The publication of my book of cartoons, innocent and lighthearted as it was, did not bring the abundance of joy I had anticipated to either Simone ( my mother ) nor Eddy. My mother, who was a competent artist when drawing Christmas and birthday cards for the family, appreciated what I had done but, again, had to put up with Eddy who saw the slim volume as another triviality which threatened any serious interest I might have in the merchandising of succulent sausages.
At the office he was unable to hide his irritation with me and, one day, having had enough of this unwarranted melodrama, I decided to take the bull by the horns, put an end to the deceptions that had clouded my life since I was fourteen, and bring the matter of our true relationship out into the open.
I rang my mother to warn her of my intention. She sighed very deeply, agreed that things could not get much worse, admitted that she too had had enough and wished me luck.
I invited Eddy for lunch and chose the Café Royal to add a little piquancy to the forthcoming debacle. We ordered the meal, discussed matters concerning the kitchen staff, the van drivers, the clients that did not pay their bills, then I changed the subject to my sister in France, always a favoured topic. This enabled me to mention that I had always been surprised how different she and I were. She was so much more serious and less fickle than me, I ventured, then added 'I’ve often wondered if she was actually my real sister...blood related...I mean.'
Taken aback, he looked straight at me, remained silent for what seemed an eternity, then grimly launched into an angry little speech which I suspected had been rehearsed and honed many times in his head ready for the day when he would use it.
'I am not your father', he said quite bluntly. 'This tragedy has caused your mother and I very many difficulties, not the least of which has been your attitude towards your responsibilities. You are very much like her and her mother, believing that your own amusement comes before anything else regardless of other people’s feelings. You are, of course, not to blame for your mother's flagrant disloyalty, but I hope that you will understand how hard it has been for me to accept the fact that you are not my son and appreciate all that I have done for you since you were born. I am an honourable man and will continue doing my duty as head of the family. I will not ignore your existence but hope that you will be grateful that I did not throw you out with your mother but took pity on both of you when I learned of her infidelity.'
I was numbed by his rancour.. I had been prepared for a sensible, possibly emotional analysis of the situation both past and present, explanations of why there had been misunderstandings between him and my mother before I was born, whether love had ever played any part in our lives, but rationality was out of the question.
I looked down, speechless for a while, then asked him, with a certain amount of fear and trepidation, if he knew who my real father was.
'That is a subject which you had better discuss with your mother,' he answered, dryly adding, as he pushed his chair back, 'I will leave you to settle the bill since you invited me.'
He gripped his walking stick, displayed the difficulty he had in standing up to remind me, perhaps, that the car crash had added injury to insult, and made his way out of the restaurant.
I sat at the table for a while longer, feeling gutted yet incredibly relieved.
It was over There would be no more lies, no more duplicity. The situation was at last honest between us. Blood might be thicker than water, but water was crystal clear. I was now free of parental authority.
When I got home that evening, Eve was not in a good mood.
'I told Daddy that we were thinking of going to Spain in July for a holiday,' she said, 'and he’s decided that he and Mummy will come too. I don’t think I can put him off the idea.'
Major William Ekin, more fondly called ‘Bill’ by everyone, unexpectedly turned out to be a problem. Though he was a genial Pickwickean character and bon viveur whom one could not possibly dislike, he dominated his daughter.
Whereas I had found the strength to flap my wings, risk crashing to earth but had now flown off to a land of promising adventure, Eve allowed her father to clip her wings and so never quite managed to leave the nest.
Though Doris was only troublesome because she never contradicted her husband, both interfered with our lives on all levels throughout our twenty years of marriage and, sadly, proved to be partly responsible for our eventual divorce.
Eddy, Simone, Doris and Bill
Bill and Simone discussing the marriage of their offspring