MILDRED DOWNDER'S SADNESS
Some people seem to be condemned to live unbelievably wretched lives, and Mildred Downder was one of them. What follows is a brief and unhappy précis of that very life.
Mildred was born during the blitz of the Second World War, and maybe her exit from the womb of a military mother was prompted by a combination of fear and noise as the building next door was expertly demolished by a German bomber.
Her mother was of a military family (as has already been suggested). A huge and rather brash woman, she believed in discipline and that sparing the rod most certainly spoilt the child, so Mildred was bruised by the rod from quite an early age.
Her father would best be described as a molester of anything with a pulse, so she wasn't safe there either. He was a pathetic wizened fellow, a most unlikely bedfellow for the matriarch until you recall that besides a bloated stomach she had a considerable pulse.
So this was the world Mildred was born into. A city torn to shreds by a war brought about by the ravings of a moustachioed maniac, a mother who wanted her to march in precise order from the moment she stopped crawling and a father whose fascination with her underwear was more than academic.
It didn't take long for even a war Authority to spot that she might be at risk and take her into care, where she was placed, in a Northern village, into the hands of an ex WW1 pilot called Sandy at the age of three.
As carers go Sandy wasn't a bad sort, only he had problems with alcohol. Much as he adored the scrap of life dumped into his world he adored the bottle more, and if feeding the waif in any way conflicted with the acquisition of further supplies of his favourite tonic then the child would perforce go hungry. It was a fact of life.
He was, perversely, the local vicar, which gave him oodles of time to devote to the intake of a wide variety of alcoholic substances. Being a basically good man, he didn't want too many of his parishioners to get wind of his weakness, so he divided his public duties between The Black Horse and The Pendragon, with an occasional ministry in The King's Head. The only person he fooled was himself, sadly.
The consequence of this upbringing gave Mildred an early insight into the dark, bleak horrors of alcoholism as well as a keen ability to detect sustenance just about anywhere when she was hungry. The villagers helped here because they were aware of their vicar's amusing weakness, and the child was fed by a variety of kindly souls.
When she was old enough to be aware of the opposite sex Mildred left the vicarage for a last time and married a keen young cleric who, everyone agreed, was bound for great things. It was almost inevitable that any husband she chose would be of the cloth because the majority of gentlemen entertained by he who she looked on as her father were of that persuasion.
The marriage didn't last long. Her husband (the Very Reverend Downder from whom she inherited her surname) was destined for big things and all she wanted out of life was the one thing that had been absent so far. She wanted to love and be loved. Her whole being ached for it, the deep emotional fire of true love as well as the physical stuff in bed during long languid nights drifting in and out of semi-consciousness. She wanted to be held warmly and closely. She wanted to be titillated by the gentlest of touches whilst at the same time she wanted the deep thrill of being conquered.
Those were things that her husband knew little about.
Reverends don't get divorces but they are quite capable of casting out, and he cast her out when her whinging demands for intimacy became too much for him. Not only did he cast her out but he re-invented his own life in order to exclude her from any part of it.
No, he would say when the topic came up, I've never been married, except,of course, to Our Lord Jesus Christ...
So Mildred was alone in the world and it was then that she turned to prostitution. She found, to her unending joy, that this course of life offered her the two things she had never had much of: love (of a sort, but she was happy) and an income that propelled her to respectability.
Cash can do that. It can make a blackguard respectable because he can afford to buy a nice suit of clothes and his own roof.
She did that, too. She dressed in the very best that money can buy and bought a lovely little house in what was often called the posh end of town. And she lived there until her looks faded and the love (and cash) dried up.
The way down was as rapid as the way up had been. Her funds were depleted within a decade of selling her cottage, largely because her tastes had grown, during the fat years, to include the very best of this and the very best of that, and the very best of both soon became the very worst of gin.
Her husband, meanwhile, (and she was still married, remember) became a Bishop, and it was he who arrived on the doorstep of the Reverend Josiah Pyke that day when the latter holy man had tried to communicate with his Lord and saviour using a brand new mobile phone.
But that didn't matter for Mildred because she was dead as dead can be, but it did matter to the Bishop who cast his eyes on the gravestones that spouted like an orchard in the churchyard as he left the Reverend Josiah Pyke's Old Rectory on a stretcher, being carried along by two burly paramedics, and spotted her name.
What an echo from the past that was to a dying man!
© Peter Rogerson 08.01.13
I seem to be creating another of my characters. Here's are links to the previous parts.