religions and everything. So I was incredibly fortunate from that point of view. Although our family never, ever talked about emotions or anything that was really kind of out there. They were very, very Edwardian and sort of upright and stiff upper lip.

Cath:

So then when your mother's manic depression manifested that must've been scary for everybody because of having had her father's depression and his issues, and then knowing potentially that there was stuff with your father as well. I just wondered about her state of mind of knowing that

Cath: [:

things started to happen and thinking, oh God, like there's like almost a foreboding. Cause you've seen it witnessed already. You can see what this is and it's now you're experiencing it.

Angie:

Yeah. I think with what happened to mum, it wasn't a kind of sharp suddenly it happened. She was very ill internally. She had very, very bad problems with periods and her gut, and because her family had a history of depression and mental illness, the doctors never really believed that she was in as much pain as she was. And eventually, I think I must've been about 11. She got taken into hospital and had a hysterectomy and they discovered that she was actually, um, and in her words, excuse me, she was turning green inside. So she obviously was very, very ill. And I remember being taken by a friend of mine's father, to see her in hospital and she

Angie: [:

really was not well. But at 11, you, you don't really understand what's going on, but, what happened was that her surgeon was killed in a car accident three or four days after her operation.

Cath:

Gosh.

Angie:

So not only did she lose the person that she'd put her faith in, but the entire hospital went into kind of meltdown through the grief of losing somebody so precious to them and they forgot to give my mother any hormones.

Cath:

Oh.

Angie:

So from having a full hysterectomy and obviously needing aftercare, that was quite significant because she had been so badly unwell, she didn't have the right hormone treatment.

Angie:

She was very lucky in that at the time that she was having that operation. We've moved again. She'd become the senior matron at the school Bedales

Angie: [:

and I was in the junior school. But she did have friends in the staff who let her stay at their homes to recuperate. So I had somewhere to go as well.

Cath:

Yeah. Wow. That's just horrendous. Isn't it? Nothing's changed in that women are still fighting today to have doctors recognize what they're dealing with from menopause and things that are going on with mensuration.

Angie:

It must've been incredibly difficult because I think it's bad enough now, but then women didn't really have a voice.

Cath:

Yeah.

Angie:

So when I was 12, we were going to spend the holidays with friends back in the village in Yorkshire and on the kind of second to last day of term the housemistress summoned me and said, you're going to go up to Yorkshire, but your mum's not well she's in hospital, but you'll be met at the station by the friends that you're going to be staying with. And I've arranged for one of the senior girls to take you across London.

Angie: [:

So that was how I found out my mum was ill again, but I didn't ask and she wouldn't tell me what exactly was going on. So off I went with my suitcase and got up to Yorkshire.

Angie:

But what I didn't appreciate at the time and I, I don't even remember being told exactly what had happened, but mum was in a mental hospital and, she'd taken an overdose and they'd manage to kind of bundle her off to hospital.

Angie: What actually happened was I then arrived back from school and mum wasn't there and I'd been told that she was very ill and I was actually quite pleased she wasn't there cause I wasn't sure that I could cope with that. I was quite happy being with old family friends, but one evening we were sitting down to have our supper and she walked in through the back door. Wow.

Angie: [:

She discharged herself from hospital. That would have been perfectly fine if she had been perfectly fine, but she actually was somebody else. Apart from looking like my mother she was somebody else and I can't even remember how long she was there before the cousin came along and extracted her. She was organizing my wedding. Now bearing in mind I was 12, she was booking the hotel. She was booking hair appointments roaring about all over the place. She had a draw that had paper money in it, now bearing in mind the way that my family operated was that they wrote cheques for things. It was very rare for my mother to have anything more than a five pound note in her, in her purse. So there was this money, she was knitting a jumper out of the most lurid fluorescent orange that could possibly have been made in the kind of end of the 60s seventies. She just was not her.

Cath:

So what happened?

Angie:[:

The cousin was summoned and he arrived in a massive, great big Rolls Royce in the middle of this Yorkshire village and I remember standing in the middle of the road with my mother and with him and she was busy telling him about my impending marriage and all the things that she had to do and she couldn't possibly go with him. Him looking at me and looking at her and looking at me and looking at her. And he said to me, how old are you? and I said, I'm 12. It was really surreal. I didn't have the capacity to unpick what was going on. The only thing that really exercised me at the time was whether I was going to be able to go back to school.

Cath:

So that was your safe space.

Angie:

It was absolutely my safe space and nobody had told me or could tell me whether I was going to be going back in September. So for the most part of that

Angie: [:

school holidays, while mum was actually away from my immediate surroundings and my sight, I didn't have to think about her, it was absolutely fine. But what I worried about was whether I could go back to school.

