Saturday, 8 July 2017

The mother I hated and loved

When I wake in the white room in the tall North London house, I often feel joy. But then disillusion comes and the reluctance to get up. That may be followed by anger, then anxiety about the guilt the anger has created. But I manage to calm down, because of my devotion to ease.

After a quick pee, I lie long on the untidy white sheet as the sun streams in over the confined view of back gardens and dark houses. I have no commitments in the day that will ensue. Everything it will hold I design to take as much out of the city as I can and give back only what I choose.

The room is relatively quiet around me in the morning. In the first two months I was here, the only sounds I heard were the birds at their song. But then the series of atrocities and disasters struck London in the hot time, and now there are endless sirens and helicopters. But it is a couple of weeks since the last atrocity, the attack at Finsbury Park, and that only killed one elderly Muslim. It was a grotesque anticlimax to the series of horrors.

I prepare to hear the news on my headphone digital radio at six-thirty. I always expect another disaster. I hope for one. But now the news is all of maintaining standards, challenging abuses and promoting harmony. There are a few more fires and moped attacks.

Still I lie long. Radio Three resumes its music, but so often I prefer silence now. I switch the radio on and off periodically to check the passing minutes. It is many years since I have worn a watch. I have no mobile phone.

The strange, obsessed mixed-race woman next door goes out of her room. I stay very quiet as she turns the keys in her locks, probably strews a wet wipe near our joint doors, and goes down the stairs. What a relief to be free of her unwanted presence! Greater peace descends on me as some music I love, perhaps Chopin's Fourth Ballade, surges towards a climax on the headphones.

But quite soon the woman is back. She has only gone out for her first smoke of the day. Once again I lie as quiet as I can, but the music is slightly spoiled.

Soon after this I am asleep again. When I awake it is bright morning. This is summer. Now is the time to excrete. It gives great satisfaction and I return to the bed. I check the time again. It is after eight o'clock and I am moving towards breakfast. But not yet. I think more thoughts of the past, and I speak out loud, "You wanted to give a party," I say. "You gave your party twice at the Feel-Good Factory, do you remember?"

After a little while I get up and do a little dance around the room. Then back to the bed. Then finally to my little cubbyhole of a bathroom for the morning ablutions and the cleaning of my teeth.

When I finally put my clothes on, the process is relatively quick. The clothes are readyfrom the latest wash in the packed chest of drawers. They are all creased, but who cares? I have never prided myself on sartorial elegance. I have no important appointments.

Then I put my passport and the wallet with my more useless cards in my left pocket, and I put the smart new purse and the active cards in my right. My 60-plus Oyster Card is now held by a colourful little wallet of its own, and that too goes to the right.

I pack a plastic bag with my current diary, an older diary to remind me of the past, the non-fiction book I have chosen for perusal this morning, and a newspaper or two. Perhaps I also put in a hat or a cap. Then, clutching my keys, I  descend the four flights of steps from the second floor to the kitchen.

This room is quiet before nine o'clock. The other three occupants of the house have not yet emerged at this hour (the fourth one, the vaguely Arab woman, only stayed one night, the night of the Grenfell Tower fire).

The big black man will be in the television room later, the mixed-race woman in the kitchen, I tend to wander about in the garden, and the very thin, elderly Cypriot, to whom food is brought, hardly ever leaves his room. We all have our own cupboards and fridges in the kitchen with keys. There are five black chairs around the dark brown kitchen table, but never once, as far as I know, has more than one person sat down at it. We are all mental health cases enjoying supported housing.

I go slowly now to assemble the materials for my breakfast. Perhaps I eat a banana first, walking around the bleak garden. Then cornflakes from the food bank and bread, butter and jam.

It is nine o'clock or thereabouts. I push open the two heavy doors and pass with a slight stumble into the quiet street. My steps usually turn rightwards to the supermarket for a quick inspection of the morning papers with the black guard watching. Then to the Turkish cafe until the library opens for the Internet. The rendezvous with my elderly cantankerous friend will often follow and there are always the pop-ins I am taking him to. The evening is sometimes spent listening to music in my room. Occasionally I go out to the Irish pub for one drink in order to go on reading David Copperfield.

My life is bliss punctuated by alienation.

And what has led to this comfortable if slightly malevolent impasse, now that I am almost sixty-two? Why, I believe it was my mother. Her influence, I mean.

How shall I describe her? How shall I tell her story? And why did I start by painting a morning picture of the son she made?

I shall tell you. It is because this picture is of the greatest peace and rest a human being can enjoy, and that was what she gave me, in spades, until I was about ten. And she also gave her overwhelming love, which still helps me to balance my detachment from the world, and my hatred of it, with a strong urge to rush to the aid of any stranger I sense to be vulnerable.

And I help others because she once so protected and loved me. I was vulnerable and she always came to my aid, until the time came when her help could no longer help me. That happened when I was ten, and I was finally stopped from going into her bed in the morning, once the hated figure of Arthur Ernest Hills was out of it. What bliss it had been to lie in her arms! How much I did not want to go to school!

But in the end I was ejected from her bed, and my oedipal Eden was over. Up to this point I had been a normal little boy. From then on I began to grow fat, incompetent and unmanly. She still loved me, but she was alone, and had grown to hate Arthur Ernest Hills. When I came home from the school where I myself was isolated, she always had three things waiting for me that I loved: a bar of chocolate, a glass of orange juice and a bag of crisps. And supper soon followed. And perhaps there would be a night-time snack before I went to bed, and after I had come home from the library.

And so I began to know that the mother I loved was doing me harm and the hatred began to grow which would eventually overwhelm the love. And the contempt.

For my mother was a funny woman. She came basically from Portugal, although I always vaguely knew that there was some sort of strange connection with Italy. And she was absolutely the caricature of a Neapolitan mamma, with all the passion, violence and unreason that implies. I swear that I remember her from my childhood once literally biting the carpet in her rage. But how tender she was if I had ever hurt my knee when I was playing. How passionately she kissed it better. And then she would be off into the next raving scene.

And how unreasonable she could be. I remember, when Arthur Ernest Hills had left us, and the big policeman Maurice had taken his place, how she used to shout, "The neighbours, they know nothing! They do not hear! They do not know!" This was so clearly the total reverse of the truth that I used to laugh at her to her face. I used to mock her accent and call her strange names like "Goatie", which she particularly hated.

When I went to Oxford at the age of eighteen, she and Maurice drove me to my college, Hertford College, from our home at Crawley in Sussex. Then they pointedly just left me there with hardly a word. Perhaps they felt out of place in such an environment. They were working-class people. But I think the hatred between me and my mother was well under way by then.

But those two years before I went to university, when I was doing my "A"-levels, were among the happiest of my life. It was a while between Arthur vanishing and Maurice appearing, and anyway the latter never moved into the house fully. And in my memory he is strangely blotted out. I would come home from my new Protestant school, where I was as unpopular and brilliant as ever, and my mother would quickly appear from her day-time job, give me a quick but delicious dinner, and depart for the evening restaurant at which she worked.

After dinner, I would put music on the record-player, sit down at the cleared table where I had eaten, and do the thorough study for my "A"-levels which would redeem all the inadequacies of my teachers. I did not tend to go to the library so much as in earlier years. I slightly hated the loneliness of that place now. Now my reading was for a purpose, not just to assuage my loneliness.

These days I had a few friends, not many. Sometimes I went to see them, but more often I went for a long walk along Southgate Avenue towards the centre of town, singing and talking to myself. Occasionally the police picked me up as I walked, but after some time they learned to leave me alone.

But best of all was when my mother returned home and we could talk a little together before both going to bed. Those moments of intimacy and deep friendship I shall never forget.

For my earlier childhood with her had been quite dislocated. I had been born in London, but when I was less than one year old we moved out to the new town of Crawley in Sussex. But from an early age I was possessed with the sense that Crawley was not really my home. We often used to visit London to see our friends the Mills family, who lived in Wood Green, and the periodic journeys we made there were one of the highlights in my featureless childhood.

We always used to pass the house where we had lived when I was a baby in Hornsey on the outward journey. This followed our morning picnic on Streatham, the brief trauma of going through Brixton where Arthur Ernest Hills cursed the blacks, and the outward journey culminated in the huge excitement of Alexandra Palace, and the view over London from there. And on the inward journey via Finsbury Park my mother used tell me that the huge, dark houses there was where the "papoes", the "bogies", lived.

The other great periodic break from Crawley was our annual or semi-annual journey abroad, usually in August, and usually to Portugal. This was another pilgrimage to where I really came from. For just as Crawley was not my home, neither was England. The man who was with us, Arthur Ernest Hills, was not my real father and I had no belief in him or his supposed nationality. As I have revealed in my previous post, he had originally came from Germany. But, on the other hand, I did not know, and she did not tell me, that my mother was also not totally from Portugal.

Because of the uncertainty that must have gnawed at her, she was passionately committed to the country with which she was most linked but which never quite accepted her. And she made me a  Portuguese patriot too. In 1966, during the World Cup, I passionately longed for the Portuguese team to beat England, and can remember, after the quarter-final where Nobby Stiles persistently marked Eusebio, walking down alone to the corner of Brighton Road and Southgate Avenue in an effort to contain my passionate grief.

And even now, despite the generally easy if empty time I have passed in England, and the huge difficulties I have experienced in Portugal, and my own considerable learned contempt for it, I shake inwardly when I hear the country my mother held in her heart, and which was almost hers, slighted or insulted. And I search obsessively in books on general subjects for mentions of Portugal. If there are none, I will refuse to buy that book. And a book that mentions England, of which there are so many, I may buy or I may not.

So London and England, where I have spent the greater part of my life, I could never be quite committed to passing the rest of my years in. I am back now in the very streets where I was born. It moves me deeply to live in those streets near Hornsey Rise. I will certainly stay a while. But who knows what will happen then? Then I may be away.

But I want to die in the Whittington Hospital, where I was born.

I think I had better begin to talk now about what exactly was my mother's connection with Portugal, and the fact that her mother, who was not married to her father, and who was not the mother of her five sisters, seems to have come from Naples, or at least from a place where they spoke Neapolitan Italian, and to have been a Jewess, so that my mother was also a Jewess, which makes me also a Jew.

How shall I approach this question? Well, I came to the knowledge about Ana das Meias, "Ana of the Stockings", my maternal grandmother, over many and difficult years and only quite recently. So I think I will tell the whole thing chronologically.

But I will begin at a slight angle. When I was a child my mother often used to mention a woman who had been around in my childhood who was called Dona Ana (which in Italian was would be Donna Anna). I never knew exactly who this lady had been, but she was somebody quite important, and my mother particularly used to mention some words she had often said to me.

These were in Italian, and I will quote them in that language, and give the English translation. They were, "Mange, mange, bambino, tu sei si piccolino, e tua mamma e matta." In English, this is, "Go on eating, go on eating, little baby, you are so very small and your mother is mad."

The final word "matta" (which would be "mata" in Portuguese) is a pun between the two languages. In Italian, it means a madwoman, and also the joker in a pack of cards. In Portuguese, it would be "killed" or "dead". Ana das Meias surely enjoyed this joke.

It was to be many, many years after my childhood that I heard of Dona Ana again.

Now to the facts about my mother. She was born, according to her birth certificate and her own unvarying account, on 7th September, 1923 at the fairly substantial farm her father owned in the Portuguese countryside, the "Quinta Nova" (the "new farm"), just outside the village of Pedra Amassada ("Worn-down stone"), which is in the parish of Santo Isidoro, in the local council district of Mafra, and just slightly to the north-east of the windswept seaside resort of Ericeira which faces the Atlantic Ocean. These places are in the Portuguese region of Estremadura, which includes Lisbon, about forty kilometres to the south-east.

The name of my mother's father was officially Cesario dos Reis ("Caesar Kings"; on his tombstone his first name is spelt Sesario, and on the birth certificate of his daughter Eva his name is given as Jose dos Reis, and my mother always told me that before being called Reis he had another surname).

Although he owned his own farm he also worked in hard times as a "jornaleiro", a hired labourer by the day on the land of others. He was, according to those who knew him, a very seasoned agriculturalist, and a decent if slightly timid man, and he used the "barrete", the cap which is typical of the peasants of the "saloio" region. The name "saloio" was given traditionally to the population of the region north of Lisbon which was near enough to supply its needs through market gardens, and these were traditionally renowned for a strange mixture of cunning and stupidity. My mother used to flinch when described as a "saloia".

This man was married to a woman called Marcelina de Jesus, who came from a slightly higher social class than himself, being the daughter of a small pottery owner. By her he was reputed to have had twelve children, eleven daughters and a son, of whom six, including the son, died in infancy, and six daughters survived. These were, in order of age: Maria Marcelina (known simply as Maria, being the eldest daughter); Maria da Conceicao (known as Conceicao); my mother, Maria Jose; Maria Augusta (known as Augusta); Eva; and Maria do Rosario (the most beautiful, the one who died first, the one I never knew, Rosaria).

Marcelina de Jesus, whom I can just about remember from my childhood, was able to read and write, which set her apart a little in that countryside. But he became downtrodden by so much child-bearing, and there is a picture of her, which I have in my house in Portugal, humbly holding the reins of a donkey on which my grandfather, in his peasant cap, is proudly astride. In later life she was exceptionally devout. One memory of my childhood is of being alone with her at the shrine of Fatima and of her wishing to hear endless Masses end to end, with me at her side, increasingly tried, thirsty and desperate.

My mother had very little feeling for her. When she died, a few years after her husband, and we heard the news in our house in Crawley, there was absolutely no question that my mother would go out to attend her funeral. The whole thing seemed to be a matter of indifference to her. But she had been deeply attached to her father, and when he died, in 1961, I believe she did go out, though, since I was only about six years old at the time, I have no specific memories of this. And when her youngest sister Rosaria died on Christmas Day 1968 in faraway Mozambique, and the news reached us almost immediately by telegram, my mother went into such a storm of grief that I have never forgotten it to this day.

So we have a pattern in my mother of deep attachment to her family and to the land from which she came, but curiously excepting the woman who was acknowledged as her mother.

Mum was a tomboy. She was always off from the house climbing trees and getting into scrapes. Her father teased her and beat her, but she was his favourite. She had a spirit and devilry that none of the other sisters had.

Her relations with all of them were to be very mixed, and mostly quite hostile, throughout her life. Particularly complex was her relationship with Conceicao, who was the next above her in age. Tia Conceicao was a slightly stupid and very stubborn woman who had a clinging need for affection and became unpleasant when she did not get it. Once, when my mother was three years old, she became very thirsty and Conceicao promised to give her water. But what she gave her was pee. My mother never forgot this incident and it poisoned relations between the sisters for the rest of their lives.

My mother intermittently told me scattered stories about her childhood. When she was four years old she was sent alone to tend the bullocks in the pasture. When she was nine she was sent away to relations to work. She was not sent to school, which was a pity, because she was immensely intelligent. In later years she used often to say something to me that tore at my heart, "I was born to learn but never taught."

In bad times, when the family was hungry and had no bread, it used to be my mother who was sent to the neighbours to beg, because of her daring, and her winning ways.

The greatest trauma that hit was family was often recalled by my mother. After seven (or, according to my mother, eight) daughters had been born,without a son intervening, the final daughter in the row had to be called Eva so that she should not turn out to be a witch. This is my one surviving aunt, now an immensely fat and talkative woman, who has become slightly malevolent, because she is a Jehovah's Witness. She has always had a strange soft spot for me, though, and she is my godmother.

Finally, after Eva, it must have been a son was born. The whole family rejoiced. But quickly this boy fell ill. My grandfather had to go to Mafra to fetch the nearest doctor. This was a distance of about six miles. My mother could never remember whether her father had a donkey at the time or whether he had to walk. Anyway, he went as fast as he could, but when he was coming back from Mafra with the doctor the boy was already dead.

Every so often the whole family went to sell their wares to the fair at Malveira. I am not sure of the distance, but it is perhaps between twelve and fifteen miles. They often travelled together all night, ready to begin selling early in the morning. They would take it in turns to ride on the one donkey.

When I heard these stories from my mother in childhood, I was filled with a sense of belonging to a suffering and heroic people, and this feeling can never entirely leave me.

My mother often told me that, when she was nine, she was sent away to relations to work, and also that at the age of sixteen or seventeen she was already working at a series of hotels in Lisbon. She reached the age of 16 in 1939, almost exactly at the time of the outbreak of the Second World War. There are no documents surviving which refer to her, except her birth certificate, which date from before 1946. I once had an official Portuguese work record, a charming little document, which showed which hotels she worked at between 1946 and 1953, and I lost this, with many other items, during a theft of my suitcases in Barcelona in 2012. The title page of the document, with her picture, survives in a tattered photocopy. And there are also a few other photographs of her when she was very young, including a cheeky-looking one, in which she looks very dark and elfin-like, which she once told me had been taken when she was about sixteen.

At this age, or shortly afterwards, she was in Lisbon, and once again she often gave me memories of this time. She had worked in three smart hotels in or around the Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon's central avenie, and had also lived nearby, sharing accommodation with her younger sister Augusta.

This was the most sophisticated and wordly-wise of the sisters, and she was in some ways a sympathetic person because of this, but she was very cold. She was later a settler in Mozambique and worked as a super-fast telephonist in the Hotel Polana, which was the best hotel in what was then Lourenco Marques, so her English was good. She was to be of much more help to me when the crisis of my mother's life came than the fat and ambiguous Eva, although I did not necessarily like her better. She died in early May 2007, just before she was due to give evidence in the court case where I was trying to win my mother's house back.

Anyway, back to the late 1940s, and the time when my mother and her sister Augusta were sharing a flat in the fashionable Rua Alexandre Herculano, just off the Avenida. Up until recently at least this building was still there, and I used quite often to stand outside it and look upwards with emotions that I did not quite know, because in many ways, although I loved her, I did not really know my mother and she gave me an edited version of what had happened in her life, to say the least.

But I think those were rather beautiful times for my mother in the late 1940s. She used to tell me how fashionable a city Lisbon had become in the post-war era. Many cruise liners called there and the regular Royal Mail boats still plied between England and Portugal. Many famous personalities stayed at the hotels where she worked as a chambermaid.

She recalled meeting General Omar Bradley and more particularly the great pianist Artur Rubinstein. She had a hairbrush which she said was his and which he had given her but it did not have his name on it. In later life she tried to get me to sell it for a large sum and could not understand that I could not prove it had once belonged to Artur Rubinstein. And at a certain point I lost the useless brush, which gave her sorrow.

But it was beautiful for her in those days to go in the warm evenings with Augusta to the Feira Popular, "the People's Fair", where the orchestra of Belo Marques used to play, and the young couples who might marry or might not danced until night fell and other pleasures supervened.

As they evidently did in the case of Augusta. My mother told me once, in that sudden, brutally frank way she sometimes had, that she had arranged an abortion for her younger sister during this period. I don't think Augusta ever quite forgave her. She tried to quite a considerable attempt to help her during her last illness, but with not a penny of money, although my mother's money was locked up, I had little, and Augusta was quite a wealthy woman. I cannot help remembering this aunt with endless dislike, although we often got on well when we were together.

But it seems the sexual activity was not all on Augusta's part. My aunt Eva said that my mother had become pregnant many times in her youth but it always ended in abortion. The woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon, who quite strongly dislikes Eva, said this was a lie, and it is true that Eva is a great liar. She is still alive, but I spend quite a lot of time hoping for her death. But even the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon seemed to imply that my mother had enjoyed relations with men, and a relation by marriage of ours in the country stated it in his brutal way.

My mother always said that her first experience of sex had been with her husband, Arthur Ernest Hills, and had been disappointing. I put this detail in a story I wrote about her which some people have admired and which was published in Quadrant, but which my aunt Augusta, who read it without much enjoyment, said was very simple. Perhaps the story is quite good as fiction, despite Aunt Augusta's opinion. I am sure now it holds only a certain truth my mother's life.

For what happened during those years I am dependent on what she told me, and some stories were so persistent that they must be substantially true. She used often to tell with great wistfulness of a young man she had loved, a talented pianist. I had at various times two separate versions of the same photo of him, sitting in profile at the piano, a moment at which he is not playing it. But I lost both these photos at different times and perhaps the image of the pianist is gone for ever.

I remember his face well and would know it if I ever saw it again. He was very much a Latin-lover type, handsome in his way, I suppose, although such looks do not appeal to me. I thought he looked evil.

My mother described the circumstances in which she knew him in quite some detail to me, so much so that I believe these details were written on her heart and cannot be false. She also said she had never had sex with him. That I do not believe.

She worked for his rich family, and particularly came to the attention of his aunt, who did not like her and broke up their romance. The aunt had an "atelier", a fashion shop for rich Lisboans, but the son was intended for the family's garage, which was in the Rua Rodrigues Sampaio, a street close to the central avenue but, because it was narrow and quite old, considerably more down-market. There were a number of garages in this street which had been established from early in the twentieth century.

My mother also told me that, twenty-five years after she had known him, on a solitary visit that she paid to Lisbon one summer, she rang him up at the garage, arranged to meet him at the cafe they had always used, the Smarta, in the Rua da Santa Marta, which is at right angles to the Rua Rodrigues Sampaio. She went for a drive with him in his car, but was shocked by how much he had changed, and repelled when he made her a physical proposal. when they stopped in the Monsanto Forest. They never saw each other again.

Now how much do I believe all these details? Well, I believe them to form a complex, composite story, almost all the details of which are individually true, but which concerns two different men.

I have worked this out by thinking about the story for many years. Now since the love for the pianist was the love of my mother's life, it was likely to be a first love. It would not naturally have come after the many relationship with men that my mother is alleged to have had. This would therefore most likely place it soon after my mother's arrival in Lisbon, and I know this to have taken place around 1939 or 1940., when she was sixteen or seventeen.

