Why I Wrote the Book
Until I got married and had my own family there was only
ever my mother and me. I knew very little about my childhood because
Mum drip fed me information, most of it untrue, about my father and her
family in Jamaica. Consequently, I grew up with a great sense of “not
belonging” which caused me to become insecure and dysfunctional.
Although she couldn’t afford it, my mother sent me to Catholic convents
to be educated and, to pay the fees, she worked as a cook at three
I was not typical of the other girls in school because I
didn’t have their family status nor a proper home. My home was a small
mouse infested room on the top floor of a boarding house which is where
I returned to after school. Status counted for a lot at the
Sacrament Convent and great emphasis was put on religious instruction,
deportment, behaving like a lady and, of course, being pure of mind and
Because Mum was coloured my skin was darker than the
other girls and I attracted a lot of attention and questions from them. When asked
where I came from I always replied
“Jamaica” because it sounded so much
more exotic than Brighton, which is where I lived at the time.
I liked their attention but what I desperately wanted was their
lifestyle, their parents,
their home and all the material things they had.
As time went on I found it difficult to adjust between my
two environments, school and home. Mum was having difficulty keeping
me under her control and we rowed constantly. She didn’t dress well,
she had lost some of her teeth and was very overweight and, honestly, I
was ashamed of her. I wanted her to look and dress like the other
I remember clearly the first defining moment in my life.
My favourite hobby was going to the cinema and one afternoon I went to
see Douglas Sirk’s film
“Imitation of Life”.
It’s the story of a coloured woman, Annie Johnson and her daughter Sarah
Jane, who are down on their luck and looking for a decent place to live.
Annie meets a white woman, Lora, who has a daughter called Susie, and
Annie offers to work for Lora as her maid in exchange for food and
lodging for herself and Sarah Jane. As Sarah Jane grows up her
relationship with her mother deteriorates because she is ashamed of her
mother’s colour and tries to pass herself off as white.
Within half an hour of watching the film I had to leave the cinema
because I recognised myself in Sarah Jane.
Eventually, I went back to see the complete film,
"Imitation of Life". It was uncomfortable sitting in
the cinema watching someone on a screen that was so similar to me.
Two daughters, one fictional and one real, living similar lives in very
similar circumstances, with similar mothers and both daughters feeling
the same way about their mothers.
Because I saw Mum in Annie it gave me some insight as to how life was for
Mum and although my behaviour
didn’t change for sometime, a seed was planted in that little area of
the brain where feelings of guilt sit bubbling away to evolve and play
havoc with your life later on. “Imitation of Life” had a profound
effect on me and its ending haunted me for years.
Eventually, the day came when I decided to find out the
truth about Mum's past and who my father was. What I discovered
filled me with such admiration for her that I wanted to record her story
for future generations of my family to read, so that they would know
about this remarkable woman whose greatest gift to me was her unconditional love.
That's why I wrote “Olga – A