WOMENS’ SAFETY

Up until this weekend, I was pondering what to write about in my next blog and I then thought in the wake of the dreadful abduction and murder of Sarah Everard, I felt the need to talk about the safety of all females. It all sounds so awful with what that man did to poor Sarah. She was such a beautiful lady, the type of beauty these beasts would prey upon. The mere fact the man behaved badly by exposing himself to her must mean he raped her in a savage way after abducting her. She must have felt beyond frightened and scared for her life. And I cannot begin to imagine what he did to her body to render her unrecognisable apart from her dental records. I was sadly disappointed that she was found just outside of the town where I live. But at that token, she would have been found somewhere else if it wasn’t Ashford. And to say that man in question was a policeman! All policemen are meant to be there to keep us women safe and 99.9% of them do. This one was in the extreme minority. And he could not have been clever to have been caught very swiftly. It was the CCTV camera of a passing bus that held evidence of her abduction that was the breakthrough of the police investigation. I really hope that man will end up in a top security prison for the insane. I was glad he was caught so quickly before another defenceless woman was to be his next victim.

It is largely the onus upon us women now to make sure we are safe at all times. Boris Johnson chaired a meeting last Monday upon such matters and hopefully that will result into a few good ideas and maybe for new laws to go through parliament to keep our streets and us women safe. An idea was lobbied through the House of Lords about putting all men under a curfew from 6pm every night. I had never heard of anything so ridiculous. We are already in a lockdown anyway and that poor girl still fell victim to that awful scum. I doubt the bad men would obey any curfew laws and would still be out on the streets ready to attack women while all the good men are forced to stay at home and not able to protect their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. Besides most men need to work and would not have time to get home by 6pm. And others would be setting off to work at that time. My husband Kevin was outraged when I told him what had been suggested.

While most of the time we are able to make sure we remain safe, there are occasions when things go wrong and we get caught out. My friend Fiona and I always make sure both our husbands are at hand to take us somewhere when we have a night out together and for one of our men to pick us up afterwards. One would take us to where we are going and the other would pick us up. Or one would do both on one occasion the other the next time.  All the men I know from my own circle of family and friends – including all the men from the world of The Bachelors are decent and respectable and would always go the extra mile to ensure the safety of all the girls and women they come into contact with. There are only two men who I have known in my lifetime that were awful and to whom I would never have trusted to be alone with in any situation. One is still alive. He was my last boss who was in fact a boss from hell as mentioned in my previous blog. He is the most evil and wicked and nasty person I have ever met. And he looks lecherous too. I just had a female intuition about him that made me keep him at arms-length. To explain further as to how bad he is, Kent County Council has blacklisted his company from taking on apprentices because of his terrible record over the way he has treated them all in the past. The one I knew when I was working there gave me a daily report written by his mother describing the cruel things they did to him. Fortunately I did not suffer any sexual harassment there – but I was harassed in every other imaginable way at his hands.

My first encounter of not feeling safe was when I worked with the other man I mentioned as not being safe to be with alone. He was called Mr C. He owned a string of bakeries in my area and that was my first job at the age of 17 working as a shop assistant. I worked there every Saturday and through school holidays. I felt I had jumped into the deep end with that job because he was so awful. He was a bully and I suffered sexual harassment there with his wandering hands and he used to leave bruises on my arms. My Dad was ready to go and punch him but I urged Dad to keep away fearing that Mr C would have Dad in court rather than the other way round. There was no evidence of the sexual harassment, it would have been just my word against his upon the matter. Mr C spoke of nothing else but sex. He was in his 50s at the time. And he was evil with the way he behaved towards his wife and everyone who came into contact with him. I used that job to finance my first independent holiday at Paignton where The Bachelors were in summer season that year, which was 1973. My job came to an end that August just after my parents came home from their holiday in the New Forest and Gloucestershire to visit Mum’s Aunt Muriel. I was working through the week while they were away and Mr C knew I was at home on my own. Although he did not know about the two family Labradors we had who were there to protect me each night. Mr C spoke more and more about sex as that week went on. He threatened to call round to my place after work each night. (He never did). But I was terrified just the same.  I stacked up furniture against the front door when I got home every evening and had Ben and Sheba our two dogs right there on the ready should Mr C call round. I told them about Mr C coming and to be ready to see him off if he did. Not that I would have let him in, but I was terrified he would try to break his way in and rape me. I also rang my Auntie Gloria to tell her how frightened I was and she came over a couple of times to see me at work to make sure I was OK. Then the final day came – not that I knew it was my final day at the time. At the end of the day I collected up my jacket and bag and went into Mr C’s office to collect my wages. He passed the little buff envelope over to me and then asked me to stay and see something he wanted to show me. He proceeded to take down his trousers and underpants in one go to reveal an erect penis. I just swiftly turned out of there and ran for my life, out of the building and into the shopping mall. Luckily for me, my Auntie Denise was there. I ran into her and told her in a garbled way what had happened. She told me to stay with her. She had yet to do some shopping in the near-by supermarket and I remember trailing around in there after her with my mind in turmoil. Auntie Denise took me home and it was only two hours later when my parents came back from their holiday. I had made a neat pile of their letters that arrived for them during that week – which Mum pounced upon immediately. She found a bank statement which she opened and saw it was worryingly well in the red. She could not understand why as they were always careful with money. The Chinese takeaway they bought for that evening was forgotten about and had gone cold. Mum and Dad immediately had to get the cheque book and paying in books out to tick off the counterfoil totals against the transactions on the bank statement before they could identify the fault. The bank made a massive error. So this was not the right time for me to tell Mum what Mr C did that afternoon. I got up the next morning ready to go to work for that so called sex maniac. I was just about to leave when I burst into tears. Mum asked what was wrong and I told her the whole sorry story. She then took the decision since I was still a minor, that I was not going to work for that dreadful man again. She picked up the phone and she rang him. I heard her say, “My daughter Lynne is not going to work for you anymore”. He must have asked why. I then heard her say “If you don’t know now, you never will” and she slammed the phone down. Thank goodness I had enough money for my holiday in Paignton by then. Mr C was so awful and there were local reports about him assaulting other women and one of their husbands paid a hit man to see him off with an axe. That did not happen because in the meantime, Mr C was found dead. He committed suicide by hanging himself.