Now my mother was unvarying in her account that it was twenty-five years after she had known him that she rang the man up. When I was a child she was always with us, and between 1971 and 1973 she was involved in the complex divorce and maintenance proceedings against Arthur Ernest Hills, and during this period she also took up with the policeman Maurice. Her relationship with him ended, as far as I can remember, about a year after I went to Oxford in October 1973. And in the summers of 1974, 1975 and 1976 I hardly went home. It believe it is the second of these summers, the second one that I did not go home, and the first after Maurice left her. the summer of 1975,  that is the most likely date for my mother's attempt to satisfy her lifelong quest for romance by looking up the old amour.

This therefore places the date of the initial romance about 1950 or perhaps very early in 1951, which was the period when my mother was involved in her work at the series of hotels which I used to have documented in her work register. She could therefore not have been working in the private house of a family at this date. And since the hotels were almost all near the Avenida, this makes an encounter with a man who ran a garage in the Rua Rodrigues Sampaio very likely, because there is absolute physical proximity.

I am pretty sure that it was the second man who was involved with the garage. Would a delicate young pianist, impeccably romantic, be intended by his family for a garage? Would such a slim, slightly effeminate-looking romantic, many years later, make a gross physical proposal in the car he was proudly driving? And would a snobby aunt, who ran a fashionable coutourier establishment in the French style, want her nephew to be involved with the motor industry?

I also asked my aunt Eva, whom I did not tell about my theory that there might be two men involved, about exactly at what stage of my mother's career she had loved the pianist. She said it had been considerably before the period when she had worked at the series of hotels, which would place it well before 1946, when the record of those employments began. Once again, it might situate the relationship at about 1940, or even 1939.

There is another, slightly strange, clue. When I was writing the story about her, which is called "Meeting and Parting" (she wanted to be called Mirabelle in it, but I did not gratify this wish), I asked my mother for more details about her life and, especially, about this romance. She was rather reluctant to tell me much, but finally, almost in desperation, said that she used to meet the handsome pianist at a cafe called Affari.

This is of course an Italian name for a cafe, and would not be likely to serve as the name of a cafe in Portugal. At one point I went to the Lisbon City Archives to check where this cafe might have been. But it was clear from their exhaustive record of cafes that no such establishment had ever existed there.

This makes it possible that the romance took place entirely in Italy, before my mother arrived in Lisbon, in about 1940, perhaps when she was sixteen, the period of the elfin-like photograph, just before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Somehow the picture of a young pianist to swoon over being restrained by an aunt involved in high fashion seems to suit some Italian city more than it does Lisbon.

And I have reasons, which I shall come to shortly, to believe that my mother may have been in Italy in 1939. She was a Jewess. Mussolini had passed his anti-semitic legislation, under pressure from Mussolini, in 1938. She was now in hot water with a rich family whose beloved heir she wanted to capture for her own. And the Second World War was about to start. What more natural in the circumstances than a hasty escape from Italy, perhaps leaving the pianist behind for ever (because perhaps he was also a Jew?)

During the period I lived in Portugal, and had not worked out the details of my theory fully, I used often to visit the Rua Rodrigues Sampaio, hoping that the pianist might still be alive and that I might contact him. He would surely have been about ninety if still alive, but the chance existed.

There were only a few garages left in the street in those years, but there was one very large, rather empty and atmospheric one that something told me might be the place. I spoke many times to the morose but reasonably friendly current manager and he promised many times to contact a former owner who was very elderly but might just be still alive. But he never did this, however many times I tried to contact him.

During the long dealings with the extremely polite but quite immovable garage-managing Portuguese, I happened to find in my immensely stuffed house an old pocket diary of my mother's for 1972. It gave many imperfectly transcribed details of her contacts, and among them a Portuguese gentleman, an engineer, and therefore a person highly respected in Portuguese society (this is the usual title for anyone with a science degree), Carlos Alberto Pereira Barbosa. There was also an address, in quite a smart part of western Lisbon, but no phone number.

 I leaped to the conclusion that this might be the gentleman of the garage, and went round to the address, but it turned out to be lived in by an elderly woman and her highly suspicious middle-aged idiot son. So if the the second old amour had ever lived at this address, he was long gone. But now I know that it is much more likely to a slightly gross, if well-connected, Portuguese man whom she met after twenty-five years, and not the pianist, I am glad these researches drew a blank.

One further point about these two romances  My mother said she had become offended with the man she met after twenty-five years when he said, "You know, I always wondered what you would be like in bed, I always wondered that." I put this detail into the story. It follows from everything I have said that I do not believe this piece of dialogue to be accurate.

Perhaps he said something even more rude, about improving on their previous encounters, or correcting their inadequacies. And my aunt said that the long series of affairs which seem undoubtedly to have occurred ended in many abortions and the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon denies the abortions. It remains possible, therefore, that these two relationship resulted in two half-siblings of mine, of whose existence I may not be certain, the one born around 1940, the other in 1951.

Almost everyone knows, so perhaps I hardly need to say it, that in the old days, in the whole of Europe, when an unmarried girl fell pregnant, she was almost invariably sent away and the unborn child was either aborted or adopted soon after birth. But this was particularly the case in the Catholic countries of Southern Europe, where the Church maintained a rigid facade of absolute family correctness but the patterns of human love went on as they always have.

And, in Portugal, there was an elaborate system of strict chaperonage for girls of the upper class, but in very many cases the strict duenna proved surprisingly complicit when the gentleman was actually at the door, while the ordinary people seem to have bred like rabbits from a very early age. Almost no ordinary Portuguese knows for certain who their four grandparents were and very many don't know any of the four. There is a special word, "enjeitado", "thrown-out one", to describe children who had to be hastily adopted in circumstances of illicit love. I was to add this word to my Portuguese vocabulary in circumstances that I shall relate later in this blog post.

But at that mainly very happy and certainly most adventurous time that my mother worked at the smart hotels, she was to add another gentleman to her list of conquests (how beautiful she was, in her gamine-like way!), and this was certainly a gentleman of the upper class and a most academic one at that. He was called Vasco Botelho do Amaral, and his name will still mean to something to many elderly Portuguese, because he wrote many books about the wonders and intricacies of the Portuguese language which were most widely disseminated. My mother used to own one, and it eventually fell to me, but, I think that like so many of my possessions, which I lose with almost relentless carelessness although I love them so, it has gone the way that eventually we all must.

Anyway, in the period of the late 1940s and early 1950s, the name of Vasco Botelho do Amaral was one to conjure with in Portugal, and not only there, because this great professor almost had the honour of being asked to broadcast on matters Portuguese for the BBC in London. They probably didn't asked him very often, but he was a discreet opponent of the regime of Salazar, which would have done him good with the English, and did not particularly harm his record of publication in his own country.

My mother was his pupil. At about the age of twenty-four, she went to night school to learn to read and write, something no-one had ever thought of trying to teach her before. Vasco was her teacher. And he quickly saw that she was quite brilliant. After only a few lessons, whenever the learned professor asked the whole class what was the answer to some abstruse point of Portuguese grammar, it was always my Mum who put her hand up with an irresistible smile and an enchanting laugh to give the right answer.

Of course the reverend Vasco fell madly in love with her. He even wanted to marry her.

But she didn't like him in that way. He was an old man. She found his mannerisms funny. She said he smelt.

And so my mother passed up her chance to become a member of the Portuguese elite and the professorial class. Her fate was to be quite different, and I do not think it was happier than if she had settled for the elderly, kind and honourable (if slightly smelly) gentleman.

She went to England. The chronology and the circumstances of her arrival here are slightly mysterious. The official date of her arrival, to which she often referred with pride in my childhood, saying that she had arrived in the week of the Coronation, was May 29th 1953, on the ship Highland Princess, one of the Royal Mail boats which used to ply between Lisbon and Tilbury until Harold Wilson put a stop to them in the 1960s.

The woman called Isaura, who was to supplant her in my father's affections, was waiting for her at the quayside and arranged for her to arrive that night at the house in Bickley, south London where a job was waiting for her. My mother also met Leonor - who has turned up many times in these posts - on that day, presumably because she was already a great friend of Isaura.

Leonor also, in the many years before she became demented, often mentioned a woman called Carmen who had arrived on the same boat as my mother, but could tell me nothing about what had happened to her then and for many years she remained a mystery to me. But recently Brian Streeter mentioned that Carmen had a Spaniard, that some years after they arrived in England she borrowed money from my mother to return to Spain, but once there never returned the money. So I will not find Carmen, probably long dead anyway.

And my mother also mentioned to me at various points in my life that Vasco Botelho do Amaral had been so infatuated with her that he had taken her to London to see the BBC and witness for herself how much respected he was there. But this would presumably have been before the official arrival. And she also sometimes mentioned a period working in Jersey before arriving in England. She gave me no details of this period, but again it conflicts with the idea of a definite arrival direct from Lisbon. Again these aspects of Mum's life I will never know.

There seem also to be differences in the accounts of how easily an exit from Portugal could be arranged. My aunt Eva said once that it was a gentleman at the Hotel Victoria, where Mum was working, who indicated to her how a passage to England could be facilitated. Influence, money and corruption could bring about almost any outcome in Portugal then as now. And the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon, to whom I have also referred many times in my blog, said that it was extremely easy to emigrate in the 1950s, you only needed a job waiting for you in London, which was almost always with wealthy Jews.

But in theory, emigration was strictly forbidden, and Salazar had a secret police, the PIDE, to enforce this. My researcher in Portugal, Dr Teixeira, had the idea of checking whether there was a PIDE file on my mother, but none existed, nor any other official record of her having left Portugal. This led me to wonder at one point whether my mother, her sisters and the friend who lives in the centre of Lisbon could have been allowed to come by the regime as spies. And I once arranged to me a slightly mysterious person whom I have known for many years at Kings Place in London, and I mentioned this theory, and he surprised me greatly by saying that my mother might have been a spy for Israel. Well, she was a Jewess.

Be that as it may, my mother seems to have enjoyed herself in London. Quite soon she was joined by her sister Augusta. The two of them used to go around on the tubes on their days off and laugh at the people they saw. Those were perhaps the most carefree times of my mother' youth.

Yet, as so often, those times were brief. Within about a year my mother met my father. I have told the romantic story many times already in this blog, yet in a post devoted to my mother and myself, and our intimate histories, I must tell it again.

It was on the tubes. She must have been alone. I will tell the story as I imagine it may have been. She was running to get the train. She almost made it. But just as she was about to jump on, the steel doors slammed quickly shut and, before she was flung aside on to the platform, her finger had been injured.

A man arrived on the platform at that moment. He was in his thirties, already balding, not very tall, but he had a fine figure, and there was something about his face, some hint of cruelty or suffering, which made him fascinating. He spoke gentle words. He spoke English well, but with a slight German accent. He took the weeping woman in his arms.

I will never of course know what the station was where this took place, but for reasons of my own, which I shall reveal at a much later point in this blog, I believe it to have been Charing Cross.

Now they are walking away from the platform. He is going to take her to hospital. He insists on it. He will not listen to her protestations. She cannot make too many anyway. She is in too much pain.

If the station was Charing Cross, then Charing Cross Hospital was nearby in those days. People look at them in sympathy as they cross Trafalgar Square. At the hospital she is seen quickly. She is obviously in so much pain.

They give her painkillers, clean the wound, bind her finger expertly. He is by her side, the gallant gentleman who sprang to her aid, who is all concern now, just as in the past he was all brutality. But he cannot be more tender now.

She begins to take him in for the first time.  The transference which leads to attraction takes place. Her sad destiny is sealed. And my own life is foreshadowed.

From here on all proceeds with the inevitability that governs heterosexual relations. She has been treated and the natural time has come to part. He asks for her address and phone number. But she is frightened of her employer, who controls the only phone to which she has access, and does not want her to be involved with men. But she tells him enough to give more than a clue as to where she is living.

He goes through a long rigmarole and eventually is able to track her down. He pleads for another meeting? What can she do but accept?

How much to they tell each other on this first meeting of their courtship? That they are both Jews? Perhaps. But does he tell her he also served in the German army during the war, because of the Nazi his father was? I think, perhaps not. It would be too soon. Perhaps he tells her that he is a Pole. Because it is the identity of a Pole that he bears, not his real German identity. She would not have known the difference between a German and a Polish. And Portuguese girls in London tend to go out with Polish men.

No, I think he probably tells her that he is just a German Jew. The fact that he is passing as a Pole is a joke between them. He does not mention that his father was a top Nazi, now in Englishman in disguise, until the said father has been met. That presumably happened when the plans for marriage a were well afoot.

No, surely she meets the twin brother first. I know where that happened, because my mother and Arthur told me the story often when I was a child. It was at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand, once Sir Henry Irving's great theatre, now a more mundane theatre again where for many years they have shown The Lion King.

Let me picture the scene. It is a typical dance hall of the 1950s in the last years before rock and roll. It will be formal, then, the men will be in suits, the women in elegant dresses, and there will probably be a big band playing. My mother arrives with her sister Augusta. The two men are waiting for them. My mother and her sister remark on how similar the two men look, although that they do not say that the resemblance goes down to the balding pates that are ruining their beauty.

But my mother surely sees immediately that Arthur is less attractive. He is smaller, less well-built, and there is something both mean and emasculated-looking about him. He is dominated by suffering and its sister hate. He prides himself on being an Englishman, yet he is not quite one. He has no foreign accent, though.

And he does not really like foreigners. Yet he has no woman. He must make do with these. His manner towards them is a mixture of eagerness and reserve. It is immediately understood that Arthur shall dance with Augusta. In them the qualities of suspicion, distance and contempt are paired.

The dance passes as any dance of about 1954 must have done and they are with the other couples in the gracious atrium. What happens then? Do the brothers go off with each other and the sisters too? The twins who have been separated from birth and the sisters who do not have the same mother?

Let us say my mother walks away a little with her new amour. Surely she asks him why is twin brother appears to be an Englishman and he is a German or Pole? It is then that he reveals to her the full sadness of his story. His mother couldn't cope with twins and decided to keep only one of them. He was the choice to be sent away. Perhaps he was already slightly bigger, stronger and prettier. Perhaps he came first.

He lived with foster parents. He did not see his father again for many years, and even now he does not know his mother. And the family she herself lived in was a strange one, but it was united. The fact that he can never share her experience leads her to feel unbearable pity for him. The fact that she will married him is sealed, although she does not tell him this.

But it will not be as simple as just loving a man and getting married to him. There are deep complications in this family and dark secrets. She has not met his father yet. There is a sister too. And always the brother who is a bit dirty, very poor, and cannot attract women. That brother will want his due.

We are probably now at some point in July or August 1954. He proposes to her and she accepts. He is an engineer and earns a little more than his brother. She anticipates a future which will be with him and will be happy, a partnership that will be lifelong.

This is all total speculation now, my own reconstruction of how things might have happened. On one of her meetings with her new fiance, Maria is informed by her new fiance that she is invited to tea by his father. It is a great honour. The old man does not welcome strangers, but he wants to meets the young woman who will be his daughter-in-law. Arthur will also be present. It will be just the three men and herself.

She prepares with great care and her make-up is discreet. They are to go to a Kardomah, which are the luxury cafes of those days. Her lover meets her a little way away. Then they walk the short distance to where Arthur and the old man are waiting.

They are seated at a table just inside the entrance. Arthur looks sheepish and does not rise from his seat. But the old man, who is very fat, entirely bald and most formally dressed, so that he might be quite a lot younger than he looks, rises to her feet with old-fashioned courtesy, and surprises my mother by kissing her hand, with an murmured "gnaedige Frau" just passing his thin and twisted lips.

"An old friend of mine used always to greet a beautiful woman this way," says the old man in a strange high-pitched voice, with an accent she cannot quite place "But in your case there might have been a problem."

"What is the problem?" my mother asks.

"That you are a Jew," he says, with a frown just as quickly replacing his smile.

She flinches, and seeing her unease he goes on, "But that is not a problem now. You might even call it an asset, as it was before. These two sons of mine are both Jews, and I intend that it shall not do harm."

He hesitates a little, and looks really grim, but at a prompting from my father the old man says, "But please sit down. And would you like tea or coffee? And would you appreciate a plum cake?"

"I will have tea, please. Yes, and a plum cake."

"And what will you have, my son?"

"The same. We are going to be married."

My mother steals a look of gratitude at her lover for his support. The old man notes this. He knows they have this foreign woman in their net and that the first stage of his plan can be put into action. He snaps his fingers imperiously at the waitress, who resents him, but for some reason obeys his call.

When they are all served, and the waitress is well out of earshot, he outlines what he has in mind for my mother and his sons. Their status is different. Arthur and he are accredited Englishmen, but Michael has a problem with his identity. So there is a simple solution. His two sons are twins and could easily pass for each other. So my mother will officially marry Arthur but really Michael will be the groom.

Then Arthur speaks. If he is to be officially married to any woman, he says, that woman must be British. He will not tolerate being married to a foreigner. So my mother must give up her Portuguese identity before the ceremony takes place.

My mother is very shocked and even angry. She can hardly believe her ears. She will lose her nationality and, to boot, not even be officially married to her husband! But the three men are pressing. They look at her with their hard eyes, her lover's eyes suddenly as impenetrable as the other two.

Then he takes her arm. We will really be married, Maria, he says, we will be happy. But I am in danger. I am not naturalised. I am not the Pole I am supposed to be, I am German. I fought in the war. I am in danger.

And suddenly, with a laugh, she agrees to their strange plan.

And the ceremony of tea and cake proceeds to its conclusion, and the old man falls silent, the supposed Englishman with the German accent, the man who calls himself Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, the Nazi in English disguise. For he says nothing if there is no reason to say it.

But he says one more thing to my mother before he kisses her hand again in formal parting. "Remember, tell your employer that the name of your new husband is Arthur Ernest Hills. Tell the same to everyone else. It is my name as well and I will have it honoured. If you let the name Michael come out, there will be consequences."

And he waddles away because he is so fat, but no one would dream of laughing at him.

My mother bursts into tears, and Michael comforts her, and Arthur sits beside them with hatred in his heart.

Do the two brothers know about the second part of the old man's plan, the further shock he has scheduled for my mother, timed for soon after the false marriage? I think Arthur does and Michael doesn't. For the old man has all the experience in the world of the psychological manipulation of others. He knows exactly when to confront people with what they could stand or bear. My father is a man of honour, I believe He would not have agreed to the first part if he had not known about the second. Simple, the old man believes. Do not tell him about the second until the deed is done.

Only a few weeks pass until the marriage. My mother has been working for a wealthy Jewess, Mrs Hirsch, who lives near Hendon Quadrant, and living in her flat, and she has to tell her employer she is leaving. Mrs Hirsch is sorry she is leaving, but expresses cautious pleasure that Maria is getting married. She asks about the groom. He is called Arthur, my mother says, and he lives at Taviton Street, near Euston Station.

Mrs Hirsch is seriously alarmed. Never have anything to do with a man who lives near Euston Station, she tells my mother with a sharp indrawn sigh. I tell you that for your good Maria, it will not do anything for you to marry a man who lives near Euston Station.

And how many times during my childhood, when Arthur was dribbling at the mouth in his anger, did my mother recall to me the wise advice of Mrs Hirsch.

But this is when my father has gone and Arthur, the grim reaper, has taken her place. In the tapes that Arthur is to make for me many years later, he remarks, I seem to remember, about the small role that love has played in his life. And then he says that he married my mother, and love had little to do with it, but that is another story that he cannot tell me now.

And he meant never to tell it. But I have found it out, or quite a lot of it, you grim substitute for a father, whose grave I have visited twice but will never go to a third time.

You were not there on the day you were officially married. Did it hurt? You probably gave little sign of pain. But you had been hurt so much. You were punch drunk in your life. I have to remember that when I am tempted to be harsh when I think about you.

And, anyway, they told you how quiet it had been. There were only four people there, the bridge and groom, and the two witnesses. The old man was one witness, and a woman called Celeste Ferreira, who must have been Portuguese by her name, was another. No photos were taken. Hendon Register Office has seen few quieter and more strangely dolorous ceremonies.

And my mother must still have longed and hoped for happiness at this ceremony to which even her sister Augusta has been forbidden to come. Yet her real suffering is just about to begin.

She believed her groom would take her to a happy home. But he took her to a large house in Stockwell, 77, Jeffreys Road, a house kept by Poles and full of tenants. What particularly riled my mother was that he had taken her to live next door to a prostitute called Tina. She mentioned this often to me when I was young. When giving me such reminiscences she would often refer to "your father", and of course I always understood her to be talking about Arthur. But I now know that Arthur was still living at Taviton Street at this time.

I can picture that grim boarding house of the 1950s and the unhappiness that these two slightly ill-matched foreigners must have felt. Perhaps he didn't stay with her all the time. Perhaps he was already beginning the pursuit of other women that my Aunt Augusta once told me (ostensibly referring to Arthur) had always obsessed him. And where was Isaura at this time? Will that secretive and hostile old woman - still alive, I think, as I write now - ever tell me more of the secrets of those days?

But worse is to come than just routine unhappiness. He will reveal himself as a potential enemy. He will kill your love for him for ever.

The date is September 23rd 1954, twelve days after the false marriage. It is evening. They are together in the shabby room. Perhaps Tina is receiving a client next door. Perhaps my mother is ironing. Perhaps he is reading a paper/ Suddenly he tells her that his father and Arthur are coming round to see them. They will arrive in half an hour.

"Why are they coming?" she says, in sudden alarm.

"You'll see," she says briefly.

"Oh, Michael,  you frighten me sometimes."

"Well, be frightened. I have too much to hide. Now I'm reading the paper."

