Growing Up?: A Journey with Laughter

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This book, by a well established author previously writing in a quite different genre, that of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and counselling, is written for an entirely different readership. Patrick Casement has put together a fascinating account of his strange journey from a privileged background, through schools and national service, and then through university, avoiding throughout the wishes of his family for him to join the Royal Navy. Instead, he leaves university with a degree but heads straight into becoming a bricklayer's mate. From there, eventually, he gets through the vicissitudes of probation and social work, and the hilarious experiences of trying to furnish his first flat. He thus moves into what he describes as the "real" world - getting what his family would regard as a "real job" (or two). But despite that, he continues on his unpredictable journey - into becoming a psychotherapist and then a psychoanalyst: what his mother thought was "training to become a psychotic." This book is filled with laughter - that of the author laughing at himself as he invites the reader to laugh along with him in his journey through the vicissitudes of life.

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Chapter One - I am Born into a Passing Age: Prince Otto von Bismark has to be Rescued (By the Butler) From a Rusty Shower

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Prince Otto von Bismark has to be rescued (by the butler) from a rusty shower

Preamble

I was brought up being told that I had always been very strong willed; also that I had been “so difficult” as a child I had apparently “driven away” all the nannies who had been employed to deal with me. There was only one who stayed, from when I was four. She came to be called “Tucky” (her full name being Miss Powell-Tuck).

Tucky stayed until I was ten. Years after she had left, when I met her again, she told me that she too had left because she had found me “impossible”. But I don't think that was the only reason she left as I had been at boarding school from the age of eight, and mother told me that Tucky didn't really want to be looking after my two sisters, born when I was seven and when I was nine. So, Tucky might have been teasing me, even though there is often a grain of truth in jest.

An aunt has memories that might help to explain Tucky's problem with me. One was when Tucky had been getting impatient with me, as I (aged seven) wasn't concentrating on what she wanted me to do. “Put your mind behind it,” she demanded. I had apparently replied: “Put my mind behind it? Where do I put it? Do I put it here? Do I put it there? Where do I put it?”

 

Chapter Two - Prep School Years: “All the Teachers have Given up on You”

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“All the teachers have given up on you”

Maidwell hall

My brother Michael and I went to a very fine prep school we called Maidwell (near Northampton). I went there in 1943, aged eight.

I remember quite a few boys crying a lot, feeling homesick, but I didn't. This was probably because I had my brother Michael there, a bit of home having come with me. He was called by everyone else “Casement One” and I was “Casement Two”, but I was allowed to call him “Bro”.

My first form teacher was Miss Hardwicke. I don't remember much of that first term except for Bill Rogers, the teacher who was very keen on rugby football.

The first year

I should perhaps explain that I had never been to any school before this: I'd always been taught at home by my governess, Tucky. So this, when I was aged eight, was my first-ever experience of real school—of any kind.

One of the things for which I was especially grateful to Michael while we were both at Maidwell, was that he taught me to “peewit”, which was calling like a peewit (bird). This is a very high note that dips and then goes up again. Michael said that, when we were out playing in the grounds around the school, I could always find him by using this call. He would then “peewit” back and we could run towards each other. For me as a new boy this was very reassuring. I'm not sure how long this went on, but it was a brilliant idea.

 

Chapter Three - Life at Our First Settled Home: Dreaded Parties and Seeing Double at a Hunt Ball (Aged 14)

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Dreaded parties and seeing double at a Hunt Ball (aged 14)

Rogate (West Sussex)

We went to Rogate shortly after my younger sister (Sue) was born, so that was probably in 1944 or early 1945, to a house we knew as “Haben”.

At some stage, but I cannot remember when, mother enrolled as something like an air raid warden in the village. For this she was supplied with uniform and boots. Her function, or so we were told, was to stand at the crossroads directing people to a decontamination centre in the event of a gas attack. She was meant to instruct people to strip off their clothes immediately, and to be decontaminated in a shower that would be provided.

