The Second Front

Chapter 21 - The Second Front

Period covered: 1991 - 1999

Locations:  London and Belo Horizonte

            Looking back, I now think that the reason for Hades’s devoted presence at my side for the eight years before the birth of our children was because he could not stand being alone. Oh, he was fond of me and I fitted the bill perfectly. An independent, capable and self-assured woman, well dressed, refined, educated, well-off and who moved in the same social circles as he did. But love? That was always a little difficult for Hades. I am not sure that he could ever love a woman. He saw them as useful, even a necessary appendix in life. That is all.

            ‘The powerful Hades had indeed a secret fear! Persephone had long ago observed this, though he tried to hide his weakness behind a fixed mask of self-assurance. Persephone, however, also remained with him for reasons less noble than love. At first it was for lack of a better choice, though she did admit that life next to him did have its fascinations, so every attempt to get away from him through the years was unfortunately much too feeble to succeed.’

            What was most striking of all was that Hades did not converse! Life with him after work was just a sequence of entertainment, always frequenting the best places and mixing with the best people. While we were together, when relaxing he usually hid behind his mask of silence until the day when I no longer felt any need to talk to him.

            Nonetheless, I often indulged in reminiscing, and thought how I missed the more personal relationship that I had had with Joseph Eros. It was so long since anyone had come into my life who could or would be willing to stand by me through the turmoil that I knew would arise when my father died. I knew I would have to go back to Brazil when that happened, and that it was best to live free of emotional entanglement as much as possible, but I missed love.

When I first broke up with Hades, I was told by my mother-in-law that a woman does not leave her husband! She did not realise how different Brazilian women are from Greek women. In the very distant past our female ancestors who lived in the Pindorama would, when displeased by their spouses, hit them on the head with a tacape. We are more civilised these days but are still totally different from Hellenic females who bow their heads in submission when tormented by bad husbands.

            My other forebears, the Iberians, assimilated many customs of the Moors who invaded their land, such as the love of pungent food like fried garlic, while the Greeks developed an exaggerated aversion for the ways of the people of Asia Minor, which they had invaded, and hated aromatic cooking. I had to learn while I was married to Hades that food must not smell. He would become hysterical at the slightest odour emanating from the kitchen. Even the gentle aroma of a baking cake was offensive to him. Qu’ils sont fous, les Grecs! That was when I realised that my father had been right when he said: “Marry your daughter to your neighbour’s son.”

             Hades’s mother,  the children’s Yaya, who was a terribly nice person despite having lived under the Greek rules of female subjugation, told me that I should go away and leave my children in their care, though assuring me that I would be allowed to see them. But I come from a different school of thought vis-à-vis the rights of women, so I politely refused.

            When I eventually had to return to the mother-country earlier than expected, I at first foolishly thought that in a period of three years I would be able to resolve all my Brazilian problems and return to my Island of Peace in the North Atlantic. Before the children went with me to Brazil Hades and I signed an agreement by which the children should be brought to the UK twice a year during their holidays at my expense, though I was granted the right to spend a small part of their holidays with them.

My expectations were soon demolished by the pernicious inheritance war that burst into flames around me, and I realised I had no idea when I would be able to get away again. Two years after we left for Brazil, I had to face Hades with the fact that I would not be returning to England with the children as had been agreed. This meant I had to fight another long battle on a second front in the English courts where I was perceived as just another foreigner striving to deprive her British children of an English education against the will of a wealthy British citizen.

            Consequently, while in the southern hemisphere accusations and court cases threatening my financial position abounded, in the northern hemisphere something even more precious to me was in jeopardy - having my children by my side at a time when they were too young to live without their mother. This meant that for many years afterwards I had to assume the persona of a Hydra.  

Strategy, War & Survival

Persephone becomes Hydra.

Demons are everywhere,

In minds, in hearts, festering.

Poison floats lightly,

The weak and strong fight it.

This weapon of war corrodes
The remnants of wounded pride
For the devil to feed on.