The two other men arrive. There are two many people now in the small room with the bare bulb. They are all small men, all balding or bald, suddenly she hates them.

They tell her they have come to fill in her naturalisation form. She goes back to feeling relieved. That must be why Arthur has to be here. He is her official husband.

Then the old man comes up to her, he stands too close and puts his hand upon her knee. She wants to shake him away but dare not do it. He points to the form which is so clean and shiny, the same form I have now, more than sixty years later, which is dirty and tattered beyond all belief. It has a number stamped on it very neatly in the top left-hand corner although all the rest of the form is blank. The number is 30638.

"That is your official naturalisation number," says the old man.

"But why do I already have it? I haven't applied yet."

"You will have to know more fully than you do," says the old man, "that things do not always come in what is considered the right order, nor are they always what they are supposed to be."

"No, they're usually just the opposite!" suddenly shouts Arthur, "Like the way I'm supposed to be married to this bitch!"

"Cut it out, brother," says her husband. "We have important business to deal with here."

Arthur looks at his elder brother with hatred, but a gesture from the old man brings him to heel.

The old man gives my mother an unpleasant smile and prepares himself for one of the perorations that he loves. "Now here is the example of these paradoxes that applies to you. Only twelve days you married, according to all the evidence, this rather unimpressive son of mine, who never had proper German training. He is to all intents and purposes an Englishman, and that would have given you the automatic right to become a British citizen, would it not?"

She looks at him and cannot bring herself to say anything.

"Would it not?" he suddenly shouts, and comes a little closer to her, and shakes his fist in her face.

"Yes, yes, it would," she says, shrinking from him.

"Don't go too hard on her, Mein Vater," says her husband.

"Very well," says the old man, puffing out his chest," I will put it quite plainly. You will find that, although you have all the automatic rights in the world, in fact you have none at all. All your rights, your very life itself, will depend on your loyalty to me, and to us, these my two sons, the one with the rights of an Englishman, which he is not, the other, and finer, with the rights of a Pole, which he is not. And all their rights also depend on me. I dispense all rights in the world that I command."

"Doesn't he talk fine?" says the grinning Arthur. "All the rhetoric he used to command at the Sportpalast."

"Arthur!", says the old man, giving the name its German pronounciation, "she knows nothing about all that. And it is best she shouldn't."

"What is all this?" the woman screams suddenly. "What are you doing to me? I am a married woman! I am with my husband! I just want to be with my husband!"

"Calm down, love," says my father, drawing close and enfolding her in an embrace."You will be with me. All this is necessary, I am afraid. I wish it wasn't. But it is." And then to his father, "Now just explain to her, without any more messing or bullying. Ordinary woman can't take all this."


     

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The beginning of the good years

Once again I am in the sumptuous and deliciously quiet public library in Tavira. The Portuguese sun is blazing down outside on an afternoon in the middle of October, and soon I shall make for the garden with a large milky coffee and perhaps a cake to think my thoughts in the fullness of my age.

The purgation of which I spoke last time, following my five years on the run, turned out to be another nineteen months in prison, and then three months in a grim hostel in Hackney. But the result of those two years at the mercy of the English state is that I still have my Portuguese house, and can enjoy the life here as I please.

For when I flew from Faro in the Algarve to Gatwick on 20th November 2014, I knew that I might well be arrested and was prepared for it. I had entered England twice before, but then I came by boat and gave no warning. I was slightly less secretive that second time than I had been the first.

And the third time I think I partly just wanted to test the water to see if I could go anywhere I liked without let or hindrance. Or perhaps I was growing careless. Or maybe I am a more calculating figure than the journalists who have written about me imagined, and finally reckoned that, with my money running out and the prices of houses in Portugal approaching an all-time low, it was time to face the music.

I had booked my plane ticket well in advance, told many people by phone and email the exact dates of my intended ten-day stay, and had even mentioned in this blog that I planned a further brief visit to England. I was a little perturbed, to be sure, when there was an unexplained delay in boarding at Faro. And when in the row next to me on the plane there were two people sitting who were rather obviously plain clothes police I almost knew my number was up. Then, when we landed at Gatwick, as two more policemen came on to the plane to make me stand up while the other passengers were told to sit down and told me to take off my belt and took me away in handcuffs I put a slight smirk on my face. I didn't intend to give them the satisfaction of thinking I was surprised or sorry. And, I´ll say this for them, they were the model of politeness.

I was taken to the police station in Crawley, the town where I grew up, and, although the bench was hard, I slept well that night, and during the day and the following morning I particularly enjoyed leafing through one of the books they had on an old dusty shelf. This was B-Berry and I Look Back by Dornford Yates, a tattered but still handsome old hardback, a good companion, genial lawyerly reminiscences of the ways of British justice, when a fair cop was penance indeed.

But I live in softer times, and was happy to arrive on the afternoon of 21st November at HMP Lewes, and for my first night was blissfully alone in the cell with a comfortable bed. The next day they put me in to share with a charming and mildly sinister Roman Catholic stalker who loved to say his rosary and play the guitar. We were together for seven weeks, and got on surprisingly well. It seemed like a wonderful augury that, contrary to what I had always believed, I was capable of sharing with someone else at close quarters for a reasonable time. It meant I would be capable of a love affair. And I shall long remember the dreamy view from our top floor window over the valley of the Ouse and the South Downs towards Newhaven, where for five days over Christmas the incinerator smoked with fire.

Unfortunately, in the New Year I had a blazing row with the Principal Officer over prisoners' rights to attend Sunday service, and was quickly transferred to HMP Rochester, which had been the first Borstal institution (the prison is high on a hill above Rochester, and the Kentish village of Borstal, after which all such institutions were named, lies just below it).

Anyway, I was soon getting on well with the very English officers on D-wing at Rochester, who were like a faint modern reminiscence of what the original Borstal screws must once have been. And my fantasies about the place were well served by the two silver birch trees, stiff and bare in winter, outside the wing entrance.

I spent almost a year in this lakadaisical and no-nonsense prison, and although the Romany inmates quite often whipped out their impressive penises to show me, and occasionally pulled down my own trousers, and I spent most nights in my single cell hazy from passive smoking of ganga in the showers after a group of Afro-Caribbean prisoners used to burst in towards bang-up and smoke very close to where I was showering, I flatter myself that I retained the rough respect of most people with whom I had to deal.

At Rochester, however, I managed to gain the enmity of the head of OMU (Offender Management Unit), and when I was successful in gaining a parole hearing, this quickly led to my being transferred to HMP Brixton, as a punishment I think (the official reason was that it would facilitate local release).

 Almost immediately I arrived at Brixton, all my private papers were confiscated by the senior officer on the wing, a fierce female Nigerian. And for the final six months of my time I was locked in battle royal with this figure and her chief acolyte, an ambitious young white female officer. But I was successful in retaining my top-landing single room, and after four months was able to win back my papers, and also kept my job in the library for four months, so the honours were even.

I was endlessly adjudicated at the behest of the pair, but the governors who heard my case, who were all white, secretly sympathised with me and simply adjourned proceedings or gave me only the lightest of punishments. The wing was chaotic, but watching a group of 24 black men fighting in a huge melee on my landing had its more brutal attractions. And latterly I was successful in winning the friendship of a young, handsome and devout Irishman, a fine fighter. This added a humane note to the final days of my sentence.

I was released on 24th June 2016, having done almost the whole of my five years behind bars. The prison social workers assigned to my resettlement, who were all black, had declined to do anything for me, but once again I had my own plans well laid, and had won the support of the head honcho female psychiatrist, who was willing to certify that I was a danger to society.

So, upon release, after four most agreeable nights in a cheap Indian hotel in Walthamstow, and one deeply happy one spent at a refuge near Hornsey Rise where I had lived as a baby, I found myself as a homeless person in priority need at the grim hostel in Hackney that I have mentioned. But even before my arrival there I had the date in mind - September 30th 2016 - when I intended to leave England once again. And I was going to leave via the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry, which we had often used when I was a child.

So I had three months to enjoy the city of my birth, the greatest city in the world some say, and certainly now the most cosmopolitan of all. And because for the first time I was living in East London, I wandered most around that saddest of all the great tracts of the city. But of course, I did a lot of the north, west, and south as well. However, I went only a little to south-east London which long ago had been the scene of my most elaborate explorations. That lay in a past I did not wish to recall.

And, yes, it was beautiful to enjoy an Eton Mess and a glass of rosé wine for a bargain price on a hot afternoon in the garden of a gastro-pub in Snaresbrook; or to discourse with a learned Anglican lady on the Gospel of St John as we walked from the church of St Peter in-the-Forest towards the enveloping woods; or to approach the Olympic Park in Stratford on the top of a 388 bus, and in the huge, dusty field watch a mass of black children play football under the tutelage of one white bald instructor, and then to go on past the black bulk of the Copper Box Arena until we hit the brick white wall of the avenue. And there is no progressing further, I knew, for beyond is the valley of the transport and the phantasmagorical towers.

And how phantasmagorical I myself felt as I went round London on the tube and the buses, the Overground and the DLR, and around me one group of people - the confident and professional young, for the most part of English birth - were fiddling endlessly with their hand-held devices or sequestered within their headphones, and the other group - the vast mass of foreigners - jabbered away in their myriad tongues on the tops of the buses and often could not understand the simplest question I put to them. I belonged to a third group, the people who had once been Londoners, in whom members of the first two groups had not the slightest interest.

And as I worked out with greater and greater precision the best possible methods of getting from Stepney to Shoreditch, from Beckton to Bow,  I thought that the more closely linked became the transport routes, the further and further people were from each other in their hearts.

But did I care? In a way I did, because my mind gnawed endlessly at the alien scene, which seemed to hurt me at some core of my being, although I did not quite understand why. But in a way I did understand. I was a European, heir to the culture of Europe, and in the second place an Englishman, although not by blood.

Yet, if it was the culture of Europe that I cared for, I had to acknowledge that Europeans had long lost their instinct for creating things of beauty. All they created now was ugliness, pretension and confusion. Should one really get sentimental about the decadent fag-end of a culture? Was perhaps not something totally new being created out of the ruins of the various European peoples?

And, then again, when the huge influx of migrants across the Mediterranean began in the spring of 2015, I was at Rochester, and I used to run naked and sweating around my cell shouting at the television screen: don't rescue these people, you fools, let the boats sink if they come from Africa, or, if they come across the narrow waters of the Aegean, just  shoot to kill on them!

I felt like the Princess Cassandra in her tower as Trojan Horse after Trojan Horse was brought into the city. But were not my reactions hysterical, inhumane and pointless? Was I not myself in a way an international migrant being cared for by these humanitarian Europeans? And if these hopelessly kindly folk were to behave as ruthlessly as the Nazis had once done, would they not have forfeited all claims to boast a civilisation worth defending? And if a political system is weak enough just to allow itself to be endlessly invaded by all and sundry, is there anything that can be done for it anyway?

Let's be sensible about it, I finally told myself, and have an eye to the main chance. The migrants are coming mainly through Italy and Greece, and they do not at present hit Portugal and Spain. Your house is in Portugal. Say social breakdown finally hits Europe in the summer of 2017, the third year of the migration, and is mainly concentrated in Italy and Greece, with Germany and France suffering into the bargain, but Britain and the Iberian Peninsula largely exempt. Might that not be exactly the time to sell your house for a good profit to Northern Europeans (or southern Europeans, for that matter) seeking a safe haven?

Be rational, Charlie, look at yourself, you are an elderly gay man and have no children, you are a person of the most varied origins and have no nationality, you are a total scamp and care little for anyone. If you yourself survive reasonably intact through the few years that are left, should you not be happy?

And, in the summer of 2016, anyway,  the indications were that the migrant problem was dealt with and contained, that everything would sort itself out in its usual muddled way, that old Europe was canny and powerful enough not fundamentally to be disturbed. And so through humour and disquiet, through delight and discontent, that summer was passed, and in the endless journeys that took me to every corner of London and the Home Counties, and to the furthest borders of England, in the relentless and mainly futile researches into the origins of my family, which in recent years have come to obsess me almost to the exclusion of all else.

Gradually, through several long and complex posts of this blog, I have been revealing what I know of the origins of both my mother and my father, but my knowledge is far from complete, and it may be that the reader is puzzled and sceptical about what I have told him or her, and also confused about the details. So I will just try to summarise now what I have said on these matters, confining myself in this post to the origins of my father, and also to add quite a number of further details which for various reasons did not seem to fit in before. Where I have already given full documentary accounts of certain points I will not repeat them, and the reader will understand that there are certain matters, and certain interviews that I conducted, which I shall not elaborate on at this time. Because of the mystery surrounding my father and paternal grandparents this will be the longest of all my posts (unless the following one, about the background of my mother, surpasses it) and it is likely to be written over many installments into the new year of 2017.

The reader may remember that my search for the truth about my relations began when - a little before Christmas 2002, and a few months after the death of my mother - I visited an elderly female friend of hers who lives in the centre of Lisbon and this person told me that my paternal grandfather had been of Polish origin, a fact revealed to her by my mother at around the time of my birth in 1955. This was so, even though my real grandfather had not been a different person to the paternal grandfather I had known in childhood.

This paternal grandfather had the ostensible identity of an Englishman, Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, born in Dover on 1st June 1896. Arthur Ernest Hills Senior was the acknowledged father of the man who had brought me up and whom I had always believed to be my real father, Arthur Ernest Hills Junior. His birth certificate showed him as having been born at Sheerness, Kent, on 6th January 1926, the son of Mary Brown, shown on her birth certificate as having been born in Edinburgh in 1899. This Kentish and Scottish ancestry was always confirmed in my childhood by Arthur Ernest Hills Junior as representing his true origins.

During the years that immediately followed the revelation from the woman living in the centre of Lisbon, the story she had told was confirmed by two other old women. One of these was my mother's sister, my one surviving aunt, Eva, an exceptionally taciturn although very talkative person, a devout Jehovah's Witness, who also lives in Lisbon, a little out of the centre.

She has known the first old woman for about sixty years, but they are estranged on religious grounds (the first old woman is a devout Catholic), and talk only on the telephone and that rarely. My aunt would say nothing more than confirm that my mother had also told her this story and that she believed it to be true. Eva has consistently resisted my attempts to find out more about the circumstances of my birth, although she has occasionally let some things drop either by accident or design during the many conversations during which I have tried to draw her out on the subject of my father and grandfather.

The third old woman, a very old friend of my mother's, lives in north London and has had no contact with the other two for many years. My aunt even denied knowing her, although she herself said this was a lie.

Like the other two she was part of the extended network surrounding my mother at the time of my conception and birth, which consisted largely of youngish Portuguese women who had come to live and work in England and their often Polish boyfriends and eventual husbands. Perhaps because of her long English residence, this third old woman is a more open and unguarded character than the others, and I find her more sympathetic, although she too can be sharp and very reticent at times.

As I have previously related, she was initially reluctant to tell me that my mother had told her the story about my Polish grandfather, but at a later point she confirmed it, and added the detail that she thought my paternal grandfather might have been either a Pole or a German.

This more sympathetic and therefore more accurate witness, although still alive, as far as I know, and in her early nineties, is now in a state of advanced vascular dementia and could suffer no relevant consequences from being named in this blog and would be incapable of answering any further questions about its subject matter. I will therefore reveal her identity, which I have been unwilling to do before. She is Leonor da Silva Mills and she lives in Winchmore Hill, North London.

For many years, during which she was in exceptionally good health for a woman of her age and I was still living largely in London, I used to visit her and used to ask about the background of my mother and father. At a certain point she mentioned to me a man whom she knew only by his surname, Hupfleit. He was, she said, an elderly Pole, although his name made him sound more like a German.

He was exceptionally silent, she said, but had known my mother well. After living for many years in England, he had gone with his wife Isaura, who was a close friend of Leonor's, to live in Portugal. As it happened, the name of this Isaura was familiar to me, because my mother had often mentioned her during my childhood. When my mother had arrived from Portugal on the boat Highland Princess on May 29th 1953 it had been Isaura who had been waiting for her at Tilbury to show her where she needed to go to find her new employment in Bickley, South London.

But Isaura and my mother were not friends. I gained the impression that there was something unpleasant about her. My mother had never mentioned the man called Hupfleit who was her husband.

During the years after the initial revelations of the old women, I was preoccupied with the fact that my mother had left her house to the man called Flávio Rosa and with my plans to get him murdered, so I did not really try to follow up the strange story. I had been almost entirely out of touch with Arthur Ernest Hills Junior for almost twenty years, so it was not easily possible to ask him whether there was any truth to his father being a Pole

But during the spring of 2004 I became increasingly obsessed with the matter, and I can remember one very long and despairing walk around a far district of West London when I determined to write to him. This must have been before Leonor told me that his father might have been German rather than Polish, because I only wrote to ask him whether his father had been a Pole and did not mention any possible German connection. He wrote back very briefly to say that the idea that his father had been Polish was nonsense, and very shortly afterwards he died.

In the spring and summer of 2005 I made my most ambitious journey yet, a three month tour of the Far East and Australia, I had now been in all five continents, and on my return I entered a phase of increasing depression and withdrawal about what seemed the impasse of my life. On a second visit to north-eastern Brazil that summer I went to bed almost every evening at six. In December of that year I paid a highly disturbing visit to Altura, the site of my occupied house. On the day that I was due to fly back to London from this visit, Christmas Eve 2005, sitting in a café in the regional Algarvian capital of Faro, I suddenly began to have a series of extremely vivid memories of my childhood which had previously been blocked.

These memories were scenes of my mother and Arthur Ernest Hills engaged in international smuggling across the Channel when I was with them as a child on our continental holidays. I particularly remembered my mother hissing at me, "Whatever you do, remember, don't look at the customers!" That was her way of referring to British the customs officers. Then we marched on, with whatever was in my mother's and Arthur's luggage.

On the same day as I remembered their smuggling, during and after the flight back to England, my impressions broadened out into the idea that my mother had originally been of an Italian Jewish background, that on my father's side the background had been connected with the Nazis, and that a network of criminal intrigue had surrounded me from my birth.

Once back in England, my beliefs quickly became more alarming and sensational still, and I intend to describe this whole period of my life in much more detail in a later post. Suffice it to say here that I was quickly diagnosed by the authorities as being in the grip of a psychotic episode, but at least one psychiatrist later doubted whether this had been the case, and I myself do not now think that many of the beliefs I held then were entirely untrue. Therefore, while highly disturbed, I was not psychotic at that time.

During this period I visited Leonor again, the subject of Hupfleit and Isaura came up, and I believe it was on that occasion that she gave me their phone number in Portugal and encouraged me to ring them up for information about my parents. I seem to remember her saying that she was doubtful whether Isaura would receive me and that it was highly unlikely, being such a reserved man, that Hupfleit himself would answer the phone.

A week or so after this visit, during a late winter afternoon when I was alone in my flat, I put through the call to Portugal. As Leonor had predicted, it was Isaura who answered and, when she knew I was the son of Maria José dos Reis, she became extremely angry that I had called and said that she wondered how I had dared to do it. And very quickly she put the phone down on me. I was shocked and hurt by the violence of her reaction and for some years gave up the idea of contacting this couple.

Anyway, I was fully persuaded quite soon after this by the authorities and my friends, particularly the one called Mark Casserley, that I really had had a psychotic episode, and this new series of beliefs quickly led me into extreme depression, which my friends, including the said Mark Casserley, did little to alleviate. On 21st July 2006 I attempted to commit suicide, an episode described in a previous post. Recovery from my suicide attempt was to be followed in the late summer and autumn of that year by the resumption of my active plans to murder Flávio and  my arrest on 18th December 2006, which was the beginning of two-and-a-half years in jail.

 I could of course do no direct research concerning my family while in prison, but a subtle change came over my attitude to what was possible and likely concerning my ancestry. I gained a new self confidence from having negotiated the prison experience, which is never again likely to leave me. A process of self-conscious alienation from my four chief friends began, which has continued with ever-growing momentum in the years since then (although I remain friendly with Bill Hicks).

I began to see in jail how often and how widely the truth about human beings differs from the official version that is propagated about them. I lost all respect for authority. And I gained a feeling of comradeship with the rough, compromised and instinctive people with whom I was now surrounded, and who were not as sceptical about my strange account of my own family history as were my liberal acquaintances.

So when I emerged on 19th June 2009, this time with a secret plan to leave England again after three or four months, and perhaps not return, it was in a mood of openness and experiment towards my family research. To be sure, I did not initially do much of it. I wanted to enjoy myself in the brief time that was left to me in England. And I still needed to think about these matters.

As far as I then knew, Arthur Ernest Hills was my father, and it must therefore have been his father who had been the German or Pole. Since this grandfather, if he really was German or Polish, had been exceptionally well concealed as an Englishman, the whole thing would have required money, collaboration and ingenuity, which in turn would have required a good motive for the deception. And this must surely have been a background in past wrongdoing. And that in turn made it seem likely that he had been a German rather than a Pole. Perhaps he had even been an important Nazi in his time.

But was this melodramatic scenario possible, given the well-attested English and Scottish ancestry of Arthur Ernest Hills Junior? Yes, it was, because an atmosphere of mystery surrounded him, and particularly his first seven years, which would have taken him to about the time of the Nazi takeover. His peculiar background made it seem possible that he really had a foreign origin, and that he, and not some mysterious other German or Pole, had been my real father.

He was a man effectively without family. He sometimes told a sad story of his childhood. When he was seven years old, he said, which would have been around 1932, his family had been broken up by the Poor Law, he said. He had chosen to go with his mother, his elder sister Helen went with her father, and two very small children, Dennis and Sonia, had been simply given away and never heard of again. He sometimes spoke with sadness of the beautiful fair hair of his little sister Sonia. He had no memories of Dennis, who had been given away when he was too small to be remembered.

