05. first marriage

What I liked about Leicester was that it was a multicultural college this was at the tail end of the British Empire Britain was divesting its African colonies and there were quite a lot of African students and they came to Leicester for pharmacy and textiles and I wanted to mix with as many different nationalities as possible, which I did, but it also got me into trouble. I was courted by an Indian African man, he came from Kenya, there were about 10 in the family and there were six boys and England was where they came for their education. For him I was a status symbol to go back with a young blonde girl so this man pursued me to the umpteenth degree and I was getting into my twenties so I thought it was about time I had an affair.


I thought I ought to have some contraceptive advice and this man said “no I'm a family planning man and will only give contraception to married women, and if you have an affair with this man you will end up as a prostitute and I do not approve so you will not get any contraception from me”. I embarked on this affair, he used condoms but I got pregnant. I was in my second year at art school, by this time I wasn't so keen, it was just unfortunate I got pregnant because this man wasn't really very suitable although there were some educational cultural similarities like the Oxford and Cambridge educational university systems were taught in British colonial schools so a lot of his cultural references apparently were the same as mine, but his education was quite different. But anyway he was excessively persistent and I couldn't get rid of him and I decided to get married and I didn't know how to get rid of the child either. I couldn't find out how to get an abortion.


I belonged to a theatre group and stage designing. I did that at my first art school in Lancaster and did it again at the second art school. I remember shifting heavy stage furniture which was detrimental to a pregnant mother. Anyway I got married to this young man and it was absolute disaster and my parents were distressed, although they didn't like me marrying a coloured man, but they were okay this has happened and by this time he was going to university in Edinburgh. So we got married in Edinburgh and then I continued my arts study until the baby was born. As soon as the baby was born I had to leave, “you are now a married woman and you will do this, it's either me or your art education, you can't be a student and artist and be married to me, you have to choose”.


He was also quite violent the cultural differences were profound. He wasn't a Muslim he was a Jain which is related to Hinduism. Nevertheless it was a male hierarchical culture and my position was now to walk behind and not to associate with young people, especially young unmarried people. I could only associate with married women. I could have no correspondence and no money and it was appalling. I ended up in the backwaters of rural Scotland in a little house and what money came to him from my family for the wedding he bought a motorbike and was isolated and beaten and starved.


Fortunately the man who owned the house could see that I was hungry. The rent was more or less free and I would help the lady in the house and one of the things I did was to wash up and tidy up after their evening meal and because I was hungry I ate up what was left over from their evening meal. And they caught me and the man said “you don't have to be married, I will tell this man he must treat you properly and if he doesn't then you will get the police”. And of course when he came back he was completely abusive so the police took him away. Although it was difficult it was quite fortunate as well as it didn't last very long, just a short period of appalling abuse.


I went back home and decided to go back to art school and I took my baby with me.  I had digs for a while and I had to put my baby in a private nursery but England was quite good at that time because there were state nurseries. I also divorced this man and because it was Scotland and the situation being so awful, it wasn't that difficult. Anyway I went back to art school and this man was supposed to support his child but he didn't. I think he disowned us in the end.


I think I was the only person in the school to be a single parent and the teachers were very unsympathetic and really quite awful and the education department refused to give me any supporting parents allowance so I got a  job. I had lots of student friends and my friends were terrific. I worked at night in a Wimpy bar, like McDonalds now. I continued and got my degree and then I decided I'd do postgraduate. I always knew that I would teach because I had a child to support being an artist is not a profession where you can make a living from. When I applied for teacher training they said no we won't have any unmarried mothers we don't approve of single parents. In my entire seven years studentship I only had one woman lecturer.

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