The More You Ignore Me

The More You Ignore Me by Jo Brand Read Free Book Online

Book: The More You Ignore Me by Jo Brand Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jo Brand
happening at face value.
    I
suppose it’s the intervention of adults and their values who ruin children’s
lives, he thought sadly to himself and wished he could suspend Alice in time to
prevent the inevitable encroachment of the shame and distress she would feel
when she eventually came to the realisation that her mother wasn’t like
everyone else’s.
    ‘You
look grumpy, Dad,’ said Alice, breaking off from singing her favourite line
about a blackbird pecking off someone’s nose which she thought was enormously
funny and wished it was Mr Jarvis the headmaster’s nose.
    The
interference of the outside world and its harsh judgements on those suffering
with mental illness became apparent even sooner than Keith would have imagined.
Alice, back at school the following day, after the visit to Gina, encountered
Stephen Matthews in the playground at break time. Stephen, the son of a local
cowman, had picked up from his parents’ gossip in front of the television that
Alice’s mum had been ‘taken away’ and locked up somewhere. Stephen was two
years older than Alice and about twice her size and he threw his considerable
weight around whenever he got the chance. The objects of his disdain were
always the children of those adults whom his parents felt most threatened by,
and mental illness terrified them because it had been identified in successive
generations on both sides of the family So Alice found herself surrounded by
Stephen and his cowardly mates in a corner of the playground less well policed
by the teaching staff.
    ‘Your
mum’s in prison, she’s a bloody nutcase!’ Stephen led the chorus and the others
joined in as best they could.
    ‘She’s
not in prison,’ said Alice, cowering under the eclipse caused by Stephen’s huge
frame. ‘She’s in a big castle with lots of circus people. She got on the roof
on her own with no clothes on.’ Alice was rather proud of this and communicated
it as if her mother had achieved something spectacular.
    The
boys simultaneously uttered a honk of disgust.
    ‘Your
mum showed her bosoms and she showed her—’
    ‘Stephen
Matthews!’ Miss Mount strode across the playground, having spotted Alice
surrounded by the little group. ‘What are you doing?’
    ‘Nothing,
miss,’ said Stephen, who had learned at a young age it was best to deny all
knowledge.
    ‘Well,
off you go then,’ said Miss Mount, who defused many a potential drama this way.
    She had
heard some talk in the staffroom about Gina and felt very sorry for the naive
husband and his sturdy little daughter.
    Are you
all right, Alice dear?’ she said.
    ‘Yes,’
said Alice. ‘My mum has gone to a castle and is with people from a circus.’
    Miss
Mount hesitated. Is this what the father has allowed her to believe? she
wondered. She resolved to speak to Keith when he came to pick Alice up that
afternoon.
    Alice
fled back to the safety of the two friends she had managed to cultivate in
spite of the whispering campaign against her mum and her strangeness. Mark,
whose blond, wild hair seemed to have been stolen from a girl’s head, was
sweet-tempered and effeminate and eschewed the ‘hitting things’ games that the
other boys seemed to prefer in the playground. His attempts at home to shy away
from the more manly pastimes of football and shooting had been met with some
despair by his father, a red-cheeked arable farmer, but secretly with huge
fondness by his mother whose revulsion towards the ‘huntin’, shootin’ and fishin”
ethos of the locals was barely contained. Her unconscious encouragement of
Mark’s feminine side from an early age was subtle and all but hidden but the
constant questioning by his father of why he wouldn’t pick up a toy gun or why
he wanted to indulge in baking with his mother when wading through mud was on
offer was frequent and oppressive.
    Karen,
on the other hand, Alice’s other friend, was tougher than most of the boys in
the playground. Her long black hair, secured in two

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