After the family break-up, his mother had taken up with a man called Percy Martin, with whom she had another son called Alan, and the family had lived a life of poverty, mainly on the western outskirts of London, constantly having to do "moonlit flits" to avoid paying the rent on the various houses they briefly occupied.

At school Arthur had been clever, but the other boys called him "Rat's Tails", Percy Martin had bullied him, he in turn had taken it out on Alan, and there was no money for him to attend further education. Then the Second World War had come, and he found a time of brief happiness and comradeship in the Home Guard. The sense of national unity engendered by the events of 1940 had also deeply moved him, abd Shakespeare and Churchill were his lifelong heroes for personal greatness and literary style. But at some point early during the war - according to his own account, on one occasion that I remember, when he was fourteen years old - he had a flaming row with his mother, and after that point he never saw her again.

After the war, he struggled to find a job he could settle in, but was eventually able to start training as an accountant, meanwhile subsisting as a clerk. At some point he ran into his father again, on the top of a London bus. My grandfather was with his second wife Winnie, whom he had married bigamously, according to Arthur's account, and the older pair were sitting either in front of or behind Arthur, and Winnie suddenly recognised him and said, "Oh, look, it's Arthur!" And after that, he was in intermittent contact with his father, but relations between them were never good.

In the mid-1950s, he met and married my mother, who was from Portugal. They had first met at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand, where my mother was attending a dance with her sister Augusta. The two young women had both recently arrived from their native country and were working as domestic help with rich Jewish families in London.

Accounts of their courtship varied between my father desperately searching for my mother on the one hand and Arthur not being that much interested on the other, but they were married, it seemed, at the register office in Hendon on September 11th 1954. Then there were more vague references to a later church wedding near the house where they lived, at 19, Hornsey Rise, N19, the house of an Italian family called the Maccariellos.

They had moved to this house after the Poles who kept the house in Stockwell - 77, Jeffreys Road, London SW4 -, to which Arthur took my mother after the register office wedding, threw them out on discovering my mother was pregnant. According to suggestions contained in one account, there had been another address between these two.When I was nine or ten months old, we moved down to Crawley in Sussex, and in that small yellow terraced house - 104, Brighton Road, Southgate - their marriage degenerated into open warfare between the inadequate, hysterical, fiercely nationalistic and racist man and the passionate, dominating , fiercely loving foreign woman. The one I hated, the other I adored. I became a homosexual, I became a masochist, I became a writer.

I remember one incident from my childhood, when I was perhaps eight or nine years old and when we were driving home to Crawley from Leonor's house, which was then in Wood Green, North London. Suddenly my mother pointed down a road that led more or less towards Highgate, and said, "I was married just up that road."

And I was startled, and asked them both, because Arthur was present, "Why didn't you say, we were married just down that road?" And then they became embarrassed and I think Arthur said, "Oh, it was just a slip of the tongue. Of course, your mother meant to say, we were married just up that road."

I also remember a vague story that my mother told me once or twice that she had met my father when she had been on a tube train, she had got her finger stuck in the door and been in great pain, and my father, who was a total stranger, had come gallantly to her aid, taken her to the hospital, and then gone through huge efforts to contact her again because he so much wanted to marry her. This romantic story was never as much emphasised as the one about the Lyceum Ballroom, and I never remember hearing Arthur refer to it.

And, in the way that children have of simply accepting the facts presented to them, it never occurred to me that this story was not compatible with that of my parents having met at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand. Nor did I reflect that the story of the gallant gentleman did not sound like the snivelling figure of Arthur, who obviously did not love my mother very much. And nor did I notice that the man shown in a large number of photographs marrying my mother did not look exactly like Arthur either, although there was a resemblance.

At the terraced house in Crawley where my unhappy childhood was passed, Arthur Ernest Hills Senior sometimes visited us. He used to come down from London on the 727 Green Line bus and Arthur Ernest Hills Junior once told me that he lived near South Ealing Tube. Many years later, when I examined his death certificate, I discovered that his address had been 9, Edinburgh Road, W7, which is actually in South Hanwell, near Boston Manor Tube, and not in fact very near South Ealing. There is a reason why I give this seemingly insignificant fact, to which I shall return later.

When he visited us, Arthur Senior was not usually accompanied by his wife Winnie, and there may have been a reason for this. During one of his visits to us Arthur Senior tried to kiss my mother on the mouth. She had disliked him before this, and from that time onwards she hated him, and he was more or less banned from our house.

Since this incident probably took place when I was probably only about eight or nine years of age, and I never saw him again, I have no specific memories of my paternal grandfather, the Nazi in English disguise. except that a certain atmosphere of fear and loathing attended his visits. The very English Winnie, whom I met once or twice, was a nicer person.

The man known as Arthur Ernest Hills Senior died at the King Edward General Hospital, Ealing, near his recorded home at 9, Edinburgh Road, W7, of congestive cardiac failure and chronic bronchitis, on 16th February 1968. I think a telegram arrived at our house in Crawley. I remember that my mother, Arthur and myself were standing in the hall, and I remember Arthur saying, "Thank God the old bastard's dead!"

That was a decisive year for him, and one that stands out in a rather sinister light in my own memory. The death of his father in some way released him to begin searching for the mother he had lost contact with so many years before. This quickly became an obsessional search, which in some ways parallels my search for the truth about my own parents. In every place we went to he would ask if anyone had heard of a Mrs Hills. For some reason, he knew for certain that she would be calling herself that, although her connection with Arthur Ernest Hills Senior had ended more than thirty years before and, as I was later to find out, she was about to marry Percy Martin.

Quite soon after the death of Arthur Senior I remember meeting Arthur Junior's elder sister Helen for the first and last time. They had never got on from earliest childhood, but some piece of important family business necessitated that they should meet. Helen was with her husband or partner and my memories of meeting them are that we were driving them in a car through the further suburbs of West London at night until we dropped them at  a certain tube station, whose stark modernist outline and looming tower I seem to remember. I have a vague feeling that this station might have been Park Royal, because I seem to remember questioning Arthur about the grand name, but it could of course have been Hangar Lane or Alperton or any other of the stations on the Central and Piccadilly lines in that vast and anonymous landscape where both my grandmother and my grandfather lived.

For some reason I believe that we were driving in towards London rather than out of it, although this of course may be a false memory. I vaguely remember that there were attempts at a pleasant parting, although Arthur and Helen knew they would never see each other again. And I also believe that Helen had told Arthur that she knew nothing about the possible whereabouts of the woman who was presumably also her own mother. I think she was lying if she said this.

At some time after that, also in search of information about Arthur's mother, we visited a woman who lived in Gillingham, Kent, who, according to her birth certificate, was  my great-aunt and the sister of Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, usually known simply as Connie, and with the full name of Constance Gladys Wyatt.

(I will just record briefly here that many years later, I visited Connie's grand-daughter Susan Lakeman and her husband Michael, in nearby Chatham, and Susan said that neither her own mother Joyce nor Connie, whom she had known well, had ever mentioned a brother of Connie's called Arthur, and that she herself was of the opinion that such a person had never existed.)

(And another strange fact. The next-door neighbours in South Hanwell had moved into their house in March 1968, which was one month after Arthur Senior died, and they had known his widow Winnie very well, but she had never once mentioned her late husband to them, according to their own account, and they had been unaware of the existence of such a person.

And a third strange fact, that appears from the electoral rolls. 9, Edinburgh Road had historically been the home of Winnie and her first husband George F. Chaplain, and their names appear on the 1950 roll. Then for a year some people called Wyatt, which is a family name of my relations in Chatham, moved in, and then from 1952, although they had been married in 1950, very soon therefore after the death of George Chaplain, my grandfather and Winifred Hills are recorded. But in the 1952 and 1953 rolls he is listed as Arthur Hill, and only after that by the name he had assumed, Arthur Hills. It is perhaps an understandable mistake, but it suggests at least my grandfather's possible unfamiliarity with his new name.)

But, anyway, Connie certainly knew who Arthur Junior was, and made no mistake about his name, and received him, my mother and myself at her house. I remember very little of the conversation, or of Connie herself. But I remember that, although Connie did not know anything of the whereabouts of his mother, she was able to put him in touch with a couple who lived in Edinburgh whom she believed might have this information.

Accordingly, at some point towards the middle of 1968, I went alone with Arthur by car to Edinburgh for several days and I believe we probably stayed with the couple there. My memories of this visit are very fragmentary, and I have no idea who exactly these people were, although I have the clear impression that they were not relations of ours. Their welcome was very friendly, I remember.

There was one odd thing about them. They lived in a suburb of Edinburgh called Restalrig, and I can remember them making a point of telling me that the name of the place was pronounced with the stress on the second syllable. But in fact it is always pronounced with the stress on the first syllable. To pronounce it with the stress on the second syllable is the way that Germans would naturally pronounce it, and I also remember myself, in great surprise at their strange accents, taxing them with my belief that, although they were ostensibly Scottish, the way they spoke, and particularly the way they pronounced the letter "r", demonstrated that they were foreigners.

And they denied this, and the man of the couple, who was a jokey and avuncular type, I remember, took me on an excursion, I think to Arthur's Seat, and proved to me that his "r" was typically Scottish by quoting the ditty, "Round and round the radical rock, the radical rascal ran."

Anyway, whether or not this couple were in facts Germans, and whether my whole paternal family were, they knew the address of my grandmother and communicated it to Arthur. He told me at some point that this address was in Acton, West London, and at once again I ask the reader to remember, for future reference, that he had told me his father lived near South Ealing Tube when it was in fact near Boston Manor Tube.

I now come to the most painful of all my memories of that year of 1968. Arthur, my mother and myself set out, bearing flowers and other gifts, to the place in West London where my grandmother was living with Percy Martin, although not yet married to him (that came in 1969). My memories, which of course are perfectly capable of being false, are that she lived on the second and top floor of an old Victorian house. Arthur and I went up to her door, carrying the flowers and other gifts, while my mother stayed outside in the car. I remember that we knew for certain that she was in, although how we knew this I do not know. But she did not open the door to us. For many years I believed, which must be a false memory, that we had seen her eye looking at us through the spyhole. This memory is perhaps the most traumatic of my childhood.

Soon after this Arthur began a mad process of going out dancing to meet other women and after a while met a married woman with children called Kathleen Berg, and she became pregnant with his twins, Christopher and Rosemary Hills. She agreed to bear the twins on the condition that it would be he who looked after them as a single parent, and shortly after their birth, in January 1972,  she went back to her husband and her two sons by him and quite shortly thereafter she died.

Arthur left our house without a word in October 1971, in order to prepare a home in Pulborough in Sussex - where he worked as the company secretary of a firm called APV Spiro Gills - for the children who were soon to be born. He left on the very day that I began at a new school, and after a long period when I had hardly been speaking to him and my mother not at all.

When his children were still young, after Kathleen had died, and after my own relations with him had ceased, Arthur married a Pulborough woman called Rosie Rhoder, who had her own four children by a previous marriage. By all accounts, this was the one relationship in which he finally found happiness. When he died in 2004, he destroyed all his personal records, and left almost all his considerable property to his second wife, a small sum to each of the twins, and nothing at all to me.

I attended his funeral, and for two hours after the wake walked on the Pulborough Levels. I remember those hours as among the happiest of my whole life.

Now back to the summer of 2009, after my first release from prison and about five years after Arthur's death. Shortly before our relations ceased in the early 1980s, he had made a couple of tapes for me about his early life, dealing in rather harrowing terms with such events as the time his mother had spent the last money she possessed on buying a bag of chips for him, or one time when they had been walking together across a seemingly endless plain at Sheerness and he had become desperately tired and hungry. All these memories, of course, dated from after the break-up of his parents, which would place them in the mid-to-late 1930s.

Rather desultorily, alone in my flat that summer of 2009, I listened to those tapes again. He said in them that he had no memories at all of his first seven years, and began with an account of the journey he had made at the age of seven alone by bus from Victoria Coach Station to Edinburgh to stay with relations there just before the time of his family break-up. He challenged me to work out the date of this coach journey, which he apparently quite enjoyed, by relating it to the date of a certain football match. He seemed absolutely confident that I would not be able to solve this puzzle.

Well, yes, I never have solved it, but, anyway, it would have been about 1932, when it might have been expedient to send children with Jewish blood and Nazi fathers to England. Arthur's voice on the tapes showed that he had a definite, slightly whining London accent without any trace of foreign intonation. But I had heard somewhere that children lost their original language entirely if they came to another country before the age of eight. So, all in all, if I forgot the story about the tube train, which I often did, the hypothesis that Arthur really was my father fitted in every detail.

I want to insert at this point a strange memory that dates from 2014, from one of my two clandestine visits to England. I became increasingly friendly during these visits with a gay writer whom I had know slightly for many years. He lives in north London, and has a somewhat younger and more attractive partner, with whom my relations are less friendly. This partner works as an archivist.

The archivist undertook to help me with my family research without charge and I was initially delighted by my new friendship with this couple, who gave me a lot of presents during a particularly happyinitial  visit to their flat, on 5th January 2014. However, from the time of this visit, and annoyingly, they tried far too hard to press a mobile phone on me, and over a long period would not take no for an answer. My liking for them soon cooled, but I continued to accept their help in many areas and am still on friendly terms with the writer.

The archivist was able to unearth quite a lot of material for me, mainly on quite peripheral matters, through his expert knowledge of sources. But I soon gained the impression that he was not really trying to help me but rather to cast doubt on the discoveries I was making. The pair had offered me their friendship at a date almost immediately after I had discovered that my mother had never legally been a British citizen but had been using the identity of a woman born in Berlin in 1919. I therefore think it is possible that this couple had been commissioned to befriend me in order deliberately to mislead me about my family history.

One evening we were in the flat the couple share. The writer had gone out, and the archivist and I had been drinking quite heavily. He suddenly told me of a case he had heard of where a group of Nazis had murdered an entire British family and assumed their identities, and I also believe it was on the same occasion - a moment of intimacy between two people who disliked and distrusted each other - that he warned me that, if I got too close to the truth about my grandfather, someone might try to kill me.

I was too drunk and wild at the time to question him much about either of these extraordinary statements, but on a later occasion I returned to the first one, and asked him where he had heard this story. He said that he had no memory of where he had heard it, and this seemed extraordinary and quite incredible in an archivist. He was obviously lying. But I did not follow the matter up on that occasion.

Certainly, however, if a group of Nazis had achieved such a thing, they must have had the co-operation of people at a high level in the British establishment, so they themselves would have been important rather than insignificant Nazis. It did not need the analytical skills of the archivist to tell me that.

Later the writer and the archivist came to visit me in Rochester Prison, which would have been some time in 2015, and at a certain point the writer went to the toilet. I now challenged the archivist with how strange it was he should not remember the source of the extraordinary story. He still said he could not remember where he had heard it, but he added one further detail, just before the writer returned from the loo: this assumption of identity by the Nazis had taken place before the end of the Second World War, not after it.

Anyway, in that summer of 2009 I knew nothing of these extraordinary matters, but was preparing to leave England, and in particular I looked forward to asking the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon more about the identity of my paternal grandfather. The Jewish Chaplain at Lowdham Grange, whom I had contacted during the difficult time I spent there, and who very reluctantly dealt with me, had said that this woman was surely the clue to finding out more about the mystery.

But, when I reached Lisbon, she said that she had told me all she knew. Nor was my aunt any more forthcoming. They were not pleased to see me and were horrified that I had skipped my licence and was therefore on the run. But I was now about to take possession of my house in the Algarve, which had been stolen from me, an event which took place on 13th November 2009, the very day that my licence was revoked in England and I was recalled to prison.

But the authorities in Britain had now no easy and cheap way of carrying out their threat, and even less so when five weeks later - as it happened on the very day that police raided my flat in Clapham, which was in the process of being sold under power of attorney by my friend Bill Hicks - I took off on the first of my extensive grand tours of Europe.

This first tour was to occupy me until the following July and broaden my cultural appreciation of many countries, and most particularly Italy. But, of course, the constant travel and visiting of monuments left me little time to think about my family background, and nor was I that worried by the English police, or what might be happening at my house in Portugal, or anything else.

But while I was in Vienna in that snowy February, where I was mainly following up my interest in the Lieder composer Hugo Wolf, and where Bill confirmed to me by telephone one blindingly white and dark night on the Ringstrasse that my flat was finally gone, I became desperate suddenly to know whether my paternal grandfather had been the top Nazi that it seemed possible he had been.

There was no obvious way that I could immediately find out the slightest detail about it, and I was not in England or Scotland to try to contact whatever surviving witnesses might still remain, but I did quickly join a website which allowed people to trace their ancestry by contacting matches based on the details that appeared on birth, marriage and death certificates. Since I was by no means certain that such documents could give any true information about my paternal ancestry, the enterprise seems rather a doomed one from the start. And I soon grew annoyed by the welter of possible matches who clearly had nothing to do with me and who rarely responded in any helpful or coherent way to what emails I sent them.

But this website did employ as a guest expert a well-known genealogical writer called Anthony Adolph. I soon sent him a message with the news that my grandfather had perhaps been Polish (I did not emphasise the possible German connection) and asking him what the likelihood was that this story could be true.

He wrote back at first very cautiously and politely, and I was certainly impressed with his considerable credentials, and believed, perhaps rather naively, that he could work wonders of research which would soon unearth the truth about what I now firmly believed to be my hidden Nazi background.

By the summer I was back in Portugal, and the six-month free introductory subscription offered by the website was due to expire. I still had plenty of money from the sale of my London flat, and decided to drop the website, which seemed to me utterly useless, and instead employ Mr Adolph to conduct enquiries into the possible background of my paternal grandparents.

He accepted willingly, and began with a general look at the ostensible antecedents of Arthur Ernest Hills in Kent. He was soon able to trace a detailed ancestry back to a shepherd of Westwell in the mid-nineteenth century, and quickly came to the conclusion that these were the true origins of my family and that the stories of the three old women were nothing but old wives' tales.

When it became clear that I was refusing to accept the incontrovertible truth he believed he had discovered, our relations turned from friendly to quite fraught. After some while, he even cited to me the principle of Occam's Razor, whereby you should be content with a simple, likely and logically powerful explanation rather than seeking far-fetched and implausible solutions to any problem. I bottled up the sense of insult I felt.

I also resented the implied aspersion on the veracity of my informants, whom I knew to be women of strength of character, shrewdness and good sense. They were usually very unforthcoming with information rather than, as Adolph implied, keen to spread false stories. As to myself, I believed that I always tried to keep my own wish to be really a European rather than partly English within reasonable bounds.

Anyway, Mr Adolph also persuaded me to employ the American genetic research firm Family Tree DNA to do a full genetic profile and, while I went on my second grand tour - which took me through the rural heart of France in the sunny October of 2010, and then to a slightly alienating Tuscany and Umbria in the wet November - the geeks did their work with the swabs I had provided from my mouth.

The results arrived by email towards Christmas when I was back in gloomy Altura, and they initially upset me very much. I hardly understood them at all, and did not see what possible relevance any of these arcane formulas could have to the family mysteries I was so keen to resolve. I have described these results in full in a previous post, so I will not repeat them again here, but in brief they showed that my paternal ancestry must lie either in England or at the western end of the North German Plain, and there was nothing to show which of the two it was more likely to be.

The relationship between myself and Mr Adolph largely took the form of a highly barbed although ostensibly courteous exchange of emails and occasional phone-calls, and and after the DNA results these continued with ever greater intensity, while he tried to show that the English ancestry was overwhelmingly more likely to be correct, while I desperately insisted that a father and grandfather from the North German Plain remained at least a possibility.

Mr Adolph appeared to have one trump card clinching his argument. On the line that led through the endless chain of fathers, I had six matches, all of them pretty remote, and one of them had the name of Andy Hills.

Mr Adolph immediately seized on this as absolute proof that the Kentish Hills family was my real ancestral line. I obediently followed his suggestion that I should email Andy Hills, who went under the rather strange email identity of "ktbrocks". But I received no answer on two or three occasions to my emails.

I used his failure to answer to point out to Mr Adolph that we knew nothing about this Andy Hills or whether that was even the real name of the match. Some time later Mr Adolph used his connections with Family Tree DNA to obtain the address of the supposed Andy Hills, which turned out to be in Great Broughton in Cumbria. He offered to write to him on my behalf. But Andy Hills also did not answer Mr Adolph's letter.

I will now insert an account of a series of events that took place this summer, the summer of 2016. I was trying to think of every possible way I could carry forward the quest, and I decided to go to Cumbria to beard Andy Hills in person. I would knock on his door! On 6th September 2016 I took the train northward to Carlisle - leaving the hostel without seeking the permission they required - and on arrival there lunched well at an Italian restaurant, bought a fine book at a huge secondhand bookshop, and took the bus to the picturesque town of Cockermouth, where I checked into an excellent hotel for three nights.

The following day I took the bus to the seaside town of Workington, where the electoral registers for the area covering the Broughtons are kept. A kindly woman looked up the recent registers for the address I gave. An Andy Hills did not live at that address, which was in Little Broughton rather than Great Broughton, but there was a woman who did. I shall not give her name. The official at the council office looked back for several years and there was no record of an Andy Hills at the relevant address, or at any other in the electoral area.

The following afternoon I went round to the address. A pleasant and entirely typical Cumbrian lady, the registered owner, answered the door, and told me she knew nothing of any Andy Hills and that she herself had been living at the house since 2008, a statement there was absolutely no reason to doubt. Previously the house had been rented to a series of short-term tenants and she suggested that perhaps Andy Hills had been one of those.

We politely took our leave of each other, and I went on my way rejoicing that, so many years after our initial difference of opinion, I had proved Mr Adolph wrong. And I returned to London and told the authorities at the hostel that I had been visiting an elderly, sick relation in Scotland. Now back to the main narration.

