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The Island Of Serenity
As soon as my mother fell pregnant with me, she searched for and found a distant, poor, French relative, a sort of maiden aunt, to come over and live with us. She was officially what they call a ‘jeune fille au pair’, although she was anything but a young girl, more than likely already in her mid-forties. As a family member; plucked out of abject poverty, given a decent job, room, food, money, (actually not much more than pocket money really), my mother was confident that she would act in a serious and trustworthy manner. In fact, Marie Madeleine did much more than that; she became a de facto mother substitute for me, caring for me, as she would if I had been the child that she never had. This investment in me never wavered, even after the birth of my little brother Jean-Jacques Malcolm Ferguson two years and three months my junior. It must be said that my earliest years were not unpleasant, with Marie Madeleine as my constant surveillant and Jean-Jacques becoming more and more a playmate as the years progressed. As to my parents I saw them mainly but in passing moments, we might cross my mother, (‘Maman’, as she preferred that we called her), in morning, as we were preparing to go out somewhere. ‘Bonjour mes chéris, tous passe bien?’ ‘Oui, Madame, tous va très bien. Et vous Madame ?’ ‘Ça va, ça va, je suis très chargé. Être sage mes enfants’. ‘Oui, Maman.’ ‘Bonne journée.’ As you might probably have noticed, mother would speak to us in French, this was intentioned for us to acquire French as a mother tongue. The choice to have imported Marie-Madeleine, who only spoke French, was clearly part of this particular project. Fortunately for us; neither the cook, nor the woman that came twice weekly to do cleaning spoke any French, so we did also have the opportunity to hear and begin to speak some English as well. But what of our interactions with our father? J.J. very often worked very late during the week, mostly slept late both Saturday and Sunday mornings, (sleeping off the effects of too much Scotch the night before, I found out later on). On Sunday afternoons he would go off to play golf on our local golf course, an act that gave him great pleasure and pride, after the rather problematical start of his relationship with the club…. When my father first moved to New Chapel, as a very lowly factory worker, there was nothing much for him to do at the weekend. He didn’t know anybody and he didn’t give himself the right to go out drinking regularly, as he had already decided that he was going to save up for his ‘great deal’, (even though, at the time, he had absolutely no idea of what it could be). However, as some people might not know, golf is a Scottish national sport and there exists, in some parts of Scotland, the possibility for even those on quite miserable incomes, to become acquainted with it.
My father was one such person, in fact he was pretty good at it; his keen eye and dogged perseverance, made that quite soon he was winning the small local tournaments, and his club was pushing him to risk entering for the more prestigious competitions. Unfortunately, the entrance fees were totally beyond my father’s humble means, and the glittering prizes, forever out of his reach. When arriving here, he enquired as to the cost to join this small, local club, and just because it was small and local, the joining and green fees were within a budget that he decided hat he could afford.