Clothes also had to be decontaminated. I don't know how people were going to be supplied with new clothes. Also, what was mother going to be wearing at the crossroads? Did she have to set an example by standing there entirely naked? We never quite worked that out.

The village was an extraordinary place and we formed a strong attachment to it: the people, the village shop, the church on the hill, and the little church about two miles away; that was Terwick church, which was in a field set back from the road. In the spring there used to be lupines in the field, set apart from the farming of the field alongside it. I believe it was protected by the National Trust, or something like that, but the lupines disappeared some years later. I don't know why. I think a farmer just ploughed them in.

 

Chapter Four - Winchester College: Having Fun and I Turn Exams into a Game

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Having fun and I turn exams into a game

Being introduced to Winchester

Some time before Michael went to Winchester we were taken there by father, who showed us around.

Having been to see the house called Kenny's, where father had been, we were going down the road towards the college chapel when we met two old dons. They had both been at Winchester when father was there. One was called “the Bobber”, who was huge and had enormous feet. The other, “Jacker”, was really quite small. They were pushing wheelbarrows with pots of jam and marmalade, which they were about to exchange. They explained that they would, each year, share the jam/marmalade-making between them. They were two hugely single bachelors.

I later learned from my father's mother (Granny) that she'd met the Bobber on several occasions, but there was one time when she was introduced to him without being able to hear his name. As it was raining, with a strong wind, she'd been keeping her head down while she was holding onto her hat. Granny told me it was only when she saw those huge feet that she realised who it was she'd been introduced to. “Oh, it's the Bobber! I'd know you anywhere by your feet.”

 

Chapter Five - My Parents in Germany: The Duke of Edinburgh Slept in My Bed

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The Duke of Edinburgh slept in my bed

Krefeld (Germany)

In 1952, father was appointed to the Royal Naval Rhine Squadron at Krefeld. The first name in the visitor's book father kept there is that of “Alexander of Tunis”, Field Marshal Lord Alexander.

The official house

After the war, various properties were requisitioned for use by the British forces in Germany. There was a castle, where the admiral was placed, and an amazing house in Krefeld which father had as his official residence.

The drawing room had a very wide picture window, which stretched the full width of the room, looking out onto the garden. The window was made with one huge sheet of glass that could be lowered into the basement by means of a winding handle. This meant that, in hot weather, the drawing room could become completely open to the garden.

The inner doors, as between the drawing room and the dining room, were also made of single sheets of glass. When these were opened, the door would slide into a wall cavity. The steward, who looked after father, used to polish the big window and these doors until there was not the slightest mark on them.

 

Chapter Six - Into Uniform—National Service: Several Times I am Due for a Reprimand

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Several times I am due for a reprimand

Pre-National Service

As a requirement for doing my National Service in the RNVR I had to do three weeks of pre-National Service training in HMS Indefatigable, an aircraft carrier anchored in Weymouth.

I had to dress in uniform that made me look just like someone in the St. John Ambulance Service, with a white band around a peaked cap. I was in fact once mistaken for one of them. I was to be known as an “upper yardman”, that apparently being my rank, but I never found out where this designation came from. I was simply going to be paid to push a pen, etc., as someone in the supply branch of the service.

For our meals we were all issued with a knife, fork, and spoon, which we had to take with us to the mess, otherwise we would have to eat with our fingers.

We all had hammocks, slung on hooks in rows, in a compartment that was off the hangar deck where aircraft would normally be housed if the ship were ready for action. The first thing we had to learn was how to sling the hammock and, much more important, how to get into it. As the hammock was slung above shoulder height this was quite an enterprise. At first we were hooking an ankle over the side and trying to scramble up that leg to get the rest of the body into line with the hammock. It looked as if we would have to be lifted in by a mate, so impossible did it seem. However, after a day of trial and error, I miraculously discovered that my experience of gym came in handy. I soon managed to spring up and, as it were, levitate level with the side of my hammock. It soon became possible to spring into a hammock in one movement, but how that was achieved I never quite understood.

