done battle

January 18, 2020

I have been married, divorced, faithful and unfaithful. I have battled with depression and enjoyed moments of bliss. I have had an abortion, I have been raped and I have stripteased. I have loved myself and loathed myself. Throughout my life, my exterior and interior have done battle – not just on account of being born one nationality and living quite another…

Ulrika Jonsson

woman-i-Willem de Kooning

Diary 29th March

Rain, rain, go away –

Yes, I remember the rain that day, and the smell of wet roots in the apple orchard where, earlier, I’d been playing war in the drizzle…

It was the increasing inclemency of the weather that finally drove me inside…

The house, our family home at that time, had six bedrooms, a large breakfast-room, an even larger drawing-room and a huge, almost baronial dining room. The garden, a full acre, included wide lawns, flower beds, fruit trees and a small wild wood. Paradise, indeed, for a young boy.

How old, though?

Uncertain, now…but old enough to know my mother realised my father was not for her. She expressed her views on the subject in the most candid way and to anyone who’d listen. I think we’d only recently returned from Belgium, from Antwerp in fact.

At that point in time I didn’t understand my father, too, had lovers, fleshy women of a certain type, whose love of money was only second to their accommodating nature. Realisation of that would come later, for sure…

The anomalous and the implausible niggle of memory in my head, right now. And –

I see my mother lying in the bath as if she were posed there…She knew enlightenment was necessary, the luster of her dark eyes becoming even darker as she accepted the slither of thoughts that others would think inappropriate…She could not see, nor accept that a difference existed between education and abuse.

My mother had two lady friends in attendance on her. She was gloriously, glowingly nude, of course –

Liz, good old Elizabeth, was half-undressed. Her tits thrusting like small weapons at all comers. My mother in the soapy-sudsy water of the bath, belly, breasts, and such long thighs…Diana, in a sex-signaling sheath of translucent silk, stepped back…eyed me carefully. She stretched up on her toes before she spoke.

‘Well, look what we have here…’

‘Look at his shorts…!

‘He’s stiff as stiff can be, dirty boy!’

Smiles on all three faces, then. My eyes could not – would not – leave the naked swell of Liz’s belly. Half-ashamed yearnings more than apparent now. Turning, erect, uncomfortable…

‘Oh, sort him out do,’ dear mummy’s dreamy voice. ‘He must learn about the birds and bees sometime, I s’pose…’

This is not a picture in a dream, nor a masturbatory fantasy. No, this is reality. How could I ever forget the half-hooded eyes of Diana. She who lead me to the guest bedroom that afternoon…

Here I saw close up the tufts of black hair in her nostrils. She was plain, with chubby arms and thighs. Dimples on flushed cheeks, and a thick pubic bush…There was, also, a fine tracery of blue veins on the back of her hand, I remember, pulsing with blood when she took me in hand.

‘Please, don’t – ’

She was like a thief in a pantomime – one who didn’t kiss but licked my mouth, greedily. I’ll never forget her nostrils quivering, nor her gasped expletive…As my own body bucked, buckled, twisted from light into darkness…sticky-white strands on her hands and belly.

She smiled, showing me all her large teeth in close up…

‘There’s a good boy, ‘ she said. ‘Let’s go show mummy.’


Later, perhaps another day. And my mother reclining on her chaise lounge, nude except for a cache-sexe. Hansa sits at her feet in a red and gold sari, while I sit in an armchair leaning forward and listening abstractedly to the sound of the falling rain.

‘He was twenty years older than me, of course,’ my mother is saying, in reference to my father who married her just before his fortieth birthday. ‘A musician, a man of genius (or so I thought), wealthy. It was a match made in piggy-bank heaven…’

I remember the fall of curtains at the curve of window. Her voice low, languid.

‘That first time,’ she said, ‘he’d promised to pull out, but he didn’t. He had my legs over his shoulders. What could I do? He was almost into my womb, the impossible man…He impregnated me with this simpering little groan. An old man’s noise. And I told him afterwards – “Never again!” But the damage was done. My belly swelled with your sister…’

‘But then you had me?’

‘Eighteen years later, yes, and that was the fault of the Rachmaninoff. The string quartet, believe it or not. Your father performed with such passion that night. When we returned to the hotel, he was like a man possessed…He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and more or less ravished me on the floor. Dreadful man. Like a demon, he was…’

Her big eyes flickered sideways to gaze at the window.

‘When I learned I was pregnant…well, I was beside myself. I did everything I could to get rid of you. But you were determined. A survivor. I even threw myself off a moving bus…A bus! Me! I broke my right ankle and bounced on you…but it made no difference. The hospital doctor guessed what had happened and threatened to tell your father…And, much worse, the police, because abortion was not then legal…’

‘And now here I am.’


She seemed to force her attention from the window and compel her eyes to settle on my lean and intent face.

‘Did you ever love him?’

‘Your father? No…’

‘That’s sad.’

‘Life is sad. We must all just get through it as best we can…’


Question: What do a shortsighted gynecologist and a puppy dog have in common?

Answer: A wet nose…


An old lady entered a sex shop and asked in a quavering voice, “Yy-young man, dd-do y-you sell d-dil-ldoes h-here?”

The sales assistant somewhat taken aback by lady’s appearance in this shop, answered, “Uh, yes, Madam. We do.”

