A Boy(?) grows up in a Sect: A True Story – Part 2

We continue Hazel’s story…..Missed part one read it here.

So my school time passed on, with few friends as it was a pointless exercise, making friends. I would not be allowed to visit their houses or socialise with them in anyway, as they had TVs and radios which were “unclean”. A girl who I had got on with during dancing lessons asked if I would walk her home after school. She said she would wait at the school gate, so I found an excuse to avoid this; she gave up after a few days.

I left school at fifteen and started working with my father in a family business. This lasted for a few years until my Uncle, who’s business it was, left the sect to set up his own version, so we had to leave. Father decided we would set up as a building company doing work mainly for church members. We were asked to build a new church hall, which was a massive project for three people to manage. It was made clear to us how privileged we were to “serve the Lord and the Brethren” therefore we should not expect to make much money at it. My wages were £10 per week while others were earning £40.

During all this time I was very friendly with Rachel’s brother and visited his house at every opportunity as it was the only way I could get near her. I used to walk home from church some six or seven miles, (she lived closer) in hopes of getting a chance to talk alone with her, (members would drive by and stop to offer a lift). Little did I know she was doing the same, until one evening I crossed the road when they all had driven past, and walked beside her and we talked, to this day I do not know what we said to each other. This we managed several times, until one evening she suggested she walked a bit further, and we ended up holding hands and we had our first kiss. I was 18 she was 19.  I knew then I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, but how could I tell her about my disgusting desires? How could I expect such a beautiful girl to want to be with me?

But I had other problems ahead, I spoke to her father who was happy for us, but I had to tell my father too. It took two weeks before I plucked up courage, he was annoyed by it all. Firstly, I was the youngest boy. Secondly, how had I found the time to make such a major decision without talking to him first. Thirdly, he had decided years ago I was going to marry his friend’s daughter who I had only met four or five times (more about her later), but he said he would talk later with mother and I was to talk with him the following evening. So the next evening I was summoned. He was annoyed because mother had told him about the love letter I had received. He had however talked to her father and realised he was outnumbered so he gave us his blessing, and handed me a cheque for £50 to buy an engagement ring. For the first time in my life I stood up him and refused to accept, I had saved up £28 which I was determined to spend on this ring. We decided we would get engaged and planned a trip to Bravingtons; just the two of us. But before I could do this I told Rachel about me and how dirty and disgusting I was, but she assured me she loved me, and when I was with a real woman it would all sort itself out.

So everything in the garden was fine?  No!  The Leader of the brethren decided to make a new rule, there should be no such thing as long engagements; they should be three to six months at the most. This put the dampers on the whole situation because on £10 a week I would not be able to buy a house. It was also decided that during the waiting time we were not allowed to be alone together. This was to make sure that there would be no sex before marriage. During the next twelve months we met at her house with her family around and talked on the phone. Also during this time another boy proposed to her, and I found out later that my eldest brother was weighing up his chances!

Then we were told her mother had walked past an estate agent and seen a house that had just come on the market for £2800.00. She went in and paid a £500 deposit which would be our wedding present. It was also directly opposite the “meeting room” and my father–in-law to be had arranged a mortgage with an elderly sister for the balance. I should say building societies were not allowed. She was charging 10% interest. I later got a mortgage for 2.5%.

Did we care? No, we could now get engaged and better still be seen together, albeit only at church or home or walking between the two. No cinemas, pubs, meals out and most of the time we had a chaperone.

We could not wait to be alone together in our little two up two down cottage. It had no bathroom, just an outside loo. It needed an extension with a kitchen and bathroom which was done. Father also decided we needed to make downstairs a through room so we would be able to entertain brethren. We were hoping to spend most of our time alone.

Eventually a day in March 1967 arrived: our wedding day. We were told we could not get married on a Saturday, and the service had to be in the evening, so it was a Tuesday at a registry office, midday and we sat around with a few family people, and those church members who never missed a free lunch, eating, if I remember right, cucumber sandwiches and cake. I found out later my new brother had hidden a bottle of sherry which he and my brothers drank.

Then, much to father’s disgust, we went down to Devon the next day to stay with a family. The wife had been one who we had grown up with us and moved when she married. We had little quality time as we were expected to take their children out during the week for visits to the seaside.

