All You Need Is Love
Today she talks to Charlie Kennedy for the first time about how her abnormal upbringing made her an easy target for sexual predators and stopped her from ever finding true love.
“I was told that it was my fault, that I had brought it on myself and flirted in some way giving him the impression that I wanted him. I was nine and he was 50. My aunt beat me black and blue and that was the end of the conversation. I never spoke about it again after that.”
Pauline, 75, was sent to live with her nasty aunt after her father had killed her alcoholic mother when she was just seven.
“The night my mother died, she had just been to see a doctor for an abortion which was illegal at that time. When she came home she went to her bedroom to drink her stashed vodka and came out with her ‘drinking pout’ which is how my father always knew she was tipsy.
“My father thumped her in the side and she gave the loudest shriek before falling to the ground. It was the blow that caused her to haemorrhage and die.
“I remember my father sobbing and calling the ambulance in a panic. I wish I had told the police the real truth but my father was a bully, my brother and I were petrified of him.”
Pauline, who grew up in Edinburgh, had been attending the local convent before her father stopped paying the fees and gave up responsibility of her and her brother.
“Despite all the beatings he gave my mother, he was crazy about her but couldn’t handle her drinking habits. He was never the same after she died and I suppose my brother and I were a reminder of his guilt, so he got rid of us. I just ended up with the wrong aunt.”
“She would work night shifts at the theatre so during the day she’d lie in her bed and bark out errands for me to do. I’d have to be up at 5am to clean then I would go up to the shops for 7 to get the day’s groceries and hurry back so I could sprint up to the tram stop which was 3 miles away so I wouldn’t be late for school.
“I’d have no lunch money so I would rely on friends to give me a bit of their food and when I returned home from school I’d have more cleaning to do and some nights my aunty would shout at me to make her something to eat when she would get in after 12pm. I was her slave.
“I can remember one afternoon I had to go up to the ice cream van to get her a chocolate wafer and I brought her back one without. I can see the blue slipper to this day, she pulled it off her foot and cracked my head with the leather heel.
“My head split open and my blood was pouring. That was when I realised what a coward she was. She started panicking and begged me not to tell the ambulance the truth. The beatings started again a few days later.”
Pauline, who has been a practising Christian for 52 years, recalls how her aunt used to bring random men home from the theatre to spend the night with and that’s when the abuse started.
“ I’d wake up in the middle of the night to one of her male friend’s creeping over to the two chairs I was sleeping on and sit next to me before putting his hand under the sheets to touch me. After telling my aunt and getting a beating for it there was nothing I could do. I had to pretend it never happened, but it did happen, again and again by different men.“
“I was an easy target because I was an orphan without a voice who didn’t have anyone to turn to. These men who want to abuse children are patient and picky. They’re almost always friends or connected in some way and wait for the right moment to pounce. It sickens me to see someone like Jimmy Savile abuse his power to prey on vulnerable children who couldn’t bite back. It’s demonic.”
Pauline, who is also known as ‘Polly’, decided to run away when she was sixteen with the help of some shop workers in the village.
“Everyone knew my situation with my aunt and they all hated her. They had been persuading me to run away for years. Eventually they convinced me to fill in a job application for ‘in house help’.
“ I went to the interview and got the job, that was the beginning of a new life for me. I just ran out of the house and never looked back.
Having never received any form of love as a child or an adult, Pauline was whisked off her feet at a dinner dance by the man she would be married to for 51 years, a strong and dashingly handsome navy soldier, John.
“It was ‘ladies choice’ to pick a man at the dance for one song. I looked around and saw the best looking man in the room who was John. We had our dance and said Goodbye only for him to come searching for me later on for another dance.
“If you’ve only ever suffered abuse and hostility in your life, how are you to even begin to understand what love feels like? It was very difficult for me to trust men. I never thought I would ever marry until I met John.
“Looking back I think I married John because it was a safe choice. He was crazy about me and wanted to look after me. We were married for 51 years and then he died after a heart attack. If it hadn’t been for my faith as a Christian, we would have been divorced after our children left home. I knew I was never in love with him but he doted on me and was the kind of Father I’d always dreamed of having.
“The only time I have ever felt something that seemed close to love was for my Les. There was chemistry there, he made me feel like a giddy little school girl. I was a little wary because of these feelings and there was still the trust element that I was struggling with, but as I spent more time with him I started to open up.
“After three weeks of courting I was waiting for him to pick me up to go to our church meeting, but he never arrived. I knew something had happened, it was so unlike him to be late. Unfortunately I received a phone call telling me he had suffered a heart attack and died.
“I feel blessed to have experienced what felt like the beginning of falling in love, even though It might not have been. Perhaps if he had lived it might have turned into something really special.“
Set back in the historical setting of the Old Town in Palma, Mallorca, a stone’s throw away from the renowned Cathedral is the beautiful four bedroomed apartment where Pauline now resides.
As she leads me into the immaculately colourful living room, nearly every coffee table is packed with pictures of her with her children and grandchildren.
“I do miss the family but I see them when I can and vice versa. Strangely enough, and perhaps ironically, I like being on my own. I suppose I’ve always been alone.
She shows me round the Persian decorated apartment with high ceilings and marble floors which her son pays for her to live in. “I’m so lucky” she says.
“I might have had some bad experiences but I have a wonderful family who love me and look after me. Having children was the most special moment in my life, the miracle of creating a life, giving them love and receiving it back, it makes everything I’ve ever been through worth it. I wouldn’t change my life for the world.”
She takes me into her grand piano room and sits down to play. For someone who has never had a lesson, she plays exquisitely. The composition she makes up as she goes has a resonating melancholy sound to it, like listening to a beautiful tragedy. It’s almost like Pauline plays with her pain and this is her only way of expressing it.
With no prompting she plays the last key then looks up at me from behind the piano like a little girl who has lost her way and says: “Having faith is more important to me than anything. God has helped me endure all the pain I’ve ever had, and is the one I’m thankful to for giving me life and giving me my beautiful family.
“Life is full of lessons and different experiences make us into the people we become. I learnt through other peoples’ mistakes and my children will learn from mine. You can only hope that you’ve done your best as a parent and given them everything you never had. If there’s one thing you can give a person that’s important to have above all else, it’s love”.