The old lady, holding her quivering hands about 10 inches apart asked, “D-do y-you ha-aave an-ny ab-bb-bout th-this lon-ong?”

“Well, yes Madam, we do. We have several that size.”

Forming a 5″ circle with her fingers, she asked, “A-are an-nny of t-them about thi-is b-big ar-round-d?”

“Well… Yes madam a few of them are that big.”

“D-do aa-ny of th-them ha-ave a v-v-vibbbra-a-ator?”

“Yes, Ma’am, one of them does.”

“W-Wel-ll, h-how d-do yo-ou t-turn it off?”

Lipstick and Bubblegum (2014)Jonathan Lanis

Today you seem not quite real to me. You’ve become this complex construct called mother, the beginning of an evening of illusions, a discordant note somewhere between domesticity and open eroticism. Tall, slim and dark, I have this memory of you in a waist-cinching corset, black with flame-red bows, and a pair of fishnet stockings, also black. In my mind’s eye I see you bending forward, your derriere framed in lush black velvet.

How old would I have been? Five, six? A little older? An unfortunate witness to your polymorphously perverse sexual experiences. I remember a man on his knees between your spread legs. You were sitting on the chaise longue (late Louis XV) in your “boudoir” – your private inner sanctum, where secrets were made and then kept under lock and key. I was privileged to be allowed in there at all, you said.

Many times you were there in company with other women. S for example. Both of you often half-undressed…

But then the past evaporates under this cloud heavy sky. I have to cook you up again, but only half-trust the recipe.

However, once again, I hear your panting moans. What can he be doing to you, that man? I felt so perplexed at the time. His face in your lap – which later, I recall, you told me never to speak of again. Never. Not to anyone. But I believed he was hurting you.

‘The mind’s not a violin to be tuned,’ you once told me. That was much later, I’m sure. ‘Although it is a fine instrument…’

Your words return to me often, weave their way across the fabric of my days…So many words like bits of paper blown in the wind.

‘I tried to get rid of you,’ you said on another occasion. ‘Unfortunately abortion was still illegal at the time. So I took this medicine S obtained for me, but it didn’t work. Purgatives. And hot baths that scalded. Nothing would dislodge you from my womb. Eventually, in desperation, I hurled myself from a moving double decker bus in Shepherds Bush. I was six months pregnant and landed on my belly. On you. I thought that would do it…But I was wrong. It wasn’t enough. And I had a broken ankle for my troubles.’

Why did you tell me this?

To hurt me?

Or to assuage your own guilt?

I was around eight or nine years of age at the time of this confession.

‘Why,’ I asked you. ‘Why did you do that?’

‘I didn’t want you. You were a part of the everyday. It’s where people live who are trapped. I did not wish to be trapped…But then there was your sister, also, to consider.’

So you used my sixteen year old sister as an excuse for your attempts to abort me: she wanted nothing more to do with you, her mother; you were too old to have a child; she didn’t want to share her life with a baby brother. And, anyway, your body would look obscene.

You recited the reasons like some priest or shaman chanting Samoyedic curses. You wore your self-justification with such breathtaking ease. Your intelligence and restlessness provided the bridge between narcissism and self-defense.

Your own father took photographs of you in the nude. You were aged nine or ten – or so you told me. You had some of those photographs in the white suitcase above your wardrobe, and you took them out to show me. I remember one of you sitting on a table, one leg drawn up to your chest, and another in the bathtub covered in soap. You told me you’d had over a thousand lovers in your life.

One time S put her hand in my shorts while you watched. Her ministrations led to erection. S always had a supply of cognac in her silver flash. You sipped from the flask and told jokes. P was with us, too. You kissed her on the mouth, I recall. Her fingernails were so very long and red. S continued, almost absent-mindedly, to kneed my little stiffy.

‘Like all good soldiers,’ you said, ‘he stands to attention.’

The three of you laughed but my eyes filled with tears and I felt that I might faint, the feelings were so incredibly intense.

You were disinterested in motherhood. You made that very clear, and at an early age. Our relationship involved much verbal abuse and belittlement. You would have happily murdered me in your womb – you told me so often enough. Even as an older child, you saw me as nothing but trouble. A problem to be dealt with. I think at times you hated me.

But on occasion there was closeness – Christmas time, for example. The exchanging of gifts in bright wrapping paper. Laughter. Food and drink. And, of course, your birthdays when gifts of perfume thrilled you to the core.

Growing up, I took your friends in their various stages of undress as a normal fact of life. Father was more often away than not, so you indulged your taste for the outré and barbaric. And why not…?

Now, here, years on, I feel a sense of despair. Unraveling the dichotomy that was you, has released this despair in me. We are, I realise, essentially just sexuality and hunger. This is the essence of the human animal, the bald ape that runs amok around this world. We must fuck, we must eat. But can we live by this music alone?

I can of course make Gods for you, mother. But then, I believe, you made enough of those for yourself, didn’t you? Gods and Goddesses. I shall never forget those heavily cosmeticised “Goddesses” in your boudoir, superior beings with jiggly breasts, endowing us with their laughter and light kisses to cheek or forehead. Brilliant “Goddesses” who kissed us to sleep, and whose mouths tasted of lipstick and peppermint and cognac. They, mother, are your legacy to me.