 

Chapter Seven - Teaching at a Prep School: I am Dismissed: All the Staff then Resign and I am Reinstated

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I am dismissed: all the staff then resign and I am reinstated

When I had finished my National Service I had a whole summer spare before going to Cambridge. I therefore decided to apply for a job as an assistant teacher at a prep school, for the summer term.

I had an interview for this school (now closed) on the same day as there was going to be a concert given by the Vienna Boys Choir, in London. I was very keen to get to that. So keen, in fact, I had forgotten to ask what I would be paid. I'd been offered a job to teach Latin and maths, and some English, and I would live in. But then it was time for me to get the train to London for the concert, after which I travelled back to Rogate.

When I got home father asked me how things had gone. I said: “Oh, I got the job and I also got to the concert—the concert was fantastic.” I remember it included the Mozart Coronation Mass. Father wasn't that keen to hear about the concert; he only wanted to know what salary I'd been offered. I hadn't asked.

 

Chapter Eight - What to Read? Cambridge: Anthropology is “The Study of Man Embracing Women”: That Sounds Promising

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Anthropology is “the study of man embracing women”: that sounds promising

Still avoiding the Navy

I describe in my last book (Learning from Life, p. 33) how I got into Cambridge and how I chose to read anthropology. I will summarise that here.

I had originally applied to read physics because I had been awarded a physics prize at Winchester. But I learned that my father was planning for me to apply to the Royal Navy, to become an “electrical officer”, because then the Navy would pay all my fees and a salary. I therefore changed my degree subject from physics to economics. However, having taken a book about this out of the library I soon discovered that I would not understand a single word of it. I therefore told my tutor I would not be reading economics after all. So he asked me what else I might wish to read. But I couldn't think of any subject at all that I felt really inclined to read, so he picked on anthropology on the grounds that I had said I didn't know what it was. “You go and attend some lectures at the ‘Arch and Anth’ faculty, and come and see me in a few weeks’ time,” was his advice.

 

Chapter Nine - What to do with a Degree?: Into the City? or Bricklaying?

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Into the City? Or bricklaying?

Joining the Sheffield Industrial Mission

After my summer term at Cambridge I went up to Sheffield to join the Rev Canon Roland Walls and five ordinands, each of them having done their first (of two) years at theological college. The scheme, set up by Roland (as part of what was known as the Industrial Mission), was to give ordinands an opportunity to see life in the raw before they finally committed themselves to ordination.

I was privileged to be included in the second of three years that Roland ran this course, on account of my having read theology and the fact that I hadn't completely made up my mind whether (or not) to be ordained.

We were to spend our first six months working in Sheffield, mostly in steelworks, during which time we would save what we could from our meagre wages, to be put into a common pool. We would then live for the following four months from what we'd saved. During that second period we would be living in community with Roland at 393, Fulwood Road.

 

Chapter Ten - Back to College—Oxford: Several Brushes with the Police

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Several brushes with the police

Oxford—Barnett House

By the time I had decided to train as a probation officer, most of the courses like LSE were fully subscribed. The first course I found still having places was at Barnett House, Oxford. In my opinion this was then not a very good course.

Mrs. Layard (landlady)

I found rooms with someone called Mrs. Layard (Doris). It turned out that she was a Jungian analyst, married to (but subsequently divorced from) the anthropologist John Layard, who had also become a Jungian analyst.

I met John Layard on one occasion. He was reminiscing with Doris, talking throughout with a length of ash dangling from the cigarette he kept permanently between his lips.

Among other things, Layard told me of the time when their son Richard was being born, he sitting beside Doris (probably with a cigarette between his lips then too) saying: “Push, Doris, push.” He then claimed that, as soon as the cord had been cut, he'd taken the infant Richard and hung him on the clothes line to see if it was true that we are born with the inherited grasp of monkeys still intact. Richard really was able to hold his own weight on the clothes line, while his mother was calling out: “Bring the baby back immediately.”