Cath:

As a pre-teen who didn't know then either, but neuro-diverse, and doesn't like change and then your mother who the natural order of things is meant to be the stable one, your safety in your life is not because she's acting strangely. It must have been a very strange period of your life that you're going through puberty almost just about as well, like massive changes.

Angie:

I remember thinking, what can I do that's really bad? And so I went and bought a pack of cigarettes and smoked a couple under a bush and decided I didn't like it. I was with staying with hunting, shooting, fishing, friends, spent a lot of time sitting on the back doorstep shooting Britain’s

Angie: [:

plastic soldiers out of the apple tree with an air rifle. After their cousin with the rolls Royce took mother away and left us in much relief, the story goes that at some point during that, illness, she turned up on stage in the middle of a play. She must.

Angie:

Yes. Um, but I've not ever seen any newspaper accounts of that, but it must've been absolutely hysterical.

Cath:

And it's also something that would appear in a newspaper locally, like a local show.

Angie:

That was a very bizarre time in life and she never really a hundred percent recovered from that. She didn't have as bad, a nervous breakdown again, she had some, some blips. She was incredibly artistically talented. She could make anything like all my clothes and all her clothes. She could do anything with a needle and thread. She's a brilliant

Angie: [:

cook. She, she got the highest marks at college when she went to do, um, domestic science that the college had ever had.

Cath:

From the way you've talked about her, she sounds like a remarkable woman. I mean, things you haven't said to listeners here, but is the things that she put in place to make sure that you were safe with guardians and people like Mr. McNeil, and when she was well taking you to plays and exhibitions.

Angie: I mean, I come from kind of unashamedly because it's my, it's my background, kind of upper middle-class family, where theatre and the arts and going to museums and galleries and having a really an incredible education is something that from the time of my great-grandparents was something that was considered a really important thing. My. Grandfather was self-taught largely. And he

Angie: [:

educated himself and worked his way up and made sure that his children had what he didn't have when they were growing up. And they were all educated in Europe before the first world war. Although there were constraints with disabilities and illnesses and things like that, we were quite sort of outward looking.

Angie:

I was incredibly lucky and yes, I had guardians in South Africa and I had guardians in the UK and yeah. Mum put in place, everything that could possibly be necessary.

Cath:

it just makes me think about [:

Angie:

I absolutely hear what you're saying. I think from the point of view of my grandfather, who was obviously very depressed, the pressure that he had from granny and my aunt, my aunt was physically visibly disabled and grandpa was invisibly disabled, and he was told how, um, there was nothing wrong with him. How would he like it if he couldn't walk? the pressure and emotional abuse from misunderstanding and silence was huge in the household. And that's why mum felt that she needed to escape. She just had to get out of it. She couldn't cope with it longer.

Cath:

But then also your poor mother that she goes to escape that, and then clearly fell in love and, and had you, but, but then also the stories that you've talked about of your

Cath: [:

father being a bit of a rogue and the fear that she must've felt when she suddenly realized what she was part of. Um, I mean, tell the, um, this, just me drawing out the story of the diamonds.

Angie:

My father got involved in uncut diamond smuggling apparently. My mother found a stash of his diamonds at one point and threw them down the loo, which obviously didn't please him terribly. he pulled a gun on her and I think she was absolutely terrified.

Cath:

The poor thing

Angie:

so there was stuff going on that she had absolutely no control over in a culture that she really didn't have much knowledge about. She wasn't very streetwise. Um, it must've been absolutely terrifying.

Cath:

Yeah, absolutely. Hugely.

Angie: [:

So, yeah, I think my father was, um, was deeply in debt. Granny actually talked about having paid his debts off. He sold my mother's house from under her because obviously when you were married in those days, the man actually then had control over everything.

Cath:

Yeah. Yeah. Hence why running away to Yorkshire and hiding to change names and try and get a divorce. And I mean, she was incredibly stealth and good at what she managed to then achieve for you.

Angie:

she was. One of the reasons why we had to move from Yorkshire to Bristol was that when my mum did the change of name thing from our original surname, that was my father's to the new one you have to put a notice in the London Gazette,

Cath:

That's just so not friendly to women who are being abused.

Angie:

Exactly, then the first notice that went in about it had my grandmother's address, but then they had to put another notice in with her proper address. Cause obviously the first one wasn't quite kosher. And it was within

Angie: [:

literally within not very long after that notice went in that we had to move again. Yeah. I now with my adult eyes look and think, oh, well that was another running away session. Yeah. Run away again to somewhere that had one of granny's old school friends that we went to Bristol.

Cath: What leads me on from that is thinking about which other people won't know, but I know as your wife is apart from the neuro-diverse side of dislike of change, the importance for you, of home having moved so much and had that instability, home and your home base is, is incredibly important. And I'd like to ask you about the impact of all of this stuff on you as an adult now. What do you feel that you've been left with, I guess is what is it that you've had to deal with in your adult life as a result of your childhood?