Twelve months later our son was born and eighteen months after our daughter was born. It was hard bringing up two children on my wages I was given a raise to £12. Of course wives were not allowed to work, and anyway she had her hands full with two children, but I was kept being told the “lord will provide”. We could not afford a car so every night during the week I would get home from work at about 6.30 pm, have a quick wash and eat dinner and rush up the road for a lift by 7 pm. No time with the children, no time to talk to my wife about how the day had been, but I had to turn up and pretend I was interested in the goings on, which I did as I did not want to go to hell. Sunday was full on, taking two babies to church at 6 am and most Saturdays we would be taken somewhere, but we started to have reasons to stay at home and try and be a normal family. I put my feelings away we did talk a little but there was so much else to discuss.

By this time, we were getting a bit fed up with all the restrictions and nonsense that was happening. This is not the place to go into the details, but suffice to say I missed my lift one evening and for the first time we spent the evening together not knowing what to say. But things started to change, we wanted to be a normal family, and then the straw that broke the camel’s back was the main-man deciding it was God’s will that if he needed/wanted it, he could ask any sister to “wash his feet with her tears”; in other words, he could commit adultery without it being wrong. This was enough. I told my dad I was leaving along with several other people.

He assured me that if I did that I could expect every pestilence known to man to be visited on my head, and as I explained I was setting up my own business he guaranteed it would fail.

So we started to live as normal people, only we had no idea how to do it, we still lived opposite the meeting room, but they would ignore/shun us. I acquired a record player and our love of country music started then. Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, The Shadows, The Seekers, etc. Yes, we got a second hand TV. The first programme we saw was Sergeant Bilko. If they were having a meeting opposite we would watch it with the lights off, forgetting that the flickering light could be seen through the curtains so they all knew how wicked we were.

I had to start working for myself. My father-in law, who had joined in the exodus but was not pleased with how far we had gone down “the Worldly” route, helped by getting me to fit a new kitchen, and more work came in. I will come back to my business later.

We were expecting our third child by now so we decided to move. Our youngest son arrived several months after we settled in to our new house (with a new TV). Rachel’s parents were happy to visit as long as we covered the telly. However, my parents and family were not happy. My mother did get my sister to bring her to the house to see the baby, which she held for a few minutes, then said, “you realise that unless you repent and return to the Brethren, I will not be able to see him again,” and then left.

So time went by. I made a point of calling in to see my father and mother, although these meetings were difficult and filled with constant pressure to make me see how bad I was, which of course I did not need, as the desire to cross-dress was always with me, making me feel bad anyway.

Sadly, one morning my father was rushed into hospital and passed away in the evening. I was not told till later that night. I went straightaway to visit Mother to see what I could do. I ended up helping my middle brother to do the funeral arrangements over the next few days. We were allowed to attend the funeral service but had to sit at the back with all the other “Worldly” families. I should say here that my father became very fond of Rachel and she of him. He doted on his eldest grandson, but as soon as we left this was not allowed to be seen.

We were asked back to his house for refreshments, but the other church members went to my sisters, it was definitely “Them and Us”. It was then I found out that my baby sister was also “out of fellowship”. She had promised my mother and other sister she would keep away from me, as we were seemingly involved in wicked pursuits such as partying, going to pubs and getting drunk, smoking, going to discos, wife swapping. You name it, she had a complete list. We were both gob-smacked as to how they could spread such rubbish. Rachel and I have always been faithful. Yes, we had been drunk on a couple of occasions and yes, we smoked now and then. Yes, we did have friends around for dinner parties. In fact, we were living a “normal life”.  Yes, I did frequent pubs.  I was involved in the renovation of several East End Public Houses!

I made a point of visiting my mother as often as I could. Rachel would take the children but they were difficult times as she was not allowed to eat with us. I always made a point of having a cuppa and biscuit with her, but she would let the tea go cold and refuse the biscuit. Always she would try to get me to see the error of my ways. I would try and convince her I was a good person. If only I could have talked to her about my desire to cross-dress, perhaps she could have told me about my birth. I will always regret I was unable to discuss this with her but I was ignorant as to where I was in the whole matter. Sadly, the same happened to her. She fell early one morning in the bathroom hitting her head on the bath and never regained consciousness and, yes, I was not told. So in both my father and mother’s passing I was never given the chance to say goodbye. This I will never forget, or understand WHY.

To be continued….

Hazel x

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