 

Chapter Eleven - Back to Engaging with the Real World—Probation Training: I Follow Sir Roger Casement into Pentonville Prison

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I follow Sir Roger Casement into Pentonville prison

Oldham

While doing my course at Barnett House, Oxford, I was required to do a casework placement, which meant being assigned to a supervisor in a social work agency where I would be given a chance to work with some clients under supervision. I was sent to the Family Service Units (FSU) in Oldham, where my supervisor was a Stephen Wyatt, a gentle person who was just a few years older than me.

Visiting the mother of a sixth child

For a while I went round with Stephen when he was visiting his clients. My first solo assignment was to babysit an Irish family called Murphy, to allow the husband to visit his wife in hospital where she had just given birth to her sixth child.

When I got to the home in question, the husband was quite clear he didn't want to visit his wife. He would stay at home with the other children and I could go to the hospital. Not knowing how to go about that kind of visit I went and bought a small bunch of flowers, to give to this mother whom I'd previously never met, and set off to the hospital.

 

Chapter Twelve - My First Real Job: Probation Officer: “Never, Ever do that Again”: Sir Ewan Montagu, QC

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“Never, ever do that again”: Sir Ewan Montagu, QC

Willesden probation office

In 1963 I was appointed probation officer at Willesden on a salary of £1,000 p.a. This was my first real job.

Elgin Avenue

My first task, before starting, was to find somewhere to live. I was only able to find a temporary flat, where I could remain until I found somewhere more permanent. Meanwhile, my senior (Sheila Himmel) said she would put feelers out for anyone who might have a room that I could rent. She didn't find anyone.

I eventually found somewhere in Elgin Avenue, an attic flat for £3 10s. p.w. I told Sheila that she needn't go on looking for me as I'd now found a room. “Where?” she asked. When I told her it was in Elgin Avenue, Sheila asked which number. It turned out that I was exactly next door to her.

I soon set about making some curtains for this flat. I bought some appropriate material and some lining, and I borrowed a sewing machine from a neighbour. It was so simple. I just whizzed round the edges, having pinned the main material and the lining with the edges turned over. Some weeks later, after the material had hung for a while, I found that the main material had started to sag at the knees. When I mentioned this at the probation office, I was told I should not have sewn the bottoms together as the two materials had different degrees of stretch. No problem. I just took a razor blade and cut along the bottom of the lining. The knees no longer sagged. Problem solved.

 

Chapter Thirteen - Catching up on Life Back at Rogate: Carrying a Child in a Carrycot who Turns Out to be Hugh Grant

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Carrying a child in a carrycot who turns out to be Hugh Grant

While I was still at Cambridge, my parents had moved back to Rogate, and they'd bought the Old Rectory at Terwick.

Terwick Old Rectory

“Terwick” had previously been lived in by the Barker family, at which time it seemed rather gloomy, but mother transformed it.

The house had been built over several centuries, being added to in a topsy-turvy kind of way. As a result there were seven different levels which included a cellar. The cellar used to flood quite regularly. To deal with this a pump was installed, which would automatically turn on whenever the water table rose above the level of the cellar floor.

The very top room in the house was an attic that was converted into a snug little bedroom, the ceiling being extended out to the eaves, with the shape of the room then being just like a ridge tent. That used to be my room when I was there, when not at Cambridge or when visiting from London.

 

Chapter Fourteen - Meanwhile Becoming a Family: Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

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Don't judge a book by its cover

Coleridge Walk (in Hampstead Garden Suburb)

We moved from Pindock Mews soon after I started working for the FWA (see later).

As we were taking our first steps to become a family we looked for somewhere more suitable to live, where we could have space for a baby and a bit of a garden.