After so much travelling, I set aside the year 2011 as one to live largely in the Algarve, and I overcame the loneliness I always feel here in various ways, partly by drinking too much, and partly by listening to a lot of music and leafing through endless books as I quaffed the said drink, and partly by beginning this blog, on 13th January 2011.

One theme that runs through it is the problematic relation that I have with England, to whose culture and national identity I am committed, but the people of which alienate me because I am not connected to them by blood and because their elite seems to prefer as members of British society people from the Third World rather than either the English working class or the European immigrants who are their cousins.

Be that as it may, through 2011, I managed to visit almost every English new and second-hand bookshop in the remotest corner of the Portuguese province, and was present at almost every lecture of the very British Algarve History Society. By the time, in late March 2011, that I was subjected to the journalistic attentions of Len Port, a large and bluff northern Irish Protestant who is the senior English-language Algarvian journalist, I had again become very fat, a fact remarked upon by Port in his condescending account of me.

But I struggled on in my self-consciously British and European way, and in the summer went on my third grand tour (to Spain, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy). Visiting these countries I continued to live too well and I spent my fifty-sixth birthday in the overwhelming heat of Rome, near the pyramid-tomb of Caius Cestius, with a Peroni.

Naturally I made little progress with my researches into my paternal ancestry during this time, although I continued to use the expensive services of Mr Adolph and Family Tree DNA. But I was also employing a competent researcher to look into my Portuguese ancestry, Dr Marta Páscoa Teixeira, and although she was equally as anxious as Mr Adolph to confine my ancestry to the country of my ostensible origin, my relations with her were much more sympathetic.

Now the reader may remember the elderly couple who had gone to live in Portugal, Isaura and Hupfleit, who had known my mother well, and the fact that Leonor had given me their phone number, which was a landline. I had lost it by 2011, but I phoned Leonor again, and once more she gave it to me. Now, just as with an English phone number, the digits that immediately follow the country code indicate geographic location. And very early in that somnolent year of 2011, I  got Dr Teixeira to research which area this was in the case of Isaura and Hupfleit, and it turned out to be a  remote region of northern Portugal which for the present shall remain nameless.

Now, getting bored and lonely again in late October 2011, I set off on a mini-grand tour of the north, and as the third region to be visited I arrived at the one where Isaura and Hupfleit lived. It was 1st November 2011, and on this wet and gloomy afternoon I was in the chief, but quite small, town of the said rural region, having travelled there from the place where I was staying by taxi. The taxi was to pick me up again at six.

First I went to a café, and, on paying for my coffee, got the waiter to list as many as possible of the various places in that region. Then I wandered round that town looking for phone boxes to phone Leonor. But the first two I discovered were not working and a second cafe refused to let me use their telephone. It was getting on for six, and quite dark, when I finally found a phone box that worked, and phoned Leonor.

She answered quickly, I told her where I was and she realised immediately that it was the region where Isaura and Hupfleit lived, and I sensed that she was both very frightened at the idea of my going to see them but that she also wanted this to happen. I began listing the names of towns and villages that the waiter had given me."Is it this one where they live?" I would say, and she would say "No.". "Is it that one?" I would say, and again she would say, "No." Finally I named a certain place, and she said, "Yes, that's it!"

I said, "That's the place, is it?" and she said, "No, that's not it." But I was already used to her habit of letting something out and then denying it afterwards, a habit shared by my aunt and the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon. "You've already told me, Leonor," I said. "Thank you very much."

She begged me not to tell Isaura that it was through her I had found out the town where the couple lived, and I agreed that I would concoct some story. I thanked her again, put down the phone, and ran off for the taxi.

I let two days pass before planning the journey from the place I was staying in to the one where Isaura and Hupfleit lived. There was an extremely early bus that went there and then a school bus at a slightly more civilised hour. I could not face the journey on the very early bus, and in Altura they let adults travel on the school bus. So I assumed the same would apply here. But when I tried to board the school bus, perhaps I looked too anxious and nervous, or was not well dressed enough, because the driver refused me.

 So I set off cheerfully to walk to the small town. It was fourteen kilometres but I reckoned I had all day. At a certain point I turned on to a much smaller road where I  thought I might get a lift. Quite soon a lorry picked me up. The driver was friendly but there was a very high step to the passenger seat. The driver helped me but from the first I was dreading the jump down.

The lorry driver dropped me, as it turned out, very close indeed to where Isaura and Hupfleit lived. I didn't know it, though, as my lorry driver friend said his cheerful goodbye. We were on the outskirts of the small town, by a bridge over a small stream, and just before a roundabout at the outskirts of the town proper. I did not dare ask him to help me. I felt I had to show him that I could do it myself. And, as I went, I held on to the handle of the door a little too long and suffered a wrenching pain to my left upper arm on that day of 4th November 2011 which would trouble me badly for months and whose effects will never quite leave me.

It was now about nine o´clock in the morning and the small town would soon be coming to what life it knew. I crossed the small bridge over the stagnant stream, went around the roundabout, and began to ascend an old street that led upwards into the town.

Very soon I came to a small paper shop which was kept by an old woman who turned out to be called Dona Helena ("Dona" is the rough Portuguese equivalent of "Mrs"). I engaged her in my still halting Portuguese and it turned out she knew Isaura and Hupfleit well. Isaura was one of her customers and sometimes came to the shop, although Hupfleit never went out. Their address was in a block of flats which was quite near and back in the direction from which I had come. But, although the old woman knew exactly where it was, she did not know the details of the address and could not describe it to me clearly enough for me to find it.

She suggested I go to the post office to be told their address. But it would not have opened yet, and anyway I needed to buy a present for the couple. At a small gift shop I found a beautiful figure of an elephant for fourteen Euros and the woman in the shop performed the elaborate and efficient wrapping in which the Portuguese are so skilled.

Then I think I stopped to have a coffee and soon afterwards the post office was open. I approached the man at the desk and said I was looking for some very old friends of my mother's, an elderly Portuguese woman called Isaura married to a German or Pole called Hupfleit. He obviously knew exactly whom I meant (there surely could only be one such couple in that small town). But he said he had to go into the interior office to ask their permission to divulge the information. I waited for five minutes in some anxiety. But then he returned, and  wrote down their address.

The morning was now getting on, but I needed to do one more thing before I could approach Isaura and Hupfleit. I was privately sure that Hupfleit was more likely to be a German than a Pole. The name sounded more German than Polish and always had done, and the connections that I was uncovering pointed in that direction. Now if Hupfleit were a German passing as a Pole, that meant he was also an ex-Nazi, although he himself could only have been a young soldier at the time. I could speak German passably but I had forgotten a number of words. I planned to speak to Hupfleit in German to discover whether this was his language, and I planned to tell him that I knew he had been in hiding all his life but that I did not blame him for this. But I had forgotten the German for "to hide". I also wanted to say that I was trying to find out the identity of my grandfather, and I had even forgotten the German for "grandfather"!

So I had to locate the public library in the small town to look these words up in a German dictionary. I found it without too much difficulty, and discovered that "to hide" was "sich verstecken" amd that of course "grandfather" translated as "Grossvater". How could I have forgotten that! Walking around the library I prepared the speech I would deliver to the ageing Nazi. And I also rested for a while in the library and looked up some matters of general interest. It had already been a long and complex day even though we were only at the later morning.

Finally I was ready to set out. I had no mobile telephone and could not warn my intended hosts that I was coming, so I decided to return to the paper shop and get Dona Helena to phone them. I figured that Isaura would hardly be able to refuse me entrance if the old woman, who knew her well, was aware of how far I had come and what trouble I had taken.

Dona Helena, still alone in the shop, was understanding, and quite willing to help me. She phoned and Isaura answered. I think the old woman introduced me and then put me on the phone. I said that I was only a few hundred yards away from them and would love to meet them and hear about the old days and anything they could tell me about my parents. Isaura said I could come over straight away.

So I negotiated the roundabout again and crossed the bridge once more over the stagnant stream. The block of flats where they lived was only a bit beyond that. They lived on the ground floor, I am not going to say whether in the right-hand or left-hand flat.

That caused a bit of difficulty, as it happened. There were no name plates for the two ground-floor flats at the main door and I am not good with right and left. So I pressed the wrong bell and the neighbour answered. This brought the elderly and still quite smart figure of Isaura to the door, so a bit of slight kerfuffle ensued at the first moment I met her.

Isaura and Hupfleit received me very kindly that day. She ushered me into their very tidy flat and the ancient but still slim and erect figure of Mr Hupfleit rose from his chair to greet me. They were absolutely delighted with the present of the elephant and quickly found room for it on their crowded mantelpiece. They both spoke quite good English and said I should speak in that language. Once of the first things I asked Mr Hupfleit was what his Christian name was, and with a smile he said it was Michael. I feel almost sure that this was true.

I had better go no further without confessing a rather shameful secret. Some years before, Christopher Hills, the son of Arthur Ernest Hills Junior by Kathleen Berg, had given me a very old and not efficient tape-recorder with a tape inside it. When I left England in 2009, despite my deep fear of technology, I had brought this tape-recorder with me thinking that one day there would be a person or persons I might meet whom I should secretly tape.

I had brought the tape recorder to their flat and had it in a blue bag I was carrying in which I think the elephant had also been. After a while, I was sitting on the Hupfleits' sofa and Isaura went out, perhaps to make some coffee or tea. Rather clumsily, just before she entered the room again, I set the tape going and, believing Michael had not seen me, put it on a ledge under a table beside me on the sofa.

After we had gone through the preliminaries of introducing ourselves, and Isaura had regretted the fact that I was so very fat, the first thing she wanted to know was how I had found their address. I had my story ready. I said that in the chief town of the district, the one from which I had phoned Leonor, I had gone into a café and the person serving me at the bar had known them. He had not had the exact address, I said, but he knew the town. From then on I told the story exactly as it had happened.

I now want to relate a strange thing. When I told this story, Isaura was astonished, and she instinctively exclaimed "Mamma Mia!" Now Isaura is to all intents and purposes a Portuguese, but this is a typically Italian expression, and no Portuguese would ever use it, and certainly not instinctively. (The word "mama" in Portuguese means "breast", as it happens.) So I  immediately challenged Isaura with my new belief that she was really an Italian, not a Portuguese, and began to address her in the Italian language.

She refused to answer in it, however, and kept on returning to the question of the man who had known her and her husband. Which was the café, she demanded, and what had the man been like? I could remember only that he had been a man and that it had been an entirely typical Portuguese café in a quarter of the town I could not locate exactly.

She now proposed that we should ring Leonor and tell her the good news that I was with them. As usual, Leonor answered the phone immediately, and after a moment Isaura passed me on to her. I told her the story of how I had met the man in the café and how, surprisingly, he had known in which town Isaura and Michael lived. She silently absorbed this information, and when Isaura resumed the phone the two of them wondered over the strangeness of it.

I think I told Leonor at this time that Hupfleit's Christian name was Michael, a fact she had never known. (I have to record here that she had several times mentioned to me in London a person who had formed part of the social circle surrounding my mother called Oscar (perhaps spelt Oskar), and this of course raises the possibility that Hupfleit´s Christian name was not Michael. But I believe that it was. It is possible that Oskar was yet another nom de guerre.)

When Isaura was out of the room, I immediately engaged Mr Hupfleit, or Michael, in German. As I have mentioned, he was a notoriously silent man. He did not answer me in any connected way in that language. He simply said again and again "Ja", and this word was to recur many times throughout the day when he spoke to his wife, otherwise entirely in English.

He obviously understood every word I said, however, and seemed pleased that I did not in any way blame him for having fought in the war on the German side and for having had to go into hiding for the rest of his life. It obviously helped that they knew about my prison career and that I myself was currently on the run. And at a certain point he told me spontaneously that he had fought in Italy, the second fact he gave me about himself.

And Leonor told me once (I have forgotten exactly when) that it was in the German army that he had fought. And he looked every inch like a former German soldier from the Second World War. I personally have not the slightest doubt that he was a German not a Pole. At a certain point, he said that it was his mother who had been Polish, and I think this is possibly true, or perhaps true in a way, because those borders changed many times. That was the third and last thing he told me about himself.

Soon after this conversation alone with him, Mr Hupfleit excused himself for a while, and I was told by Isaura that he had a workshop in the basement (their flat was a maisonette) and, having been an electronics engineer by profession, and a most practical man, he was in the habit of repairing there quite often during the day to occupy and amuse himself.

I thus entered into extensive conversation with Isaura alone in their sitting room and we now got on surprisingly well. It is her loud, confident and insistent voice that appeared mostly on the tape I was secretly making, and the low and feeble voice of Mr Hupfleit, very occasionally uttering a connected sentence, featured only once or twice. Isaura answered none of the few questions I put about my parents, and implied she had barely known them. But she showed me with pride the visiting card of the boat in which she herself had come to England, at a somewhat earlier date than my mother, with its full list of mainly Portuguese passengers.

During her long years in Britain she had worked at once of the palaces of the Royal Family and she was able to tell me - as my mother, who had been a silver service waitress at several quite grand establishments, had also done - a delicious story about Prince Andrew. Isaura had conservative views, and ideas which might well be considered snobbish and racist, but then so did I, so that was no barrier to our conversation. We both of us had a low opinion of the Portuguese, and enjoyed ourselves quite a lot slagging them off.

The pair gave me a delicious lunch, said that I was welcome to stay with them all the afternoon, and, as the last bus would surely have gone before I would be leaving, Isaura undertook, and her husband agreed, that they would pay my return by taxi. As the afternoon went on, our talk continued pleasant, but I learnt nothing more than the facts that I have already related.

In the middle of the afternoon Isaura proposed that Mr Hupfleit should take me downstairs to see his basement workshop while she herself took a rest. I went with him gladly, because I was getting a little exhausted by Isaura. The downstairs workshop was very well stocked with tools and machines and I think we spent a considerable time down there.

I suppose that would have been the opportunity to ask Michael how well he had known my mother. But some instinct told me that I should not bother him with this distant past but simply concentrate on showing as much interest in his hobbies as I could. I don't remember a single word of what he and I said in the basement, but I feel we were friends when we were down there.

Unfortunately my relationship with the couple worsened as the evening drew on. I caused a certain resentment by saying again that I believed Isaura to be an Italian and also by saying that I believed a certain photo in the room showed Mr Hupfleit with his mother while he said it showed his parents together. He began repeating many times that he hated politics and that politics had ruined his life.

At a certain point the tape I was making came to an end with a most ghastly click. I am sure Isaura heard it, although she said nothing. A little while later she went out of the room again to prepare supper, and I got Mr Hupfleit to rearrange the position of the objects on the mantelpiece, which had become a little disarranged by the insertion of my elephant.. While his back was turned to me, I quickly and clumsily retrieved the tape recorder from the ledge under the table and quickly stuffed it into my blue bag.

During this more unhappy sequence of events I looked a few times at Michael sitting in his chair and saw with horror that he was periodically wiping a tear away from his eyes. He looked so old and unhappy, and I felt sad that it was I who had probably caused it, but was too embarrassed to mention that he was crying.

We had eaten our delicious lunch in their sitting room, but the much lighter supper was taken in the kitchen. During this meal Michael was suddenly afflicted with a severe bout of coughing and was fighting badly for breath. Isaura reminded me rather grimly that her husband was very nearly ninety. I suppose I should have realised then how very close Michael was to death, and that I was lucky to have reached him just in time for me to be able to say I had known him. But I don't think I did realise this.

After supper was over, it was time to begin making preparations to go. I had the card of a taxi driver, based in the place where I was staying, and the couple were impressed that I had showed such efficiency. We phoned him and he promised to be over within fifteen minutes.

Isaura said she would come out to stand with me in the forecourt of the block of flats, but that her husband would not come out. My last memory of Michael is of him standing rather shyly in the hall and saying farewell to me and once again looking every inch the former German soldier from the Second World War that he had once been.

It was cold as I stood with Isaura in the dark and windy yard. I tried to ask her a few more questions, but our conversation soon reverted to the usual generalities. The taxi driver arrived quickly, and Isaura was keen to take his card for future reference, because she said she often needed a taxi. Then she waved me off and I entered into conversation with the taxi driver. He turned out to know of the Hupfleit couple, as people in Portugal always do know about all the people who live in their localities, particularly those with unusual antecedents. The whole country is like a gigantic telegraph system, but nothing of what is passed on ever reaches outsiders.

The following day I returned to my home. I had to get three buses, the first to the local major city, the second to Lisbon, the third to the Algarve. On the first bus I was sitting by a window with a seat beside me. At a certain stop, a youngish man got onto the bus. I saw he was sharply bearded but finely muscular, I smiled at him, and he asked if he could join me.

He was an American or Canadian, I forget which, but our conversation soon turned to Jewish matters, and I believe he was also a Jew. I told him that I was also Jewish, but that, not having been brought up as a Jew ,and having only recently discovered this identity, I knew little of Jewish matters. He undertook to instruct me a little, and said, which I found interesting, that the Ashkenazi Jews were not Semitic, being descended from the Khazars, who had converted to Judaism in the early Middle Ages.

This young man had to get off when we reached the local city and, just before he went, I said I was called Charles and asked him what his name was. He gave me a rather haunting smile and said his name was Michael.

I really enjoyed that all-day series of bus journeys. We approached Faro, the regional capital of the Algarve, not by the motorway but by the older road that my mother and I had often used when she used to drive me back from Lisbon, and this fact made me remember her with tenderness, which I did not always do.

Then we went on towards my house. This particular bus was not supposed to stop at Altura, but we were near the end of the route when we approached the familiar place with the high-rise hotel and I was alone with the driver and sitting in the front seat. I told him how tired I was, and rather riskily for himself he stopped the bus so that I could just walk home and not have to take another one from the next place along the line. It seemed so kind of him and made me feel rather in love with the world.

In the next couple of days I just relaxed at home. On the afternoon of 6th November I was listening to a favourite record - the Mozart Piano Concerto No 13, K415, in C Major - and in the first movement there is a most haunting passage which passes by several times only later to return. And as it came round for the second or third time, and once again I surrendered to wistful and fugitive charm of the melody, I wondered whether the man I had met, who had cried when he talked to me, was my father.

And really then I entered a beautiful period, when the winter weather was almost uniformly bright but rather cold, and I used to wander endlessly naked round the house and into the garden and I must have broken a glass because beneath my bare feet were thousands of the tiniest possible shards of broken glass but they were too small to do my bare feet any harm. `Verre cassé porte bonheur`, as the French say. And almost every early afternoon, after a snack lunch, I did Bible Study at my table in the garden and that was the still heart of my years in the Algarve.

Right at the end of December my main bank card was mysteriously blocked, but this had happened before and I had a secret hoard of Euros in the house and if I used only a certain sum each day and confined my excursions entirely to the Algarve, there was no real danger I would run outof money or be left stranded.

On 6th January 2012 I decided to go to my favourite haunt of Tavira, and while I was there I phoned Leonor, who confirmed that our two friends in northern Portugal were well. She did say one slightly strange thing, which was that, according to her, Mr Hupfleit was already ninety, while Isaura, whom I had met only weeks before, had told me that he was yet to reach that age, nor was his birthday immediately forthcoming, or surely she would have told me. If Leonor's version was true, and in her usual forthright way she insisted that it was, that would place Michael's birth some time in 1921, perhaps in the later part of the year.

On 10th January I did a more arduous expedition, right over to the other side of the Algarve, to the chapel of Our Lady of Guadaloupe, where Henry the Navigator is said to have prayed, riding over on a fast horse from his country house at Raposeira. When I returned from my own quite arduous journey to the railway station at Cacela late at night and was about to get a taxi in the silent town my card had been unblocked at the machine.

Pleased with the sudden access of money, I went to have a good lunch the following day at the restaurant of my friends Josefa and António in Monte Gordo, and when I came back to the house an English acquaintance, whom I do not much like, and who does not usually visit, called on me, and we got on better than normal. And, at roughly the same time, an elderly English couple had appeared in Altura with whom I was in the process of becoming friendly, and who are the only permanent friends I made during the five years I lived principally at the house. My liking for them was cheering me up a lot in those days.

And so, stimulated by so much society, after the acquaintance had gone, I went to Broadway, where they had a computer in those days, and began to write a new post of my blog.

It is the ninth post - "I called it ´Wintering in the Algarve" - and you, dear reader, could turn to it now. It is about the intense peace I felt in those days with my solitude diversified by reasonably pleasant company. And for the first time in my blog it mentions the mystery concerning my father, and mentions the two men, the one from the Lyceum Ballroom and one from the tube train, and my increasing certainty that they were not the same person, and that the man my mother met on the tube train was my father.

I began the post by talking about someone I had known in London who, as with so many of the people I knew there, so many of the people I have known in my life, was half friend and half enemy. I told how first I had known him without feeling and then broke with him without regret, and from there I moved on to the subject of my father. But the logic of this transition was perhaps initially not clear.

So the ending at first fell a little flat as I worked obsessively on the post during the long evening of 11th January at the computers in the Eurotel and at Central Sports Café (Broadway was always closed in the evening). I moved between them restlessly, but the machines were not responding to my efforts to write my still slightly unresolved piece. After leaving Central Sports towards midnight yet another possible idea occurred to me that I resolved to work on the next day.

And, on the morning of the 12th, I awoke in the house and then fell asleep again, and when I finally awoke for good, at some point in the mid-morning, a most beautiful last paragraph had occurred to me. It was a picture of myself in my garden, sitting at the table where I had so much peace, and it professed my indifference to knowing whether my father had been a German or a Pole. But something in the words themselves told the reader that nothing in the world mattered more to me more than knowing who he had been.

