The Girl in the Kings Arms – Yvonne Mandeville
She saw – and heard everything
but never said a word …
… until now
“Beautifully painful to read.”
Mrs N Kennedy
For the first seventeen years of her life, Yvonne was raised in an abusive, amoral and unloving environment. Brought up by her grandparents and her grandfather’s live-in mistress, in a rural public house in 1950s Essex.
“A vivid depiction of a darker side of post-war family life.”
Somehow Yvonne survived, but she was emotionally scarred for life.
Her first problem was that she was born a girl – and her misogynist mother had wanted a boy. Life went downhill from there.
The story winds through Yvonne’s childhood, contrasting the simple pleasures of post war rural life with the darkness of living in her grandfather’s pub.
“The author’s dark and terrible memoies are interspersed with lighter, beautiful descriptions of the lovely countryside.”
Events, some even life-threatening, are described with absolute honesty, almost total recall, and in some places, even humour, but the darkness is always there.
“The depravity of the whole family is truly shocking and the total lack of parental love or care is heartbreaking.”
Escape came at the age of seventeen, but not in the way that Yvonne had hoped for, or dreamed about.
Yvonne now lives in rural Fife with her husband and cats.
“Boys are so much better than girls,” my mother had a penchant for saying to me, even though, as young as I was, I was always tying to please her. Nothing ever worked though. She wouldn’t even allow me to wear pink, like other little girls. It was always blue or green, or sometimes the most unlattering neutral colours for a child, like beige and fawn.
One day, she decided that I was even going to be dressed as a boy, and bought me a pair of grey flannel trousers. No other girls in the village wore trousers in those days, but that was what I was made to wear.
I would have been four years old at the time, because I have a photo of me meeting ‘Father Christmas’ in December 1953. It should have been a wondrous and magical moment for me, but I cam looking very unhappy. For there I am – dressed as a boy… It is a black and white photo, but I can tell that the trousers are the grey ones I had to wear. My coat is shapeless and looks more like a boy’s, my lovely blonde hair was cut short, and I remember the little brown cap I was wearing – it was a very displeasing shade of brown. Father Christmas is handing me a gift, which looks the shape of a book – I just hope it wasn’t about trains…
There was a man who lived over the road in a house on the corner – he was Mr.Marvin, a nice man, and not at all scary. What I remember most about him was that for a while he was the only person in the area who had a television – a little six-inch black and white one. He kindly invited us all to his house to watch the Coronation on that tiny screen. I remember us all huddled around that little television, in darkness, for even though it was a grey and drizzly day, the curtains were closed to give a clearer picture. I was only four then, but I remember so well watching the procession making its way through the streets of London, and seeing this wonderful looking woman becoming our dear Queen.
One morning Mr. Marvin came over to the pub for his usual pint – I was in the bar as normal – and wearing the grey trousers… A man had sat me on his lap, as customers were wont to do sometimes, and he was tickling me, which was something that I hated. I still do – I have never found it amusing. These days I think a parent would be very wary of strange men sitting their little girl on their laps and tickling them. Maybe they weren’t strangers to my family – but they were to me…
“Ah – a little boy!” Mr. Marvin exclaimed, seeing how I was dressed, and to the amusement of everyone in the room. From then on he called me Bill.
Bill sort of stuck to me, and soon other customers were calling me Bill too. I wouldn’t say it was confusing, but my name was Yvonne.
When I first started school, my mother said to me, “now if anyone calls you anything other than ‘Y-vonne’ – don’t answer. Some people might call you ‘Eee-von’ or even Eve – don’t answer.” That wasn’t the best way to make friends, when so many people in the area would only call me ‘Eee-von’ and there was no way I wasn’t going to answer them.
But now I was being called Bill.
That was in the pub though, by the customers. School was another matter, and when I started school I was still of course me – Yvonne.
One day though, my mother showed me another pair of trousers she had bought for me. These ones were brown corduroy, and she decided that she was now going to send me to school wearing them. I really don’t remember much about that day, because I think I must have erased it from my memory, but I do remember being sent home with a note telling my mother to send me to school appropriately dressed – i.e. as a girl.
And so, I was back wearing my navy blue gymslip, with a little blue jumper. As far as I can recall, that was the only girls’ clothing my mother bought me around that time. The only other girls’ clothes I had were hand-me-downs from my cousin Lyn. Her mum, my Auntie Audrey, would bring her old clothes over to the pub in a large plastic bag, and it was always so exciting. My mother used to give her a pound for the clothes, which I suppose was quite a lot at the time, but they were all good quality, and I didn’t mind wearing hand-me-downs. At least I had some girls’ clothes.
Thank goodness the school had taken a hand, and stopped my mother sending me to school in trousers. Thank goodness also that I could now definitely be called Yvonne.
It was many years before I actually wore trousers again. I was fifteen, they were a very chic French style, and what’s more – they were pink!
From the Author
“My story is not only about the suffocating and humiliating darkness of my childhood. I also write about what growing up was like in the 1950s and 1960s in rural Essex – when the war was still to the fore in many peoples’ minds – the clothes, the new things that were slowly appearing in the shops, the world that was being reborn.
I create a soundtrack to my childhood and teenage years from the songs of the time, and bring to life the sights, sounds and aromas of the era, and of the countryside that became my sanctuary.
I hope my story will help other women (and men) who have suffered such abuse to realise that there is a life out there if you reach out to it. My book is proof that this can happen.“
“This book makes compelling reading with light and shade, though the darker side is hard to stomach in places.”