I have been caught out a few times after Bachelors shows. Dec came to my rescue three times, so he became my knight in shining armour. The first time was when my friend Penny and I went to see The Bachelors in a show at Camberley. This was in January 1996 and it had been snowing heavily the night before. I was not certain about going to the show, so I rang Con to ask if it was still on because I wondered if he was snowed in. The bad weather came in from the East and it hit the full length of the East coast from Yorkshire to Kent. Kay answered the phone and told me the show was still on and Con was packing up the van at that moment and was nearly ready to go. So I made the journey to Camberley and met Penny at the other end. It was her turn on that occasion to book our B & B accommodation for an overnight stay. I asked her to find somewhere within walking distance from the theatre. We decided to hail a taxi from the station first so we could work out the route to the theatre later on. The taxi took us further and further out, well into the deep countryside and beyond. The B & B place was well out in the wilds. Which meant we had to book a taxi back into the town once we were ready. The show was wonderful but went on forever. Craig Douglas was also on the same bill and his act was never ending. The whole show ended at half past midnight. The boys were there at their memorabilia table. I looked at my watch and told Penny we were in fact stranded. There were not likely to be any taxis as it was so late by then that none would be running because the weather conditions were terrible. The only thing I could think to do was to tell Dec the situation we found ourselves in and I asked if he could help us in any way. He said he would take us back to the B & B. He asked where it was. I had no clue, all I had was the address. So Dec asked a theatre official the way there – as we had no sat navs back then. And Dec took us right back there, directly without taking any wrong turnings etc. Con was in the car too. He must have been going to stay with Dec that night. But not only did Dec drive us right there, he waited until we had gone into the building before driving off. I unlocked the door and turned to wave my thanks to Dec and I realised then he was not going to drive away until I closed the door. He was so good at ensuring our safety by going into the building without the risk of being attacked between the pavement area and the building. Dec being the father of two daughters and the grandfather of two granddaughters knows all about keeping women safe. He took us home once more after that when we were stranded. Again a show had gone on for much longer than anticipated and Kevin was to go off to work before it was all to finish and we lost out on the chance of him picking us up. But how many times ladies when you have caught taxis and being left standing on the pavement with the taxi belting off at speed? It has happened to me loads of times and most should take a leaf out of Dec’s book and stay there until the woman in question has gone indoors. I hope that will be addressed as a result of Boris’s meeting.

The other occasion when Dec came to our rescue was when we were waiting for a taxi that we booked after a show of theirs. Dec was sitting close by in his car and he could see we were waiting. Taxis were going in and out of the bay and Penny said none were the one we booked. Then Dec stepped out of his car and called for us to take the next taxi that had just arrived. Penny said it was not our taxi but Dec urged us to take it regardless. So we did. He must have been concerned for us as we were in an area that was not entirely salubrious.

