........so a soothsayer whispered in Julius Caesar’s ear in Shakespear’s drama, warning him that on the 15th of that month something somewhat untoward would happen. I know this because I played the emperor in a school production of the play and, more significantly, that date was my mother’s birthday but also the day a surgeon chose to remove my appendix when I was 14 which, in a roundabout way, led to the biggest upheaval of my life.
I was convalescing at home from the operation. My father was away, so was my sister, the only people in the house were my mother, myself and a guest lodger, Pierre, a twenty two year old film technician working at Denham Studios whom I worshipped, for he not only came back in the evenings with stories about the stars, the directors and producers but he had set up a dark room in our attic where he developed stills of scenes he had been engaged in filming. I was stage struck following my performance as the Roman ruler and wanted to be an actor.
One night I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and was puzzled by a pink glow emanating from Pierre’s room,
I padded down the corridor, peeped in through the half open door and found myself staring at a red kerchief draped over the bedside lamp and Pierre, stark naked, on top of my mother who wasn’t wearing much either.
I remained rooted long enough for them to become aware of my presence and, when Pierre looked round and saw me, and my mother stared up at me in disbelief, I turned on my heels and ran back to my room.
Shock was not what I experienced.
Shock suggests surprise, distress, bewilderment, hurt.
That is not what I felt.
I was simply dumbfounded at my own naivety, by my lack of perception, not having twigged that a relationship between them had developed under my nose.
Of course! My mother and Pierre were lovers. She had probably fallen in love with him from the moment she had set eyes on him. And why not ? He was very good looking, fascinating, lively, cultured, fun, a lot more fun than poor old Dad.
I got back into bed and, minutes later, there was a very soft knock on the door. Nobody ever knocked on my door.
My mother, in Pierre’s bathrobe, came in and stood looking at me, her eyes searching mine for any indication of my feelings.
Guilt was written all over her face, etched in her frown. She was biting her lower lip. She was not my mother at that moment, and I was not her little boy. The roles were reversed. She was a young girl who had erred and I possibly a very unforgiving adult.
She sat down on my bed, reached out for me, pulled me to her and hugged me like never before.
I wanted to reassure her that everything was alright, that I wasn’t offended, that it didn’t matter, but had no idea what to say.
Pierre then came in and stood by the doorway looking doleful. He was wearing my father’s dressing gown.
They looked at each other. They looked at me.
‘You mustn’t tell your father,’ my mother said after a moment. ‘You mustn’t tell him because..... well.... because..... he’s not your father.'
My mother as a wild teenager
My mother in 1946 with Somerset Maugham and one of her lovers.