© A.L.P. Gouthier, 2017

            The Hydrae were serpentine water monsters in Greek and Roman mythology whose lair was the lake of Lerna, also the site of the myth of the Danaïdes. In this story fifty women, guided by their father, killed their husbands, and as punishment were made to suffer the torment of living in eternal strife. Anyone who attempted to behead a Hydra soon found that as one head was cut off two more heads would emerge.

            After 1991 the long-distance relationship between Hades and myself became so toxic that no word between us was immune to twisted interpretation, and soon we could only communicate through a solicitor. For many years he tried to gain guardianship of the children so as to take them back to the UK, and to that end he tried everything possible, from defaming me to actually getting married again so that he could present himself as a family man. The wife he acquired turned out to be an international socialite who at least proved useful for the enhancement of his social life.

He tried everything he possibly could to take those few days holiday with the children from me, to the point of constantly threatening to barge in on us wherever we went.  For this reason, I always tried to take them as far away from England as possible, or to a place I knew he would detest, such as Disneyland in Florida or Los Angeles.

One year I announced before the holidays, as I was obliged to do, that we would fly from Brazil over the South Pole direct to New Zealand for a week, and from there we would fly to New Delhi on the way back to the UK. As the children were excited about the upcoming adventure, they discussed it with their father on the telephone and he told them he would fly to Delhi to take them away from me ahead of time.

            On hearing this I contacted my solicitor in London and instructed him to advise Hades’s solicitor that if he went ahead with his plans I would have him picked up at the airport in London on a charge of kidnapping. Just to make sure I would have no unpleasant surprises I hastily prepared a new itinerary to Singapore instead of Delhi, and the day before leaving New Zealand I changed the plan once again, and we flew to Bangkok.

            These long trips had to be carefully planned, mainly in order not to tire the children and to keep them amused.  From Rio we went first to Buenos Aires where we relaxed and slept for a night in the same hotel, the Alvear Palace, where as a child I had stayed with my mother. The next day we boarded a flight to Auckland where we suffered from jetlag for a few days.

            We were heavy with sleep in the late afternoon and wide awake in the middle of the night, so I had to think of things to keep the children entertained. I just tried to laugh off the problem when we awoke in the dead of night, ordered their favourite delicacies from room service and we watched their choice of films on television. A successful excursion during the day was a visit to a sheep farm, where Perseus exhausted himself by running after a lamb, while Xena made a dainty daisy chain. 

            From Auckland we flew to Bangkok where we stayed at the most wonderful and famous Oriental Hotel. Perseus had great fun in the swimming pool, especially after he made a friend who was there with his parents. Xena enjoyed the boat ride upriver on our way to visit a local palace, and our return by tuck-tuck. These are usually three wheeled vehicles with motorcycle engines which are probably home built. They have one seat in the front for the driver and a wide seat in the back for the passengers. They are in great demand in some third world countries as an alternative means of transport.

            At the end of our stay, as we were leaving the hotel to go to the airport Perseus decided to object to my having collected an enormous amount of luggage, not least because we were a few minutes late. One of the porters suddenly gave him a little card. He was surprised and passed it on to me and I read it to him in the car as we drove away. It was a passage by Tolstoy:

“The most difficult thing but an essential one is to love Life,

to love it even while one suffers because Life is all, Life is God,

and to love Life means to love God.”

 Leo Tolstoy, 1855

            ‘For eight long years Persephone embodied a Hydra. With her multiple heads she fought her multi-sided battles, from which there was no respite.’ 

            During the years I was foiling Hades’s attempts to take the children from me, though I did not risk communicating directly with him, he felt no such qualms and sent me and my solicitor incessant, venomous messages. At the same time, but from a different direction, in Belo Horizonte we had various kinds of poisonous lies hurled at us in a continuous attempt to denigrate us. 

             Poison may be defined as a substance capable of causing illness or death to a living organism. It derives from the 12th century Middle English puisun that came into Old French and Latin as potion. But poison can also mean something abstract, which is harmful or pernicious and prejudicial to  happiness or well-being, as in the phrase - the poison of slander. Furthermore, an intangible poison may be spread in order to ruin, demoralise and defame, but it can also attack the mind of the poisoner, corrupting and deforming it, as in the phrase -  hatred poisoned his mind. Concocting poison or harbouring hatred can therefore be self-destructive.