We found what seemed to be ideal; a little cottage in Hampstead Garden Suburb, in a cul-de-sac. In the back garden the hedges were so high that there was total privacy. In the front garden there were hedges that, by the local suburb regulation, had to be no higher than three feet. And we were not to use clothes lines on Wednesdays (as I recall) or at weekends.

The house had two rooms and a bathroom, upstairs, and downstairs were two tiny rooms (which we knocked into one) and a kitchen. We did all of the indoor decoration ourselves, except for the very high walls in the stair well. At weekends we would either do some decorating together, or Margaret would lie in a tipped-up lounger, with her feet up because of being pregnant, reading to me while I decorated.

 

Chapter Fifteen - My Next (And Last) Real Job: Family Welfare Association: Meeting the Queen: “I Suppose it is Always Useful to have a Man in the House, to Mend the Fuses and Things”

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Meeting the queen: “I suppose it is always useful to have a man in the house, to mend the fuses and things”

Becoming a family caseworker—in the East End of London

I was given a salary increase by the probation service and, on the same day, I was offered a chance to work at the FWA for the same salary as I'd been receiving until then, £1,000 p.a. I took the FWA opportunity, having decided that I was working far too long hours in probation and I wanted to have time to be with Margaret, and later our children. FWA seemed to offer that opportunity, so I took it.

I was appointed to work in the Islington office, known as the Area 4 office of FWA. The principal at the time was Elspeth Welldon, later to become Elspeth Morley. We got on very well and we have remained friends ever since.

My appraisal letter

When the time came for Elspeth to write my first appraisal, after which (if positive) my appointment would become permanent, I wasn't happy with it. There seemed to be quite a few bits of “analytic” interpretation of me, or of my personality, which I felt she had no right to be making. She was not my therapist or analyst. So I took exception to those bits that I felt were out of place, or seemed to be unfounded opinion.

 

Chapter Sixteen - We Finally Settle: “Where is that Rope Going?” I Meet up with Someone who Owes me a Lot of Money

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“Where is that rope going?” I meet up with someone who owes me a lot of money

Mansfield Road

When we moved from Coleridge Walk, where we had two rooms upstairs and one down, we moved to a house that was huge by comparison.

Trying to make this new house feel less strange for Hanna and Bella, I went out (on New Year's Eve) to buy another Christmas tree that I set up in what was to be our sitting room. I decorated this with the twinkling lights that I'd made especially for this. There being no such thing in those days, I had made a set of lights that did what we can now readily buy in shops. It made our tree unique in those days, all the lights twinkling. I also prepared the girls’ bedroom, with their bunk beds and toys, just as it had been for them in their previous room.

These preparations certainly helped them to settle them in, but for a long time after that Hanna referred to our sitting room as she'd first seen it. She would call out for Margaret: “Mum, where are you?” Margaret, who might be on any one of the four floors of this unfamiliar house, would call back: “I'm here.” But Hanna couldn't make out where “here” was. She'd call back: “Are you in the Christmas tree room?”

 

Chapter Seventeen - The Passing of an Era: Four Funerals (For Two Parents) And a Birthday Party

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Four funerals (for two parents) and a birthday party

Our parents’ golden wedding

In 1981 our parents had their golden wedding, which was held at Mills Farm House (the house they moved to after Terwick). A highlight of this was when Emma (Elisabeth's daughter), along with Hanna and Bella, put on the goatherd's song from The Sound of Music, which had always been a great hit with father.

The day after this golden wedding, mother was found to be very ill. She had been trying to conceal from us how ill she was, in order not to spoil the golden wedding day. She then had to be rushed into King Edward's Hospital, near Midhurst, where she remained for quite a long time.

Margaret and I visited nearly every weekend until there was one time when mother could not even lift her head from the pillow. She seemed so much weaker than she had been when we'd seen her the weekend before. I therefore telephoned Michael in America and said that, if he wanted to see mother again, he might need to come straight away.

 

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