There was one more occasion after a Bachelors show when I was very much at risk. It was just three years ago after the boys’ show at a church in Gosport. I was on my own then. I booked a taxi there from the B & B where I stayed and the driver gave me his card with a number to call when I was ready to be picked up after the show. I had a lovely time there and I was talking to Con and Phillip right at the end. It was at that time when I called the cab driver and he told me when he would be there, and where. I went outside at the allotted time and the taxi was nowhere to be seen. I did not want to wait around on the pavement because it would have made me look as though I was touting for business. I walked back to the church which was behind a green area and found I could not get back into the building where I would have been safer than standing outside. I rang the cab driver again and he told me he came to pick me up and I was not there and I would have to call another number from the card he gave me. So I did and they told me it was going to be a while before that one was to arrive. Luckily Glen Ford who was the Norman Wisdom tribute act in the same show came out of the church. I told him the precarious situation I found myself in and he very kindly stood with me until my taxi arrived.

Anne Hefford and I saw the boys at the Great Billingham Aqua park in 2019 and we found ourselves in a scary situation. Anne booked a taxi and we had a long wait for it. We stayed inside a reception building for as long as we could before being kicked out as they were closing it for the night. We went to the taxi bay to wait for that taxi which did not turn up. Anne rang for another one but again we had a long wait.  Luckily for us a local woman who was on the look-out for all other females was at hand giving advice upon which taxis not to take. For she feared most would not take us to our hotel. A licenced one finally arrived which was thought to be safe to take, and it was. We were not altogether sure if it was the one Anne had booked.

It has been said that independent women who have cars and drive themselves around are safe. But not so if they suddenly break down. So thank goodness we all have mobile phones now. My sister-in-law Glyn found herself in a scary situation once when she found a man had broken into her car in a multi-story car park and was sitting in the passenger seat. Glyn opened the driver’s door and asked the man what the hell was he doing there. He gave a sob story about being ill and needing a lift home. So she lied by saying she could not reverse out of that parking space with him sitting there in her way and told him to get out of the car. Which he did. So she quickly reversed backwards and drove at speed out of the car park and away. Later on, she found an axe underneath the passenger seat.

My mother used to say all females are at risk right from the age of a few weeks up until the age of 90 something or the 100s. As we all have something that evil men like to play with. She always told me that if I felt unsafe and felt I was being followed – or if a man was standing by exposing himself, to run to the nearest house and ask for help. My friend Jeff’s Mum did just that. She was in her 70s at the time. He told me she had just been to Bingo or the WI. She caught a bus home. It was wintertime and therefore quite dark by then. His Mum got off the bus and walked in the direction of her house. She then had the feeling she was being followed. She looked over her shoulder and indeed there was a man who was right behind her. The faster she walked, then so did he. The next thing she decided to do was to walk into the nearest garden and up to the house to get help. So she opened the gate and legged it up the garden path as quickly as she could and she saw the man was still following her. She then stopped and said “Hoy you, what’s your game? Stop following me”. The man said “I am not following you. I live here. And to prove it to you, here are my front door keys. So I will unlock the door and walk into the house and I will introduce you to my wife”. They could see that Jeff’s Mum was frightened. So they invited her into their lounge and gave her a cup of tea. The man asked where she lived and he kindly walked her home afterwards.

I have seen the boot on the other foot when the odd woman has behaved inappropriately towards Dec although he was OK each time as he looks after himself very well. I won’t go into details – but it does prove that men can be victims as well as women.

I was walking home from Tesco’s one day two summers ago when a man stopped to offer me a lift. I said, “No thankyou” and walked straight on. He stopped again and asked a second time if I was sure. I wasn’t exactly struggling with heavy shopping as I was only carrying packets of breakfast cereal. I said no again and walked on. When I got home I decided to share that experience with other women via the Ashford Community page on Facebook warning them to be on the look-out for this man.  The abuse that came back was terrible. There had been reports of a man hanging around ASDA offering lifts to women and I thought I was doing the right thing forewarning other women about this matter. I was accused of calling all men rapists and all sorts. I had to delete my post and sadly I cannot put up any such posts again as much as I want to warn other women of any horrible men on the prowl.

I remember back in 1968 when I was walking to school. I was a pupil at the local comprehensive school then as we were not allowed entry to grammar schools until the age of 13 in our area. My Auntie Denise usually drove me to school along with my cousin Jocelyn who was still at primary school. Auntie dropped Jocelyn off first at her school then me at mine afterwards. This was the first day of a new term in January and Jocelyn’s school had not reopened. So I had to walk to school and that was precarious as it had been snowing the night before and there were no buses running. I was about a mile along my road – which I must add was in the countryside. A car stopped and the man wound the window down and he offered me a lift to school. I said “No” and walked on as quickly as my legs could carry me. I was terrified as this was the first time such a thing had happened since my mother told me to never accept lifts or sweets from a stranger. But the man in the car stopped again and asked if I was sure I did not want to accept a lift from him. I looked at him squarely in the face and I realised then he was Mr Harrison our Science teacher. He had a ginger beard through the previous term which he shaved off during the Christmas holidays and it was the first time I has seen him clean shaven. I accepted the lift then and apologised for not recognising him. I doubt teachers would be allowed to do that these days.    