Angie: [:

Four generations of family junk. Um, when I say junk, some of it's quite historically interesting.

Angie:

Yeah. Home is really important and I think a kind of vague sense of control of not losing that home is quite important. We had a beautiful house when my mum had her really bad breakdown and that got sold and the furniture all got shipped off to, I think a lot of it went to America and that was family furniture from um, other generations.

Cath:

And you've also talked about things were important to you that you just never saw her again.

Angie:

When we moved from Yorkshire where mum had not to Ha'pennies to rub together, really things obviously went to auction. Mr. McNeil actually gave me his Shepherd's star and his sash there was a special

Angie: [:

organization for shepherds they used to March on their special day, once a year and he gave me his, his regalia, but, I never saw it again. I remember him giving it to me. It was, it was real, yeah, it was big.

Cath: Yeah. It's important. Which also then from an expat perspective, has a big impact in that you meet me and I come to live in the UK and live in this house, which is packed full like you talk about the family junk, but all this stuff that's important and me coming in and trying to find space within the house and wanting to remove things up against your not wanting to change because of you've had so much change and that space of learning each other. Um, and from our own perspectives, that was quite a challenge.

Angie: It's been a bit like chess, hasn't it?

Cath: [:

Yeah, it's been, it's been really big, but I also think, once I understood your life more, it helped me understand why you didn't want to get rid of things or move to a bigger house because for you those things are connected to trauma and it triggers a trauma and there's a fear and I also want to say how well we've done, we've really grown through those things and absolutely been able to see each other. But I think it's important for, partners to understand context that they may not necessarily understand. So a perfect example is several years ago I was badly depressed and to the point where I couldn't get off the sofa without having a panic attack, and all I wanted was for Ang to be there for me and she was there in the way that she could, but it was a really difficult time because as you said to me, and to some friends, you couldn't go there because it was too close to your mother's depression. I think we found our way, but I

Cath: [:

Angie:

That's a really interesting question. I think that, that was a difficult time, but one thing I was able to help you with was when your father was unwell.

Cath:

l with that. And that's come [:

Angie:

over and done with and safe [:

Angie:

hat was auntie Susan doing in:

Cath:

And is that helpful because you can pick and choose, the memory so you can choose to think the positive memories.

Angie: [:

It's very, very helpful. Sometimes, sometimes they're not so positive memories come up and that's not no bad thing.

Cath:

I think it's all very, very interesting and I would just say, I think too, that we never know what someone's dealing with until we actually start to talk to them and hear their stories. I know when, when we met there's that you fall in love and you're in that loved-up stage and everything's wonderful. And then there's that phase, like six months where you start to actually see the real person that like chews loudly or snorts or what, like all the things that start to irritate you about someone that you love.

Angie: When my mom was actually, seriously depressed and in my late teenage years, I was having to pick up the phone and have her committed to a hospital and call ambulances because she'd taken overdoses and things, I never, ever knew what was going on in her mind. And she never ever talked about it. And again, quite surreal, but you just deal with it in the way that you have to deal with it. Really.

Cath: [:

Yeah. But I also think that has shaped you massively and that what I know of you, apart from the neuro-diversity, so you operate slightly differently, but from an emotional point of view, from my perspective, I'm a absolute public processor and you're a very private processor.

Cath: You're more an internal processor and I think I've often wondered to what degree these experiences have also impacted that because for you those kinds of emotions could be potentially difficult and distressing. And you've talked too about the distance that you had to put in place between you and your mother and also your grandmother. What are some of those coping strategies that you developed that you're now as an adult, more aware of that you did just because you had to.

Angie:

Absolutely distancing. Emotional distancing from my mother and I didn't have an awful lot to do with my grandmother until I moved back to Dorset. And I mean granny was a really frightening character, very

Angie: [:

bossy and the thing is I was stood up to her. I wouldn't have any of it and she really respected me for it. She was hysterical though. When she was 101 or something and that there was a knock on her front door and a builder from next door came and said, I'm just coming to tell you that we're going to have to renew the fence between you and next door. The good news is you don't have to pay for it. And she was only four foot something tall, and she looked up at him and said, it's a good job too. It's not my fence. Good day. And shut the door.

Cath:

Oh dear. I love the sound of your grandmother. I think I would be bloody terrified over, but I love the stories and the things that you used to talk about and I think all of this adds to your quirk and who you are and the stories you tell. And like I talked about at the beginning, the friend of ours that didn't actually believe that your life was true.

Angie: [:

Angie:

I try, you know who I am is what you get really.

Cath:

That's quite funny to put it into that context, because like you're so internal compared to me

Angie:

If you think that the people that actually influenced me, that brought me up within the family where my grandmother and my great aunt, both of whom nursed in the first world war.

Cath: Yeah. Strong women.