I hurried off towards the three computers to set the new ending down, but now my difficulties with the machines became even more hellish. By the end of the 12th I had the piece more or less exactly as I wanted, , but it had still not been possible to insert the final line-break because of the continuous playing up of the wretched modern technology. The whole of the grim 13th was taken up with the endless struggle to insert the line-break, although I also managed to spot a final literal and tidy up a few points of style.

On the 14th, the computer at Broadway had packed up altogether, but then I had the inspiration of going up to the social club, which lies right at the top of the settlement. There, the attendant woman, in the intervals of talking on her mobile phone, was most friendly, and after some difficulty succeeded in inserting the line-break for me. To celebrate, I printed out a copy of my entire blog so far, and in the evening, free and happy, set myself to learning about early Christian texts at the hotel Internet,  particularly studying the Acts of John, which had been written by a cultivated Hellenistic gentleman towards the end of the second century AD.

My work on that post was then chiefly on those three or four days, although I have returned to it endless times since then to make small adjustments, and particularly to the last paragraph ( I finally split it into two), that picture of ambiguous peace. It has been worth it to do so much work. To me this is the central post in the whole picture of myself and my background and my beliefs that I am trying to give in this work.

There was a strange circumstance connected with the computer difficulty. On the evening of 11th January, before I began experiencing the extreme problems at the hotel and Central Sports, I went down to the phone box by the ocean to talk to my friend Bill and tell him about the post that mentioned my father and my increasing belief that he had been the mysterious Pole or German met on the tube train. I do not remember how Bill received me. He was becoming increasingly unfriendly on the phone as the strain of everything he was doing for me began to tell. Perhaps he snapped at me as he tried to tell him of my interests and my joy.

But, anyway, I later learnt that part of the problem was because my blog account had been disabled on that evening and I worked out that this must have happened at almost exactly the time I was talking to Bill or perhaps slightly afterwards.

And since then I have never ceased, until quite recently, to have trouble with my attempts to write my blog, so that I believe some person or persons have been continuously interfering with my efforts and attempting to prevent people from reading my story. Once an entire post vanished from the screen at the flick of a key-switch and I was never able to recover it. But the template remained and I later reconstructed the entire piece. And very often it has seemed that someone has been causing the computers I am using not to respond when I am trying to communicate something important to my putative readers for the first time.

But the principal method of interference seems to have been the creation of a vast number of fake internet items using the fact that my initials spell the common noun "car" and that my surname denotes a natural object, and also by taking up any references I may make to persons and places, in a general attempt to drive my blog so far down the internet pages that no chance reader will ever see it. And I have been reacting to this by bringing what I think is happening to the attention of as many influential people as I possibly can and this has generally resulted in my blog being restored to prime position temporarily, only to vanish downwards again when my online back is turned.

Once my blog disappeared from the first 40 pages of the internet and many times it has been pushed back to about the fifth or sixth page when I have keyed in "C.A.R. Hills" on Google. At one point the tricksters behind the campaign created a fake bestselling author called Napoleon Hill. He had allegedly been one of the greatest self-help gurus in the United States in the earlier part of the twentieth century. According to his extensive Wikipedia entry, he had a son called Blair who had been born deaf and dumb but by using his father's inspirational example had become one of the finest orators of his time.

I laughed when I read this truly obvious spoof. Bur then two of Napoleon Hill's books turned up in the newspaper shop at the crossroads in Altura. Then I saw one in a small bookshop in a town near where the Hupfleits lived. Finally a prisoner who lived a few doors down from me in HMP Brixton had borrowed one from the prison library and profited from it in building up his self-confidence. It must have cost a fortune to build up this personality in order to try and disturb access to my blog.

I first became dimly aware of this series of problems when I was staying at the Abraham Hostel in Jersualem in mid-December 2012, and therefore my guess as to who is responsible for this rather evil campaign, as I see it, is the Israeli state, perhaps working mainly through its proxies in America (for the fake items generally have a distinctly American tinge). But perhaps I am wrong. Everything about computers is mysterious to me.

Anyway, at that peaceful time in early 2012 I hardly suspected that these problems would develop, and my suspicion of Bill, with whom I am still on friendly terms, had not yet become total, and the very bright but slightly cold weather went on all through January until the almond trees began to blossom early in the fields of the Algarve. But then intense cold did hit it and all Europe at the beginning of February, and I myself  broke the spell by going on yet another of my restless trips, again to Lisbon, where I had been so often before.

And at a date some time after that, while I was once again staying in the Algarve (I will never know the exact day, because my diary for that time is lost) I made one of my periodic phone calld to Leonor, once more from  Tavira, and received what should perhaps have been expected news. Mr Hupfleit had died some weeks before, Leonor could not remember exactly when. He had gone to the toilet quite early one morning, returned to the sitting room where Isaura was waiting, sighed softly, and was gone.

I don´t remember exactly how I felt, but perhaps I was not much moved. Because of the disappointment with others that has run through my life, I tend to be mainly interested in what I can get out of people while they are alive, and once I hear they are dead it is as if they have fallen through a trap door. But of course I expressed all the conventional regrets and said how sorry I felt for his widow. Leonor warned me not to contact Isaura, and she said that if I wanted any news it could be through herself.

I was eventually to discover the date on which Michael died, and I shall tell later how I came to know this. He died on the morning of 12th January 2012, six days after I had phoned Leonor and she had confirmed that he was still well. I had reached him between nine and ten weeks before his death. And it is possible that he died at exactly the moment I woke from sleep and knew exactly what I should write about my father in the final paragraph of my ninth post.

And now I come to my fourth grand tour, that I made that spring and summer, a slightly lopsided journey, whose centre was a voyage right down the western coast of Italy, from the Riviera to Sicily. But this was preceded by stays in Spain, Switzerland and France, and then there was a final time in the north of Italy. And I bought far too many books on this journey and finished off by having almost all my by now unbearably heavy luggage stolen from me near the bus station in Barcelona. Many precious memorabilia went, some dating from my earliest childhood, as well as a long series of pocket diaries, a large number of dirty clothes, and almost all the books. A mixed trip, then, not really joyful, and I will relate only one series of incidents from it.

In the ninth week of the journey, on 9th May 2012, I was staying in Naples, and had gone to Cumae, where the cave of the Sibyl once was (rather naively perhaps, I asked her if any good might come from the search for the truth about my father, and was rewarded with a flight of birds). Then I walked, I seem to remember, because no bus came, to the small local railway station of Fusaro. At this sweet little place I had my hair most beautifully cut, and there was also a small internet café.

When I logged on, I discovered that I had a new match on a specialist service of Family Tree DNA relating to my paternal ancestry (or so it seemed).

I immediately emailed the person behind the match, and  quickly received an answer from a Professor Kenneth Nordtvedt who admitted in his email that he was not in fact a match of mine but had been pretending to be one because he belonged to my sub-clade (the genetic group that might come either from England or near the western end of the North German Plain). He was interested, he said, in discovering more about those who belonged to this group. According to him, it was quite rare. I was most startled, even so, that Family Tree DNA would resort to providing me with a false match on such a pretext and from that point on my automatic trust in their services was destroyed.

This Professor Nordtvedt, when I looked him up on the Internet, turned out to be quite a distinguished person, a leading American physicist, with a second string of genealogy to his scientific bow. He had been an adviser to Professor Reagan in the 1980s, and clearly had privileged access to the higher echelons of Family Tree DNA.

Despite the deception, I was thrilled that such a person was taking an interest in me, and thought it might augur well for my researches. But as I proceeded down the coast of Italy and plied Nordtvedt with more and more questions, he was able to tell me little of any interest about my family, while asking me far too much about myself. So our relationship became strained.

My last communication with him was from Reggio di Calabria. I was trying to reach him yet again, with what was by now a pretty rebarbative message, when I learnt that my Yahoo email account, using the identity of "giannilamere", the one I was using to communicate with him, had been closed. That was the effective end of my relationship with this distinguished, but clearly not very honest, person.

The loss of my stuff in Barcelona, much as it grieved me at the time, led to a lightening of the spirit, and this had its impact on my body, which that July was as fat as it had ever been. I will give just one indication of my change of heart.

At lunchtime on 2nd August 2012 I arrived in Faro tired and cross from somewhere further west in the Algarve, checked into the Afonso III Hotel, and went to the Municipal Theatre to buy a ticket for a concert of German cabaret songs to be given there later that day by Ute Lemper. But in the red, hot early evening I lay down in the most comfortable bed in my quiet hotel room. And I remember Ute Lemper and the prospect of hearing her fade into the past, as I moved towards sleep with ever more abandon, joy and certainty.

And with ever more certainty I was moving towards Israel. The time had come, I felt, to try and find out more about my Jewish identity through my mother. I left my home on the evening of 2nd October 2012, by the bus that passes just outside my house at 7.52p.m., the last bus of the evening, that goes only to Cacela, from which there is a train.

I had told Sue Hall, the Algarve cultural publicist who had become interested in me, that I planned only a "little amble" this time, to balance my four grand tours. And indeed I began simply by travelling to the northern Portuguese city of Viseu, where I spent a few instructive days. It was not until 30th November 2012 that, having passed through 10 European countries, I took the flight from Athens to Tel Aviv.

I have told the story of my time in Israel quite fully in a previous post, so I will not repeat what I said there about the persecution I suffered under the hands of an Israeli security team, led by Glenn Bresler, the son of the well-known Fenton Bresler, and himself a powerful businessman with bases in Israel, South Africa and the United States. I will make only one further point about this episode. The security team who treated me harshly were quite clear that I was a Jew. This must mean that they were in possession of all the details about my maternal ancestry that are only imperfectly known to myself. But if I had been simply a Jew what would have been the point of persecuting me? Surely the fact that they were so zealous in confirming that I was not an anti-semite (and Glenn Bresler confirmed that he was satisfied of this) is the clearest possible indication that the Nazi connection also exists, through my father?

Before I close these brief remarks on my Israel and Palestine experience, I will just mention a rather sad circumstance. I related before how, on 28th December 2012, I fled the hostel in Tiberias where the group were holding me a virtual prisoner and made my way into the Palestinian Authority. In order to avoid suspicion when I left, it was essential I carry only what I could get into a single bag, and I was forced to leave most of my luggage in my room. Among the things I left was the tape-recorder with the tape of Michael and Isaura. His voice had come out all too faintly on this tape and hers too insistently. I never saw any of those things again, so whether that tape still exists I cannot confirm.

And I came home ever so gradually from that most important of all my journeys, and as well as Jerusalem the Golden I also passed once more through Athens and Rome, and then on the long and exquisite boat trip  from Cività Vecchia to Barcelona (where I lost nothing this time) there was a particularly lovely experience,  which I will allow myself to tell, although it has nothing to do with the subject of this post.

I was having lunch, the only customer, in the more luxurious of the two ship restaurants, and the maître d´ was an Italian longing to speak his mother tongue, while the waiter was a Nicaraguan who had a Brazilian girlfriend and was keen to engage me in Portuguese. And since I am perfectly well able to respond in either language, I got the best possible service from the pair of them and felt a real sophisticate into the bargain!

But good times must be paid for in bad (for nature abhors a vacuum) and the long period that I spent in Portugal from January to June 2013 was among the most melancholy of the stretches I passed there. Even the weather was much darker that late winter and spring than it been the previous one, the time that Michael Hupfleit had died.

I thought about him sometimes, and the longing came to me to talk to Isaura again, despite Leonor´s warning. We had spent such a pleasant day together, surely it would be contrary to all the laws of politeness for her not to receive me again? Well, perhaps. And that spring I began restlessly travelling back and forth between the Algarve and Lisbon, engaged in more researches there, into my maternal ancestry. Why not extend one of these journeys to the region where Isaura lived, alone now?

I will go back to what the discovery I made in Lisbon that early April in a moment, but I now want to continue the story slightly out of sequence, and tell of my second encounter with Isaura, which followed immediately after the momentous Lisbon discovery. Once again, I took her a good present, a rather fashionable item that had something to do with Paris (I can´t remember exactly what  now), and I went straight to the town where she lived this time, checking into the best hotel there, a comfortable if rather dark and gloomy place. And the weather was pretty dark and miserable too as I walked from the hotel that very late afternoon and once again negotiated the roundabout and crossed the stagnant stream on the road that led to the modest but but quite prestigious block of flats where the widow Hupfleit lived.

When I reached the door I noticed a strange thing. There was now a nameplate giving Isaura´s full name. It gave her last surname as Hufleit, not Hupfleit. I immediately seized on this as proof in my mind that Hupfleit was an assumed name, and that Michael had pronounced it that way because, since he was a German, it was easier for him. I prepared myself to question Isaura about this when she answered. She did so quickly this time. I was shocked by her appearance. She was wearing a shabby, ill-fitting black dress, had become a lot fatter, and was now quite bent. The death of her husband had obviously hit her badly, and she now clearly looked the very old woman she was.

She was very angry that I had come to see her, but I had her cornered, and we spoke for a reasonable length of time on the doorstep, as I rather desperately tried to win her continued friendship. She did not want to accept the present, saying that she hated Paris, but I opened it, and its smartness appealed to her, and she eventually took it. I cannot remember many details of what we said, and I am sure I learnt nothing more about Michael. I think she said that Hufleit always had been his name, and that the idea that he was called Hupfleit was a silly idea of Leonor´s. I told her that I was booked for a few days into the hotel, and we agreed that I might come to see her the following morning.

But when I returned the next day in high hopes, Isaura was not in. And I learnt from one of the neighbours, who was vaguely aware of who I was, that a relation or friend had appeared very early that morning to take her away for a few days.

It was sad to be in that gloomy town for a few days alone, and even the paper shop that Dona Helena had kept was gone, and I wondered if she had died too. But there was a grand municipal event taking place, so I was able to enjoy a magnificent free buffet in Portugal, a country where normally everything has to be paid for, down to the individual pats of butter in a restaurant.

And the fact that Isaura had looked so old and was suffering helped to humanise her behaviour for me and made me excuse it. The next time I phoned Leonor I said how much I sympathised and asked her to convey my regards to Isaura. Leonor said on that occasion that the name of Isaura´s husband had always been Hupfleit, and that the name Hufleit was unknown to her.

The reader may remember the occasion in Lisbon that April when I suddenly realised that the bridegroom shown in a number of photos of my mother`s wedding was not Arthur Ernest Hills Junior, although an old man appearing in at least one photo of the occasion was definitely Arthur Ernest Hills Senior. The man marrying my mother in the photo and A.E. Hills Junior resembled each other very closely, so much so that they could be twins.

I had been familiar with many photographs of my parents since I was a child, but it had never occurred to me to question whether they might show another man than Arthur, although I seem to remember that the sharp-eyed Francis King, on a visit to my flat, had noticed that the two men in my family photographs were different and had pointed this out in his ironic way. Perhaps other people noticed it as well, but they did not say it as openly as Francis.

For a long time in middle and later 2013 I used myself to look at the photos again and again to try and check whether my belief that they were separate men was not just another illusion. And many more photographs arrived at my house in November that year to complicate the enquiry. The strangeness of what I had discovered was so great that my mind had to try and confirm it again and again.

It was only on my visit to London in late 2013, when I showed photos of Arthur and the other man to a Chinese couple with whom I have long been friendly, and the woman noticed that the men had noses of entirely different shapes, that I could be utterly certain that there were two men involved, Arthur Ernest Hills, who had officially married my mother, and the other man who had really done so.

My realisation that Arthur had not been my father was a very gradual business. I suppose it would take anyone a long time fully to accept that something like this was the truth, especially when they have been familiar with a much more conventional and normal version of events since childhood. I was very alone, always travelling, physically present with each new person for a limited stretch of time, and the people to whom I tried to explain these things sometimes did not know me well, often had little knowledge of my family, and limited patience with the complexity of the situation. And in the case of my expert advisor Mr Adolph, and in several others, they cherished a barely-concealed belief that I was suffering from delusion and wishful thinking. My alienation from so many people that I knew grew during this period because of the issue of my family.

At around the time of the realisation at Lisbon, Mr Adolph had persuaded me to undertake another test to try to demonstrate to me the truth of my Kentish paternal ancestry. This was the Family Tree DNA family finder test, and my DNA was being matched with that of Susan Lakeman from the Medway Towns, the grand-daughter of the great-aunt Connie whom I had encountered in childhood. I had not met Susan Lakeman at this time, but was in touch with her by email and she agreed to help.

The results arrived one day in that very early summer when I had gone to Faro and was intending to see an afternoon film. I logged on to the internet that lunchtime, and saw the confirmation that Susan Lakeman was indeed a second or third cousin of mine. Once again, Mr Adolph was to seize on this as proof positive that the Kentish ancestry through Arthur Ernest Hills was the correct one, and if I had not seen that the man in the photo was not Arthur only a few weeks before, I would have been forced to admit that he was correct and would have been in despair at my unwelcome parent. But now I knew that stranger matters were afoot.

For I was moving slowly towards a truth that for quite a long time had been staring me in the face. At some point - I do not remember exactly when, or where the telephone box was  - I put through what proved to be a particularly important phone call to Leonor. I was making my usual rather desperate and undirected enquiries, she was responding in an uncertain and increasingly alarmed way, and then she said, "I remember one thing for certain, your mother met your father on a tube train."

It was on that tube train, she went on with absolute conviction, that my parents had met. It was there that the gallant gentleman who had been my father had sprung to my mother's aid. It was he who had so persistently courted her. Could that be Arthur? Leonor would not say. But she had never heard of any meeting at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand. If that had happened, it must have been later.

Early that June of 2013 I planned to leave Portugal again and go on another roundabout tour of Europe, the exact outlines of which were unclear to me. I planned to start in Lisbon and go northwards from there, probably by train, perhaps by bus. And perhaps I would try to see Isaura a third time. But what good would that do me? What could she tell me about her late husband that I did not already know in my heart?

In Lisbon I stayed at the George V Hotel, where I had been a hotel guest for many years. It had been recommended to me by my good friend, Professor Harold Livermore, who had now died but for many years had stayed at the place, ever since it opened. The young barman at the cosy bar remembered the professor and knew I was his friend, as did all the staff. That young barman used to say that I was like a son of the house. I loved the dark rooms with their old-fashioned bath-tubs. And the chief receptionist, Sr Luís Lopes, was a twinkling middle-aged worldly-wise Portuguese who was like a good uncle to me.

On the lunchtime before I was due to leave Lisbon  - it was 6th June 2013 - I asked Senhor Lopes whether I could put through a call on the hotel telephone. He smilingly agreed. I rang Leonor. She answered. At a certain point I mentioned Michael. Then I thought: it´s now or never! I asked her: "Was that man my father?"`

"Of course he was!`` she said. "Of course he was!"

And what did I say then? And what did she reply? I can't remember. I still remember the face of Senhor Lopes as he watched me talking on the phone. And perhaps something of what I felt communicated itself to that smiling Portuguese. Did he know that I was trembling with happiness, almost bursting with ecstasy? For I now had a father I could love.

There were three times in my life that I knew him. The first was when I was a baby. It was he who had comforted my mother when she got her finger stuck in the door of the tube train, he who lived with us, first at the unhappy place in Stockwell where I was conceived, kept by Poles, and later at 19, Hornsey Rise, the house of the Maccariello family, from Casapulla near Naples. He came down to live with us in Crawley, the new town to which we moved when I was nine or ten months old.

He wrote a charming little book, a small blue album half-filled with his handwriting, about my earliest life. He gave it a title in Portuguese, "Diário de Carlinhos", "The diary of little Charles". It is about our life at Hornsey Rise and in Crawley and the sweet things I said and did and his love for me. It is written in good, careful English, but with many mistakes of idiom such as could only come from a foreigner.

The last section of the book, which is written in the past tense, mentions that I was then 20 months old, which would have been in about April 1957. It is therefore likely to be very soon after that he left us.

Some time in the summer of that year, and perhaps in June, at least five of us - he, my mother, myself, my aunt Eva and the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon, and perhaps one other person - went by boat from England to Lisbon. The small photograph album I still have of the event shows he who was with us on this journey, not A.E. Hills. I surmise that tensions that arose on this journey, as well as his constant philandering, led to his leaving my mother and his replacement in our lives by the less impressive man.

In the front of the little album is my father's co-op number, so I presume he must have sent it to my mother in retrospect, perhaps offering some financial support through the Co-op. I still have this little book and hope to hell I never lose it. I have lost so many things in my carelessness and distraction.

The second time I met him was when I was about nine or ten years old, which would place this incident in about 1964 or 1965. I had a great desire to see the places where I had been born and had lived as a baby and my mother and I, without Arthur, came up to the place where the woman who now lives in the centre of Lisbon then lived, which was in St John's Wood.

There my father joined us. I know that this event really happened, because the woman who then lived in St John's Wood has confirmed that it did. My own memory of it exists, but is phantasmagorical and frightening. I still have a photograph - which the same woman confirmed was taken by my father - of myself standing between my mother and her friend by a lake, which is perhaps the lake in Regent's Park.

Then my father and I left the two women, and went towards the area where we had lived our shared life. And I remember being with him in what must have been Waterlow Park, which is partly beneath and partly above the church where my parents were married and I was christened, and above the Whittington Hospital, where I was born. I think I probably believed I was with Arthur, because the two men looked so similar. But they were different, and this must have frightened me. And when we reached what I seem to remember was the bottom end of the park, overlooking the hospital and near to the church, I think I said something like, "I have to go back to my father now."

And he said, "I am your father."

And I shouted at him, "No, you're not! You're not my father! I want to go back to my Dad!"

I remember nothing more than this, but I can still see the look of shock and horror on his face.

On August 29th, 1964, my father married Isaura at St Mary's Church, Clapham, both of them having addresses in nearby Balham. I believe it may have been the sadness caused by his meeting with me which made him choose to seek a life entirely elsewhere.