There were occasions when I was sexually harassed at work. When I worked at my first London job, my desk was in front of my boss’s desk. (We faced the same direction). He thought it was great fun most days to get up and walk behind me and snake his hand down the back of my chair so he could undo my bra through the fabric of my blouse or jumper. I had to rush to the ladies each time to do it up again. All this happened at the time when I spent my lunch breaks with my friend Debbie from another floor who came from the same village as me before I left home. (We didn’t know each other when I was still living there but we knew all the same people). She called me one afternoon and asked if I could go to see her privately as she had something to tell me. She told me that she over-heard my boss broadcasting the fact that I was “Easy” as I allowed him to keep undoing my bra. I was not “Easy” in the least. I could not stop him. We went together to see the personnel officer about it. Sadly, nothing could be done because there was no solid evidence upon the matter. It was just our words against my boss. Then one Friday night at home time – the same boss grabbed hold of my left hand and pulled my wedding ring off and threw it out of a roof window that led into a small courtyard. He then told me to go home. I refused to leave until someone had got my ring back for me. Another member of staff had to climb up through the window and jump down into the courtyard to find my ring and climb back through the window into the office to return my ring to me. Meanwhile my boss just stood there laughing at us.

The other time was when I worked at my second London job where I was bullied in many different ways by the office manager. I usually wore skirts to work but I decided to wear smart tailored trousers one Friday. The verbal abuse I receive from the manager was terrible. He called me a slut and all sorts for wearing trousers. There was nothing in the company rule book regarding the staff dress code to say smart trousers were not allowed to be worn. I went to see the personnel officer that lunchtime and I asked him, “What do you think of my outfit today Brendan?”. Brendan told me I looked smart, the same as I usually did. I then told him about the abuse I received from my manager – which Brendan believed. He told me the only way he could help was if I could get other people in my office to sign as witnesses to the abuse I received. No one would. Nor would the other ladies help to make a stand with me against the manager by all of them as well as myself to wear trousers to work the following Monday. Everyone only looks after number one. If only people supported me, then Brendan could have taken some action against my manager. He was fired in the end with the way he treated me and two others as they caught it all on CCTV one day. He was immediately escorted off the premises and an investigation took place the following week when we all had to submit written reports about the manager’s behaviour.  My report was about 10 pages long.                 

I have a funny story to finish this blog off with. Penny and I went to see Con and Dec at the Grand Theatre in Margate once. It was a Butlins holiday place. We had a lovely time there because we spent about two hours with Dec talking in the café that afternoon. Carol Furze and her Mum came up from Devon for a weekend break and we sat with them through the show during the evening. Then we saw the boys after the show and Dec asked if Carol and I were sisters. (We might as well be because since then we have become extremely close friends and we text each other several times nearly every day telling each other our latest bits of news). We had to tell Dec, sadly no. He thought we looked so alike. I told him my real sister is nothing like me to look at. Anyway having said “Cheerio” to the boys afterwards, we walked out of the building. Carol and her Mum were on their way to their room. Kevin was due to pick me and Penny up. It was within no time at all when he appeared. He drove straight past us. We waved and he appeared not to see us at all. He then came back from the other way. The same thing happened. Penny and I wondered what had got into Kevin. He came along the third time and the same thing happened again! Finally, on the fourth occasion when we all frantically waved, Kevin slowed down to stop. We waved Goodbye to Carol and her Mum. I then turned to Kevin and told him off for driving past us three times. I said “Did you not see us?”. He said “I saw a group of women there waving from the pavement”. I then said “ I was one of those women, I am your WIFE! How could you fail to recognise your OWN WIFE as being one of those women!” He could not answer that.

I hope in the future that if we go to see The Bachelors again – which won’t be until 2022 now, that it will be an organised event and we will be in a group and can remain together so we are all safe. It will be their 60th Anniversary as The Bachelors next year so we need to arrange something. Although the actual month of their anniversary won’t be  until December, we need to plan something in the summer time when it is easier for us to get together. Con and Dec announced they have cancelled all plans for 2021 because of Covid. Thank goodness we join them every week on Zoom. They really are a tonic to us during these strange and difficult times.       

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