Poison and Antidote

All the poison in the world

Will not change happy reality

Of life at home in actuality.

Nothing will distort or change,

Gentle memories, nor rearrange

The love and tender care

Of the good parents they were.

Some tried hard to create

Other versions of my life,

Stories false, made up, lies.

But I will protest

And fiercely contest,

And write the true version,

For slander is a perversion.

I have fought so many battles,

Often on diverse fronts,

Several foes to confront.

Yet wars I have survived,

With antidotes applied.

The past is almost dead,

The records not misread.

© A.L.P. Gouthier, 2014

            Here I turn my mind to the greatest mystery of my life, one that I am condemned to live with for the rest of my days. Why did my father look so angrily at me in the later years of his life? It could not only have been because I had moved to the UK, because he had even helped me during that time. Something else must have happened, and finally I began to think that someone may have seriously spread poison about me.

From my point of view, the fact is that for four years while studying in America I learned how it felt to live in anonymity. Each time I went back home I increasingly resented the old self-consciousness I felt in public. This went on until I had the courage to tell my father, to his chagrin, that I could not stand living there anymore.

            Prior to my experience at university we had lived happily within our enchanted enclave, enveloped in my father’s idea of security, which never included guards. He thought they could be more dangerous than bandits, and instead preferred to entrust the security of our home to people he had known for a while who he believed were of good character. Among these was Margarido who for many years worked as a gardener and eventually progressed to the post of nightwatchman around our Chácara. He was an imposing looking man who would probably frighten strangers, but he was as gentle as a lamb.

            There were people who worked for us their entire lives, like Ercilia who lived in our apartment in Rio de Janeiro, and loved listening to absolute horrors on the police radio while she cooked delicious food for us. I used to say to her, “Ercília this radio is terrifying! How can you listen to such things?” She would reply, “We have to know what is going on to protect ourselves!”

             I thought the language on this wireless station was rather puzzling as they substituted various words with their preferred euphemisms. For example, cars, trucks, or jeeps all became viaturas, a word akin to vehicles, a theft or a mugging was a sinistro; suspects and criminals became elementos, but the victims remained victims. 

            After Ercília retired and we sold the family flat at Post 6 in Avenida Atlântica in Copacabana, my brother arranged for her to live in Belo Horizonte in a little house behind the house of a family he knew who could keep an eye on her in her old age. I saw her during that time and she was fine, except that she complained she had not liked moving away from Rio. Poor Ersília, she was always banging on about something, but she was so kind and caring with my children when they were small, and they remember her with fondness.

            I remember how proud she was of her lifesavings in the bank and of some pretty jewellery that had been given to her by various past employers. Perhaps she spoke too freely about this in front of dishonest people because one Christmas Eve, when for once the family who cared for her was away, Ercília was robbed and murdered.

            Returning to the subject of puzzling words, I remember when I was first introduced to a computer. I was in Brazil and my teacher said, “This will be simple for you because it is all in English and you speak English.” I looked at a Windows program and said, “This is not English because this is not what I call a window!” English has become the language of technology because it is the modern language for trade. In previous times French was a trade language and there were others before it, as language is very much a living tool that constantly evolves.

            There are different ways of speaking a particular language, apart from accent variations. A language is slightly different when spoken by people of different origins because they will tend to choose words that are similar to ones in their maternal language, thus creating different idiomatic versions. Just as we know that people from India speak Inglish, Brazilians could be said to speak a Bratish idiom that is easily perceived by others who speak Brazilian Portuguese. While some of us approve of diversity, this can also be an object of hate and resentment for others.

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24.01 | 15:39

Ganhei o livro de minha amiga M. Renault e li con sofreguidão o q...

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Acho que o sofrimento e as perseguições o mudaram, mas ele nunca p...