Angie:

Women in our family did not go to funerals and it wasn't just a family thing. It was an Edwardian thing. Women stayed at home and did the tea because they were emotional and couldn't cope with funerals. And we ended up being all women in the family. When my mother died, my grandmother refused to come to her funeral.

Angie:

So when her youngest daughter died, I said, now granny, you are coming to the funeral. Oh no, women don't go to funerals. I said, Gran,

Angie: [:

we are all women. Does that mean that nobody ever goes to funerals anymore? Oh, oh. So she made it to that one. She was very proud of me, for going into the funeral business. She really, followed my progress and supported me hugely. Yeah. In fact, I went into the funeral business after my mum died. So I didn't actually physically look after her, but I had quite a lot to do with designing her funeral. But I did actually look after the rest of. them myself personally. The only one that I didn't take care of was my cousin, Chris Hewitt, the gay, crippled activist poet who died in San Francisco.

Cath:

Can I just say, you use that word crippled because it was a word that he used.

Angie:

Absolutely.

Cath:

Yeah. It's a word of empowerment for him.

Angie:

He, he was part of the Crip gay movement in San Francisco, a renowned poet whose archive is in San Francisco

Angie: [:

public library. So, you know, he's a thing, but you and I both met his mother and you had blessing from her for our relationship.

Cath:

We weren't the first in the family.

Angie:

Oh no, my great-aunt had had a lady friend who she tried to move into the family home and great grandpa said, I don't think so. So she went and bought them a home where they lived I think they were together about 40 years.

Angie:

There's a bit of my family, but I was brought up that there's a lot of Disability, my grandmother and myself, probably the only ones, although I'm neurodiverse. Um, uh, and granny was basically a dragon in, you know, little tiny ladies clothing, but, everybody in the family was disabled in some way. So there was either mental health illness with depression and manic depression childhood, rheumatoid arthritis, my great, great aunt was blind and my great

Angie: [:

aunt went blind. So I was brought up in this extraordinary family where difference was a thing, cousin, Chris, Chris was in his wheelchair.

Angie:

And so I was, I was bought up in this, in this family where, you know, before, before, proper disabled parking spots, the beach and things like that, where thing, we'd go out for, for Sunday drives in the car and I'd be cowering on the backseat because I knew that it'd be a huge row cause we needed space where my aunt could see the view.

Cath:

I keep thinking about how all of this manifests in your adult life and the impact of the things. And I'm very aware that when we go out on drives that if I do anything, that's, not quite the norm or I do a big U-turn and it doesn't quite work, so I'm doing something else and that sense of being, on the edge of creating an issue, I'm aware of your tension rising, and I'm aware that it triggers that space.

Angie: [:

It's all those years of sitting on the armrests that comes down in the middle of the back seats that used to be my seat and it was my observation platform of how family Sunday drives played out and it was just the most horrendous, horrendous thing.

Cath:

Well, I love Sunday drives, so it's a good job. We're going to get it out of you!

Cath:

I think that's where I want to finish really is on a positive note because actually there's been all these challenges and it's been a remarkable life that you've lived so far, but also these things do define you, but they also don't define you because you grow through them and you become a different person.

Angie: and I think one of the real positive things that I take from all my family is that they were all artists in their own way. I have the ability to do art and use the positive parts of my neuro diverse brain to be able to do the things that I can do really well.

Cath: [:

And use it for processing and reflection.

Angie:

Yeah. And also I've actually come further in life from a achievement point of view, having left school at 16, because, you know, really with all this rubbish going on with mum, I couldn't concentrate. There was mum, there was me being gay and there was me being neuro diverse which wasn't thought about in the seventies. I came out of school with very few qualifications and I have more qualifications than I can even remember that I've got now.

Cath:

Yeah. Hoo rah. Yeah. Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. I think it's a really nice way to end the conversation around challenges with the reflection of the positive things. We we've certainly had our challenges, but that to me is a good marriage. When you work through them and you're still together and you still love each other.

Angie:

I would be really suspicious of people who say that their my marriages have all been a piece of cake all the way through.

Cath:

Yeah, absolutely.

Angie:

What are you not talking about? What are you not telling each other?

Cath:

Yeah, exactly. And talking of

Cath: [:

good marriages, and jobs that need to be done, I think our food shopping is about to be delivered, so we need to end the podcast. I joke, but it really is about to be delivered. So thank you hugely for coming on. I know talking about personal things can be a challenge sometimes and particularly when you have no idea what I'm going to ask you. So thanks so much for coming on and being willing to share to talk about your life.

Angie:

That's a pleasure. It's only a little bit of my life. I'm happy to chat further.

Cath:

Well, thank you.

Angie:

Bye. Bye.

Cath:

Bye Bye. You've been listening to Drawn to a Deeper Story with Cath Brew. Thanks for listening.