The day when I reached him just nine or ten weeks before his death was the third act of our father and son tragedy. But I would not have missed that day for the world. For I have tangible memories of him now and know that he was a good man who was exposed to challenging experiences in young manhood.

And perhaps it is just as well that our relationship in its three phases was so unsatisfactory. My mother once told me that my father had been a terrible man, but that his father was ten times worse. And a friend of mine once said to me (she was referring to A. E. Hills, whom she believed to be my father) that both my parents had been terrifying people but that I was ten times more terrifying than the two of them put together.

I think and hope she was exaggerating, but nevertheless perhaps it is best that I remember my father from the sweet little album he wrote, the ghostly figure he presented in the park, and the old man who cried when he met me. Because I would not wish to be any more terrifying than I am, as I might have been if I had known this masculine role model in childhood.

Now back to the narrative of the year 2013. As I said, my telephone call to Leonor was on the day before I was due to leave Lisbon for the journey northwards. Now I was desperate to see Isaura again and confront her with my knowledge that her husband had been my father. This time I went straight to her flat from where the bus dropped me, carrying my heavy bags. I had bought her another present, but do not now remember what it was, only that blue wrapping was around it.

This time it was naked fury when she answered the door. She threw the present away from her into the yard. She ordered me to leave her premises immediately and, when I said I wanted to talk, threatened to call the police. She had someone with her, in the background, a younger woman,a person whose exact identity I do not know but who I was later to learn was now looking after her during the day times. Both of them quickly left the flat, leaving me standing on the doorstep. After a while they returned with a group of policemen who asked me who I was. I told them that Isaura's husband had been my father, and they asked me if she was my mother. Policemen are sarcastic in Portugal.

They ordered me to move away to a distance in the yard and I went with the present in its blue wrapping. I could see the pair of women explaining the situation to the police. The officers reached their decision. They took me away, I think in their car, and I left the present behind in the yard as the two women went back into the flat. The policemen were friendlier now, but warned me, when they stopped the car, that if I were ever to come back to see Isaura I would be arrested. This was of course a most serious threat, because I was on the run from the police in my own country.

The policemen asked me if I wanted a taxi, I said yes, and they called one for me. They escorted me to it, introduced me to the driver, and I asked him to take me to a nearby place where there was a railway station, from which I continued my journey.

That general European tour of the summer of 2013. the sixth such tour I had made in those years, was, like its predecessor, more a voyage of personal discovery than a journey devoted purely to pleasure. I visited five countries, and in the first four of these: France, Belgium, Germany and Greece (I visited Italy, as usual, to round the tour off), I had a specific purpose in visiting the country. In France, instance, I had been asked by the BBC to contribute to a Radio 4 programme about the Psalms, which I did with great pleasure at their studio grandly situated near the Etoile. Equivalent personal rationales lay behind the visits to Belgium, Germany and Greece.

I will relate from this tour only that from Heidelberg I made my last phone call to Anthony Adolph, followed by one of the uneasy and barbed emails that were typical of our relationship. I had parted with my Portuguese researcher, on more amicable terms, the autumn before. From that time also I started resisting the bargain offers from Family Tree DNA to take part in ever more recondite and inconclusive tests, and more or less stopped looking at their website. From now on, I determined, any help I accepted with my family research would be free and on my own terms. And, if people proved unable or unwilling to help me, I would take on any tasks myself for which I felt fit.

I have written before that I suffered a sudden injury to my leg on my return from the summer 2013 journey, and how I entered what I called my "quiet time", in August, September and October that year, when I just allowed myself to live entirely as I wished, because I could hardly walk anyway and such people as were available were not generally welcoming. It was a blessed period, a time for lying in bed and sitting on the sofa and at my garden table, a time for reading, and for Christian study, more than 12 weeks, 84 full nights, entirely at the house, the longest period I had ever stayed there, or am likely to stay there again.

Such society as I enjoyed during this period was mainly concentrated at the Snack-Bar Piri-Piri in Altura, where the owner, a buxom middle-aged artificially blonde woman who called herself Arlete -  according to one source she had previously been a prostitute in Spain - presided with a mixture of slatternly attentiveness and occasional sharpness over a motley crew of Portuguese, Bulgarians and English in the overcrowded and slightly smelly indoor premises and the narrow terrace outside above the steps.

On the latter the alcoholic old woman D. Isabel often sat alone. I sometimes joined here at her vigil, and we were often disturbed by the approach of a younger alcoholic and former druggy whom she greatly disliked but whom I had befriended, a man called Joaquim Agostinho, known by the nickname of  "O Breba", who a few years before had been recognised on the Altura beach by two English girls as being one of the kidnappers of Madeleine McCann featured on photofits sponsored by Kate and Gerry McCann on their website and widely publicised elsewhere.

This was at a period when the British police had not yet set up Operation Grange, and Joaquim had gone on Portuguese television to protest that he had nothing to do with the kidnapping, had won an immense amount of sympathy from the Portuguese public, and had hardly been questioned at all by the Portuguese police.

As it happened, my "quiet time" coincided with the period when the Madeleine McCann case, now subject to the full attentions of Operation Grange, seemed to be reaching a climax. There was a very high-profile Crimewatch programme, and arrests seemed to be imminent. I myself had long been interested in the case, and longed for Madeleine to be found, although I did not believe that Joaquim, who was a total blabbermouth and very disordered in his personal life, as well as being basically a good-hearted person, was likely to have anything to do with it. He was certainly a very active drug smuggler in a small way, but that was true of so many people in Altura.

 I tried in my totally amateur and disconnected manner to find out as much as I could about Madeleine, and used sometimes to ask Joaquim about the case, but with no perceptible result. He seemed more sympathetic towards the McCanns, though, than the Portuguese public in general. And when I read in the press that six professional and enthusiastic Portuguese detectives had been recruited to work alongside the British police I experienced a slight chill, because I knew so well from bitter personal experience the Portuguese capacity for pretending to be what they were not and the deep servility and shamelessness that runs through their society,

At this period a middle-aged and heavily alcoholic Englishwoman called Coral joined the circle at Snack-Bar Piri-Piri. She claimed to have had her two children stolen from her by her ex-husband and to have rented a place in Altura to rebuild her life, and she spent quite a lot of time walking her dog Smiler on the Altura beach. I became quite friendly with her, but after a while she vanished. The story was that she had taken up with Senhor António José, an unprepossessing and rather sinister middle-aged Portuguese who had been Arlete's previous paramour, that she had gone to live with him at his home in some unspecified place, and then perhaps that the two of them had gone to live abroad. But I had no proof that any of this was the case, and it did occur to me to wonder whether Coral had suffered a more sinister fate at the hands of the rascally crew who gathered at Snack-Bar Piri-Piri.

Running on a bit into 2014, I will mention that I was to employ Senhor António José to do some work at my house early in that year, but he made such an appalling job of it, and Arlete was so indifferent to his poor workmanship, that this led to my leaving the Piri-Piri social circle, in which an immense amount of money was now being taken off me by the most varied means.

Towards the end of 2014 Arlete closed the Snack-Bar Piri-Piri and went off to parts unknown, as did many of the other people connected with the bar, including her dangerous boyfriend Alex, whom she gave out to be a Bulgarian, but who according to another source is a Russian. He suffered a near-fatal attack in the streets of Altura at one point, and, according to the same source, has gone back to Russia and is working in a factory there. I was myself threatened several times by handsome Alex, so am delighted that he is probably in Russia and exercising his talents for masculine charm and violence there.

And I will now tell of a most shocking event that took place in Altura towards the end of 2014. At a period slightly after the closure of Snack-Bar Piri-Piri, on the night of 11th to 12th October 2014, there was a huge fire at Joaquim's house and he suffered seventy per cent burns, injuries of which he died about two weeks later. I had meanwhile left Altura on 19th November when he was in the intensive burns unit in Porto and was to be arrested at Gatwick the following day, which was shortly before Jaoquim's death.

The official story was that Joaquim had committed suicide, but I had seen him selling drugs in Cacela on the day immediately preceding the fire and he had seemed perfectly cheerful. It is my personal belief that he was murdered to prevent him telling what he knew about any of the many criminal matters with which he was involved. I just hope that it was not his friendship with me that led to him being killed.

I mention all this because it seems to me possibly relevant to broader concerns, but I now go back to the immediate subject-matter of my family history and to the circumstances which led to the end of the "quiet time" in autumn 2013.

For almost four years a vast amount of the stuff I had once possessed in my London flat had been in store in a warehouse in Clapham, under the charge of my friend Bill Hicks, who had acted as my power of attorney in selling the flat. I had been chary of bringing it over to Portugal, because I longed to leave the country for ever. But now it was clear to me that my exit from Portugal was not imminent, that I was paying a fortune to store the stuff in London, that Bill was anxious to be rid of the responsibility for it, and that it contained many things which could be of interest to me at my house and be helpful to my family research. So, towards the end the "quiet time", after some thought, I decided to have the stuff brought over, and Bill was successful in finding a good firm to undertake the work.

At this same period I also planned yet again to visit the region where my father had lived, this time with the purpose of seeing his grave, if I could find it (it would perhaps be in the town cemetery), and also of obtaining his death certificate at the town hall, to see what information I could glean from this. In Portugal the traditional day for visiting the graves of family dead is 1st November, All Saints Day, not November 2nd, All Souls, although the latter seemed to me, perhaps wrongly, a more appropriate day. My stuff was arriving at my house on 4th November, a Monday, so, if I visited the grave at the traditional period, I would need to travel back from the region of my father's death on the 3rd. And I decided to leave my house on October 30th, a Thursday, giving myself time to collect the certificate on the following day before undertaking the visit to the grave on one of the two days after that.

That was the end of the "quiet time". I told the people at Snack-Bar Piri-Piri, with which I was still at that point associated, that I was going to visit my mother's grave, which lay in the region where she had been born, between Mafra and Ericeira, considerably to the south of where my father had lived.

I chose to stay in the small town with the railway station, and I went up by train, and planned to execute my journeys within the region entirely by taxi, using  the network of local drivers whose acquaintance I had made, whom I would swear to secrecy as regards Isaura. According to one of the drivers, she spent much of her time peering through her net curtains to see who was in what cars might be passing. If we drove past her flat, I would shield my head under the dashboard, I resolved.

I was able to obtain my father's death certificate without difficulty, and it gave me the date of death I have mentioned, and the funeral, according to Portuguese custom, would have been the following day. The certificate gave his surname as Hufleit, not Hupfleit, so my surmise that he had used the name Hupfleit because, as a German, it would have been easier for him to pronounce, must have been correct.

The certificate gave his date of birth as being  6th June 1922, which would make Leonor wrong about his being ninety at the time of his death (which I did not think she was), and said that he was the son of Valerian and Antonia Hufleit and had been born in a place called Dalhinow in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Clearly, no such place existed there, so that was one evident falsehood in the certificate.

But there was a place that had once been called Dalhinow, when it had been a place in Poland. It was now called Dolginovo, because it was in Belarus, in a rural area north of Vilna, a small place that had once been almost entirely a Jewish "shtetl" within the Pale of Settlement of the Tsarist Empire, and was later right on the border between Poland and what had become the Soviet Union. It was a place from which vast numbers of Jews had emigrated, while almost all the remainder were massacred by the Nazis in autumn 1942.

I found all this out quite quickly, from the Internet. And I had a Polish friend, a cultivated and moneyed person who lived in Dorset, who was able to do research for me in what Polish and British records there were, about Mieczyslaw Hufleit. My friend discovered that he had clearly been a real person, born on the date mentioned on the death certificate, in the said place, and and with the said parents. He had fought in the Second World War in the British Army, with the a Polish unit called the Third Carpathian Rifles, in Italy.

This person was later recorded as having married Isaura in 1964, which my father certainly had done, and as having been employed as an electrical engineer, which was my father´s profession, as having been naturalised British in 1968, as my father surely was, and with an address at that time of 104 Stapledon Road, Balham, London SW17, which was as likely as anywhere else to be where my father had lived.

But as I have indicated, I do not believe my father was Mieczyslaw Hufleit. He was using that name. And there was an obvious period when he could have assumed the identity. My father fought in Italy, so did Hufleit. At the end of the war, and just after it, there was immense confusion in the area of the North Italian Plain, with retreating Germans, advancing Allies, Communist and nationalist partisans, and people who just wanted to save themselves, all wandering about and sometimes coming to deadly blows.

If a stray Polish soldier, fighting for the British, had walked into a ambush of  retreating Germans, what would have happened to him? What would have happened to his uniform? And in what uniform would his own body have been dressed?

Surely I don't need to say.

And I will be asked, as I was by my cultivated Polish friend, shocked by my story and my surmises, how I can be sure that my father was a German and not the Pole that he ostensibly appeared to be and as he was accepted as being by the British authorities (they did not know the difference between a German and a Pole). Well, there are many proofs, and I will summarise them under three main counts. 

The first and the most convincing of all is that the genetic research conducted by Family Tree DNA into my paternal line on the Y-chromosome shows no trace at all of Polish or Jewish ancestry but places my father's line within a sub-clade confined almost entirely either to England or to the very western end of the North German Plain. The second count is that my father always called himself Hupfleit rather than Hufleit which he surely never would have done if he really had been the soldier from the Jewish shtetl in far eastern Poland. He also said his first name was Michael which is not the English equivalent of the name Mieczyslaw. There is a Polish version of Michael, although I do not know it. The third proof is that I met my father and, as I have said, he was nothing at all like what you would expect from the scion of an eastern European shtetl but every inch like a former German soldier who answered every question with a muttered "Ja", and who Leonor once told me, with her characteristic bluntness, fought in the German army rather than any patriotic Polish unit.

And I will just expand on a fourth indication, which is in some ways just as convincing as the other three. When I was a teenager, my mother went to night school to learn German and, although the grammar of the language entirely defeated her, she took great pride in being able to speak it and in later years had many German friends, including several who lived near her in Altura, two of whom were an elderly former Sudeten German woman and her husband, who lived just across the road. I myself, when I was about 14 or 15 years old, was sent to a German woman piano teacher who lived in Crawley. She had been a young piano student in Berlin towards the end of the Second World War. I asked her if she had been frightened by all the bombing and she said she had enjoyed it. I understood her reaction. And I was to follow my mother in having a passion for all things German from about the age of 18, and grew particularly to love Lieder, or German art song. I too have made a determined attempt to learn the language, and love to speak it at every opportunity, although, like my mother, I have only mastered the grammar at a simple level. When I finally took possession of Mum's house, I too became friendly with the Sudeten German lady, by then a widow in extreme old age. I thrilled to her stories of escaping the Russians in 1945 on a convenient plane. I felt very German indeed as I talked to her in our shared language of those heroic and tragic days.

Neither my mother nor myself ever showed the slightest interest in things Polish, although I do love Chopin.

Having gleaned what I could from the death certificate, the next task was to arrange to visit my father's grave, and one of the taxi drivers was able to learn from a friend of his where it was. It was not in the town cemetery as I had vaguely expected, but lay in quite a faraway city in a very large municipal cemetery where there was a special area called the "roseiral", the "place of the rose", because the bones of a large number of people lay entirely mingled there in an area which was marked only by a single rose.

It would have been possible to reach this place by train, but the journey would have taken all day and would have left me only a very short time to be at my father's grave. So I was persuaded to pay for a very expensive round journey by the same taxi driver, and to go to the place on the traditional Portuguese day of 1st November.

And perhaps it was just as well, because I found it an immensely alienating experience to stand by the entirely anonymous expanse of brown earth marked by the rose on a terribly cold and wet afternoon, and both the taxi driver and I almost entirely forgot the words of the Our Father and the Hail Mary in our respective languages, I think because we both felt so bad that my father had come to this. But how much more awful it would have been if I had stood there alone!

(Just a brief and rather strange aside at this point. It is extremely surprising how often the word rose comes up, in various languages, in my family history, and also just generally in my life. Perhaps the latter  is not as surprising as all that, because in the Latin languages Rosa or Rose can be a woman's Christian name or a surname for both sexes and it is also the ordinary word meaning "pink".

But, nevertheless, in Portugal one is constantly seeing the word in many contexts, and overhearing it in conversation. In Altura, where I live, it usually comes up in the form "O Rosa" (which could a reference to a man called Rosa, or known by the nickname of The Rose), and in the Algarve more generally the word often appears topographically in the form Monte Rosa, which is the name of  a Nazi ship which was captured by the British during the Second World War and later became the SS Empire Windrush. I believe Monte Rosa may be the code-word for an extensive criminal network based on Portugal's southernmost province.

And the instances of roses in my own family history are also very numerous. For instance the man who possessed my house, and whom I tried to kill, is called Flávio Rosa, which appears to be an assumed name, because it was not the surname of either of his ostensible parents, and, according to the story my mother told, he first drew her attention by coming to cut her hedge and then laying on it a single rose. And her maiden name was Reis, and if this is a Jewish surname, as I believe it is, that is only another form of Rosa.

And three of the six original matches on my father's line on Family Tree DNA, all Americans, have the surname Rose. And Arthur Ernest Hills had a daughter called Rose and married a woman called Rosie Rhoder. And I could go on, and perhaps I shall return to the possible significance of the Rose in my story in a later post. But, if I were to go into it now, vast numbers of readers would dismiss me as hopelessly prone to conspiracy theories, and my story is fantastic enough already, so I shall leave this subject for the present.)

So going back to my account of the chill visit to my father's region, I now had 2nd November to kill, and the friendly taxi driver, with whom I had now formed a bond, persuaded me to undertake a few more journeys, and we passed Isaura´s flat and I hid my head under the dashboard as I had planned, and we had a good laugh about this, and then he offered to buy me lunch, which cheered me up, because I had now spent a fortune on him. Then he drove me back to the uncomfortable and old-fashioned small hotel where I was staying, but the old couple who kept it were friendly, and we all had a good chat together about my father.

And the next day held the pleasure of my leaving their grim room and travelling back through dark and rainy Portugal to my own house, and the following morning, when again it was wet, I was standing outside the house and suddenly I saw the lorry rounding the corner which was bringing so much of my precious stuff from the London flat where I had lived for so many years. And a lovely Indian summer began from that time, as I gradually renewed acquaintance with my things.

Which shall I mention of the possessions in the 104 boxes that were allegedly arriving (Bill had mentioned this figure) and which the two burly workmen piled up on top of each other so closely packed in one spare room that it was to take months even to unload the stuff? Well, very early on, I found a pink bag with memorabilia of the Australian trip I had made in 2005, and in it was a card I had bought at the Circular Quay in Sydney of a most beautiful bronzed young Aussie surfer and that card has gone with me on almost all my travels since. Quite often it is the very last thing that goes into the bags when I am about to set off yet again. And how many a bleak hotel room table has my bronzed Aussie brightened up!

But I think perhaps it was 103 boxes that arrived rather than 104, because a certain number of things that were in my London flat never arrived, and I believe that to lose them for ever was the will of God. One of them was a formal photograph of my mother, glamorous and smiling, which stood on my finest bookcase at my London flat for so many years. When I left there for ever on 16th October 2009, I decided not to take this photograph with me, although I easily could have done, because it weighed little enough. But I did not really want it. But if I had known this would mean that I would lose it for ever, surely I would have taken it.

I will just mention one strange and slightly sinister thing. On 5th October I was inveigled once again into having lunch at the Snack-Bar Piri-Piri, which also meant paying for the lunch of the old woman Dona Isabel, and when we were alone on the terrace she told me that Arlete had told her that I had been to visit my father's grave, not my mother's grave, as I had told them. And, although I later questioned Arlete, I was never to find out how they knew that I had been to this region, and how they had found it out so soon.

The following day, I went to have lunch with my equally expensive restaurant-keeper friends Josefa and António in Monte Gordo, and after lunch I once again phoned Leonor from that place. She was becoming more hostile and uncommunicative these days, perhaps because she was beginning to suffer from dementia, and also perhaps because Isaura had been getting at her, blaming her for what she had told me and trying to get her to take it back. She never did this, but she was most reluctant to tell me more.

And, putting the phone down on her, and thinking about all the grim people I knew in Portugal, and the unsatisfactory life I lived there, the sudden resolve came to me that I must risk arrest and visit England so that I could talk to Leonor in person and get her to tell me more about all the people in the photographs I now had.

And during that November I unpacked as many of the boxes as I could, and began to arrange my huge libraries of books and records in the dusty, dirty rooms, and I did not mention to a soul that on 30th November I would be setting out, and I did not even confide it to my diary. But a few days before I went, I took comfort from a flight of birds going westward overhead as I came back to my house in the quiet evening along my silent street with the bag of clothes from the laundry that was to go with me on my journey.

I have told before of the first illicit winter trip I made to London, in the fifteenth post of my blog, called "The Seventh Journey". This was the title I gave it because I had made six huge tours in the four years before that. The following post tells something of my second, summer, stay in London. And the present one has given details of the third sojourn in my home city, after my release from prison.

There were also trips to the Azores and Madeira in 2014, the eighth and tenth journeys respectively, and the eleventh journey was the long one towards imprisonment and the hostel. And while I have been writing the present account I made what I thought was a magnificent twelfth trip, to four countries in South America - Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina - and wrote much of what you are reading there. I believe this will be the last of the journeys I shall make from the house. From the 13th journey I shall not return there.

So many numbers of journeys and posts! Is this really the end of all my to-ing and fro-ing, you may ask, dear reader! Well, hoping not to try your patience further, I shall leave the chronological approach at this point, because I think it would not help in the elucidation of  what I still have to tell. I will return to a little narrative to close this post, the story of my leaving England again in 2016, a pleasant note, I hope, on which to end.

I shall introduce this new section with a memory from the month after the arrival of all my things at the house. At a certain point I found there a photograph which I knew had been taken at the last birthday party that I had given at my flat, on 21st August 2009. It showed a youngish man who bore a strong resemblance to myself, particularly since I had lost so much weight in prison, but whom I did not immediately recognise.

Then it came to me. This was Chris Hills, the son of Arthur Ernest Hills Junior by Kathleen Berg, whom I had always believed was my half-brother. But how come the resemblance between us was so strong if I was the son of the totally unrelated German posing as the Pole Mieczyslaw Hufleit? However, there was one striking difference between our faces. Like my father and Arthur, we had a different shape of nose. Chris had Arthur's nose, and I had my father's nose. And my father and I shared the shape of nose of Arthur Ernest Hills Senior.

The reader will remember that the Arthur and my father bore a close resemblance to each other, so much so that they could be twins. And they seemed to have worked together closely as regards my mother. The only records of any marriages that my mother made record the bridegroom as Arthur, but all the photographs of any weddings or other occasions before about summer 1957, which often include an image of myself, show my father. However, Arthur Ernest Hills was the man named on my birth certificate as the parent and, although a photograph I possess of my christening on 2nd October 1955 ows my father, on the documents, once again, Arthur is recorded as the parent of the baptised child.

All these factors, taken together, show that the two men worked together closely at every stage in matters concerning my mother and myself and were in no sense, except possibly a very sublimated one in the case of Arthur, rivals for her affections.

It is impossible to tell for certain whether at my mother's first wedding, which took place on 11th September 1954 at the Register Office in Hendon, she really married Arthur, her official groom, or whether my father impersonated him. The available evidence is complex and finely balanced, there are no photographs which can be assigned with certainty to this wedding, and the remaining witnesses will not speak.

My own feeling is that my mother would have known what man she wanted and gone for him. The question has some potential practical importance, because whomever my mother married first was her real husband, and if it was my father, this makes his later marriage to Isaura bigamous and any inheritance she had from him by virtue of being his wedded wife legally invalid.

I went to the Hendon Register Office in the summer of 2014, and persuaded them to make a copy of the original document in their possession, something they were not officially supposed to do. The handwriting of the groom looks slightly more like my father's writing than that of Arthur. But just as their appearance was similar so was their handwriting, and the sample is very small. By the way, this document also has a small but certain sample of the handwriting of Arthur Ernest Hills Senior. He was an official witness.

Of the second marriage, which took place at St Joseph's Church, Highgate Hill, some time around April or May 1955 (possibly on 21st May), and which was the real marriage of my parents, there are many photographs but no absolutely certain documentary record (see my post "The seventh journey" for a possible identification of the ceremony and the names used by the participants.)

And the third marriage, also at St Joseph's, on November 13th, 1955, was officially to Arthur, and may have been really to him, because, according to the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon, the church insisted on a Catholic wedding after my baptism on 2nd October, and would have been likely to make sure of perfect documentation and legality this time. And the Maccariello family, staunch Catholics, in whose house my parents were then living, arranged the occasion. However, there is no photographic evidence that could finally settle the matter, and it is possible that for a third and final time my mother married my father, for the second time under the guise of Arthur.

On the electoral roll Arthur Ernest Hills is recorded as living with my mother and myself at 19, Hornsey Rise, but the little book that my father wrote, as well as several photographs, and the evidence I am about to adduce, show that it was he, not Arthur, who did so. At the time of the register office wedding, Arthur was living at 23 Taviton Street, near Euston Station, and the rich Jewess for whom my mother worked in Hendon warned her never to have anything to do with a man who lived in a street near Euston Station. The evidence I am about to bring forward shows for certain that he continued to live at Taviton Street while allegedly married to my mother.

Now my aunt Eva is shown by a document in my possession as having gained permission to enter Britain in December 1954, to work for another rich Hendon Jewish family, so her arrival cannot have been before  about the beginning of 1955. My mother and Arthur often used to tell a funny story when I was a child about an episode playing cards with Aunt Eva when they were first married. She did not speak English very well, and as more and more cards were being dealt she grew more and more excited and finally began shouting hysterically, "Play the arse! Play the arse!"

This story was was always set firmly by my mother and Arthur in Taviton Street, ergo he must still have been living there in 1955 when according to the records and other evidence he was living either at Hornsey Rise, or before that at Stockwell, or at another possible address between the two.

When my father left us, probably before I was two years old, and possibly in about June 1957, Arthur seems seamlessly to have taken his place. I know for certain that this must have happened before the end of that year, because during the third stay in London I went down to Crawley and spoke to a neighbour of ours from when I was a child, Mrs Parr. She was still living in her old house at the age of about ninety, her husband having died at a similarly great age a few years before..

Mrs Parr confirmed that she had moved into her house from one nearby in the later part of 1957 and that the only man she had ever known to have lived as a husband with my mother was Arthur. She pored over the photographs for some time and was finally able to see that they showed two different men, and she also made the point that Mr Hupfleit and Isaura would never have received me if he had not been my father. But she herself had never known him. She was delighted to see me, by the way, and I her.

I am now going to tell of a memory that I have never told anyone. It seems to me right that I should mention this for the first time in my blog. What you tell just anyone so frequently does not give you the reaction that you want. There so often seems to be no particular person who is receptive to what you have to say. Better to try to broadcast it to the whole world, so that anyone who has ears to hear may hear. That is the whole principle on which I am writing this blog.

When I first attempted to be a writer my mother was fearful that I had chosen so unremunerative a profession, and slightly scornful of my efforts, but when I had a few things published - which was from the late 1970s onwards - she began to be interested. Once when I was visiting her (I think this happened in one of her houses in Crawley, which would place the memory before October 1983), she said she had a s story to tell me which she wanted me to write down and turn into a story of my own.

It was a most beautiful story, she said, but also tragic. I was very concerned for my independence as a writer at that time, and said I could only write the stories that were in me to write.

But she persisted. She said that the story concerned a pair of twins who were separated at birth but then many years later they met again. I said that was quite a hackneyed story, versions of which had been told by many writers many times. And she said, looking at me, that this story concerned me personally, and that one day I might be very glad that I had listened to her and written it.

And I told her that the story was her story and that she must write it herself. It was her story, she said, but also mine. She went on for quite a long time trying to persuade me to write it and said she would give me all the details to enable me to make it really good. But I was adamant that I wanted nothing to do with her story.

And the irony is that so many years after her death I am trying to write that story. Because of course the story she wanted to tell me.was the story of the twins who were my father and my uncle, the men known in later life as Hupfleit and as Arthur Ernest Hills.

There was one other time that my mother tried to tell me who my father had been. This memory dates from before the other one, from a period when I think I was living with my mother at home, which probably places it in the later part of 1977. My mother and I were parked in her car outside Crawley Cinema, or what once had been that establishment, where some years before I had had a most unsuccessful job as a cinema assistant.

The memory of this job set me to reminiscing about past events and I told my mother how much I had always loved the story that she had met my father at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand. It seemed such a romantic place for them to have met. And I think she began to tell me that she had not met my father at the ballroom but on the tube train. But I was so disturbed to have my romantic story rejected that I wanted nothing to do with her even more romantic one. And she abruptly drove the car away.

And, unless you count the time when I was a child, when she pointed towards the church where she had been married, those were the only times that my mother tried to tell me about my real father. I suppose it would have been difficult for her to have this story uncovered, and also difficult for my relations, including Arthur Ernest Hills and Michael. And perhaps it would have gone hard with me too when I was a teenager in the 1960s to have it known that my father had been a German soldier in the Second World War.

Would I have wanted to know the truth about my background during the time when the three principal figures were still alive? In many ways I don't think so. There are still people living, including myself, who could be damaged by this truth. I myself have suffered from several people through my efforts to bring it to light. They have been hurt, contemptuous, angry. But my mother, my father and my uncle are beyond being touched, and this frees me to go on. I will try to protect people who might be hurt, and soothe down those who do not like the story, but I now want to go full steam ahead to make the truth known.

Now, assuming that the two men really were twins (and I do realise of course that there cannot be absolute  certainty of this), I want to summarise what can be deduced or inferred from that fact. Now my father was a German, which means that Arthur must originally have been a German too. But because he had no trace of a German accent and did not know German, he must have arrived in England and assumed the identity of Arthur Hills junior before the age of eight. His recorded birth date was 6th January 1925, and his real date of birth would be fairly unlikely, perhaps, to diverge very far from this, so in that case he would have been eight years old at the time of the Nazi takeover in 1933.

The alert reader may notice a contradiction at this point. This is that I believe that my father was probably born in 1921 and also that the two men were twins. Since I believe them both to be persons of assumed identity, I cannot of course be sure of the birth dates of either of them. It may be that my father was not born at the early date and that this story arose because of the real birth date of Mieczyslaw Hufleit. It may be that the two men were brothers or half-brothers rather than twins. I suppose it is also possible that Arthur was passed off as a child of about seven when he was in fact about eleven, and this would make two very strange facts seem more reasonable: that he was allowed to make the bus journey alone from London to Edinburgh when he was ostensibly only seven years of age; and that the fatal quarrel with his mother, after which they never saw each other again, apparently took place when he was only fourteen.

But this hypothesis seems initially to fall because Arthur had no trace of a foreign accent, which would not have been possible if he had reached England much after the age of eight, which would have been the case if he arrived in 1933 and had been born in 1921. There is a fourth solution, however, and this is the one that I believe to be correct.

I have mentioned that two children of my grandmother were given away in England, and the elder of these, Sonia, was born - according to her birth certificate, which there is no particular reason to doubt - on 19th August 1930, at High Street, Hounslow. Arthur Ernest Hills Senior is recorded as the father of these children and this too seems likely to be true. This parent would almost certainly be the original Englishman.

Now on 17th November 1929, the Nazi Party scored a notable success in the Prussian local elections in Berlin, for the first time sending thirteen deputies to the city council. It was the first sign that could have told an intelligent observer, after the Great Crash of 1929, that the Nazis might eventually win power.

My grandmother was a Berliner, and and it therefore makes sense to believe that her Nazi lover could have held high office in the Berlin Nazi Party headquarters. What if a sympathetic English milord had been present in Berlin at that moment, perhaps to enjoy the significant opportunities for sex, both heterosexual and homosexual, that the city so munificently afforded?

Could not the electoral success at this point, and the warm welcome of the Nazi, have prompted the willing milord to put through a telephone call to London so that an inconvenient Jewish mistress, with her son and daughter, could be sent to England and a ready-made partner provided for her, to father two further children and to give the family a new name? And could not the preparations to dispose of the original holder of the Arthur Ernest Hills Senior identity also have begun in December 1929, to be fulfilled in December 1936?

If we thus posit that the arrival of my grandmother, Helen and Arthur Junior in England took place at the very beginning of 1930 or the end of 1929, then Arthur could clearly have been born in late 1921 and arrived in England just in time to lose almost all trace of his original language.

Now, if the two men were twins, it also follows for certain that they had exactly the same parents, and since Arthur Ernest Hills told me many details about his parents when I was a child, and obviously felt them very deeply, it follows that his account was substantially true, and almost entirely so for the period after the very early 1930s. This means that the people calling themselves Arthur Ernest Hills and Mary Martin Brown during and after the 1930s were his true parents. Now what can be known for certain about these two?

I will begin with Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, and go on to the case of Mary Brown, whom I believe, for reasons that I shall discuss, to have been really called Ida Friederike Charlotte Bleistein, born with the surname Friedemann in Berlin in 1894, and commonly known as Ida Lotte Bleistein. She is a well documented person. Of the original identity of my grandfather I have only the strangest of clues, which I shall not discuss openly in this blog post.

So what can be know of him? I have already given a few documentary details of him near the start of this post. And, as I said, I remember him very slightly from my childhood. He was a deeply unfriendly, sinister and lascivious man, I know that. There are various other people who remember him, and they confirm this. Arthur Junior used to say that his father had managed to avoid fighting in the First World War and after it had been a noted Communist agitator. He placed this events in Kent and at the Chatham Dockyard where his father had officially worked as an electrical wireman. That obviously wouldn't be true of the real old man. But I  wonder if the business about the First World War and the Communism could be true of his real background in Germany?

He would obviously have had to make the transition to Nazi sympathies, but I believe this often happened, most famously, of course, in the case of Dr Goebbels. He, curiously enough, also did not fight in the First World War, because of his limping foot. And at least one photograph that I possess of my grandfather as a young man bears a very strong resemblance to the young Goebbels. And the structure of my own face and head, and the shape of my hair, also resembles the little doctor's, although I do not have his sticking-out ears (my father had those).

It follows from my own and other people's memories of my grandfather that all the records that exist of him after the Second World War in England are substantially true. These begin with his marriage (a bigamous one, according to Arthur) to Winifred Chaplain, who was born with the surname Gay, on 16th December, 1950, at the register office in Ealing, a marriage at which the respective children of bride and groom - Richard Chaplain and Helen Vera Hills - were witnesses. After that there is his presence as a witness at the register office marriage of my parents in  September 1954. previously mentioned, and as a witness once again at the marriage of his daughter Helen to Frederick Patmore in January 1955.

Then there is his death certificate, which shows him dying on 16th February 1968 at the King Edward General Hospital, Ealing. The informant was his widow, W. Hills, of 9, Edinburgh Road, South Hanwell, and she clearly lived at this address, but it is rather more uncertain whether he did. According to Brian Streeter, who remembers Arthur Senior well, this married couple lived apart, and he continued his lifelong pursuit of various women, which may well have led to him not being resident at 9, Edinburgh Road for long periods. In the wedding group photo that I talked about in detail in "The seventh journey" there is a sultry-looking middle-aged woman who was apparently a Portuguese who had lived in South Africa, and Brian told me once that at one point Arthur Senior appeared in Crawley on the arm of this woman rather than with Winnie.

Before the dates of the various later documentary records, there are a number of memories that Arthur gave of him in England, which are likely to be true, and they include the fact that, before being involved with Winnie, he had been with a slatternly woman called Madge who always had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. There is also the meeting on the top of the London bus, and this is so strange it must surely be true. Arthur had no memories of him at all between the family break-up, possibly around 1932, and the period after the Second World War, and this would obviously be consistent with him really being a Nazi in Germany and therefore entirely inaccessible to Arthur, by that time in England.

Does this mean that we can be certain that he arrived in England, by unknown means, after the Second World War, having been in hiding in Germany from early May 1945? Not quite. For the reader will remember my unreliable informant the archivist and his statement that the assumption of British identity by the group of Nazis who had murdered an entire English family had taken place before the Second World War, not after that.

Now, assuming that the archivist was referring to my own family, this might mean that my grandfather had been planted in England by the Nazi regime during the 1930s, or it could also mean that various members of his family and other connections had been insinuated into Britain by various means after or around the period of the murders and that a sleeper identity had been created for my grandfather at a similar period, for him to use in the event of Nazi defeat and his own subsequent escape from either death or trial. This creation of a sleeper identity would obviously have been most likely to have taken place at the height of British appeasement of the Nazis, and I think historians would date this as being around late 1936 and early 1937.

Now, as it happens, I was able to unearth from my searches of the British records during my two clandestine visits to London the record of a suspicious death of one Arthur Hills, which took place at exactly this period, on 14th December 1936. This Arthur Hills was a plumber's mate with an address in Poplar, East London, and he is recorded as having died "opposite No 10" in High Street, North Woolwich. This suggests to me a possible fatal accident with the plumbing.

The coroner for south-east London, W.H. Whitehouse, conducted an inquest on 16th December, and the cause of death was given as labar pneumonia, and rather tautologically, "natural causes", with the initials "P.M" appended, which I think must stand for "post-mortem". The age of this Arthur Hills was recorded as 39, while the Arthur Ernest Hills born at Dover in 1896 whom Mr Adolph identified - tracing the facts back from the marriage to Winnie - as having been my grandfather, would have been 40 at this time. Obviously, it is not impossible that these two men were the same, and also that whatever sudden event befell the plumber's mate was engineered.

Now, if we assume that this was the moment that my definitively grandfather gained his British identity, because the original holder of it was now dead (although the identity seems to be prefigured from about 1930, because Arthur Ernest Hills Senior is recorded as the father of the two children Dennis and Sonia), do we have any information which suggests whether he took up the identity more or less immediately, or whether it was a sleeper identity?

Yes, there is one possible indication. Now, as it happens, the well-informed but possibly not truly helpful archivist drew my attention during the third stay in London to the existence of the 1939 Register, which was a census compiled in Britain at the outbreak of war of all civilians living in the country, British and foreign. It was drawn up by house-to-house enquiry. And, as a dutiful family researcher, I took the archivist's hint and went to look up Arthur Ernest Hills and other family members in this record.

Sure enough, there was a register of one Arthur E. Hills, born on the same date as the man identified by Mr Adolph as my grandfather, living with one Marjorie Hills, who could well have been Madge, and both are recorded as married, although apparently not to each other. Is this absolute proof that the assumption of identity happened immediately?

Well, not quite. This couple are recorded as living at 249, Barton Road, Lambeth, and, when I checked the street name in the A-to-Z it did not exist. It is of course possible that there was once such a street and that it was swept away by wartime bombing or post-war redevelopment, although the very high street number suggests that this is unlikely to have been the case.

Also, in the case of a sleeper identity, it would have been necessary for it to be recorded in the 1939 Register, which was hastily compiled in often indecipherable handwriting and hardly at all double-checked, therefore easy to forge. And, if we are talking about possible forgery, I saw the record in computerised form and this could easily have been made ready for the archivist to draw my attention to. I had told him about Madge. Or that hellish slattern, complete with dangling fag, could have been a present that came with the identity! Oh, no, my dear archivist, you're not going to trap me as easily as all that!

I myself, for what it is worth, incline to the theory of the sleeper identity. What top Nazi would have wanted to leave Germany at a time when every indication was that Hitler would lead his adopted country to ever more success? But might he not, if he were wise, have been glad of an insurance policy provided by some twinkling friend of his in the British establishment in case the plans of the said Hitler came to dust and ashes?

Well, all our plans might come to dust and ashes and, talking of the slightly sinister archivist, I am reminded of the fact that he warned me during that drunken evening that, if I ever came close to the truth about the identity of my grandfather, somebody might kill me. Well, very recently, there has been what appeared to be an attempt on my life, and it occurs to me that my own insurance policy might involve telling the reader about this attempt, in order to deter those who may be thinking about repeating the experiment.

Now the reader may remember that I mentioned that, very recently, while writing this post, I undertook a South American journey, and it so happens that on 20th January 2017 I arrived by sea in Buenos Aires. This is is now almost a month ago, as I am writing at this moment in the internet centre of the social club in Altura on the afternoon of 15th February.

Someone I had met in a bookshop in Montevideo had recommended to me that I stay in the suburb of Recoleta and I had looked up this smart area several times on the Internet and perhaps mentioned I was going there in an email. On arrival at the port, I took a taxi to Recoleta and the driver drew up at a point where there was a choice of three hotels.

I checked into one called Urban Suites and, as it was lunchtime, I rested a couple of hours in my room and ate lunch there. I go pretty often to the toilet and, as there was no window in this bathroom, I am sure I must have gone in, perhaps more than once, and switched on the lights. Then I went out for a couple of hours to see the sights of Recoleta. I returned very tired and once more rested for about an hour on the bed.

Then I went into the toilet again and switched on the lights. Immediately, a small fire broke out within or near the light bulb. I did not react immediately to this strange event, but quite soon the room was filling with more and more smoke and, although I turned everything off, and the fire went out, this did not stop the spread of the smoke. Eventually I realised that I must exit the room immediately or I would be dead.

I quickly made my way down to the reception desk, where two young receptionists were on duty, both of whom had appeared since I checked in at lunchtime. Eventually the more sympathetic of the two, a sweet young man of Italian descent called Max, came up with me to the room and, although himself almost overwhelmed by the smoke, was quickly able to discover what the cause of the fire was. Someone had put a wet toilet roll inside the light bulb.

And on this terrifying note (at least to me) I will close what I have to say for the moment about Arthur Ernest Hills Senior. And now to the mother of his children. These were officially four (although, according to a distant relation in Edinburgh, there were apparently five, and the fifth although not in order of birth, was surely my father). These children were born to a woman officially known as Mary Martin Brown, born, according to the records, in Edinburgh in 1899 with ancestry that Mr Adolph traced to Ayrshire in the eighteenth century. Now what can be known with certainty of her?

Well, of course, I never knew Ida Lotte Bleistein, although perhaps the worst of all my memories is standing at the door which she was refusing to open to her own son and grandson. That was surely a terrible thing to do to a son she had once known, and I can only wonder what was the substance of the quarrel that took place near the beginning of the war, when he was perhaps only fourteen (or, more likely, eighteen).

The few other people I have met who knew her, relations of hers, also describe her as a hard, mean woman. Arthur always spoke of her with great bitterness, saying once that she was "a miserable bitch", yet, once, at my request, he showed me a photograph of her and one of his father. He said he would show me these photos once and once only, and he kept his word. I never saw those photos again. The one of my grandfather, according to what may of course be false memory, showed a very evil-looking young man lying on the grass of a park, the one of my grandmother a woman against the background of a great city. Arthur must have cared, to have kept those photos so long. Still waters ran deep with him.

Now, obviously, if my grandmother was really a German Jewish refugee, who arrived in this country with one of her twin sons, but not the other, and perhaps also her daughter, and then gave two more children away, it follows that all the details that relate to Mary Martin Brown before about 1930 have nothing to do with her. But can we also assume that everything that relates to Mary Martin Brown after her arrival, as with Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, is substantially true of my grandmother? I do not think we can.

This is because the original Mary Brown would have had to be disposed of - either killed, or given another identity - and the original identity would still exist and would have to be acknowledged if it were ever in question. And, if my grandmother continued to use her original identity for various purposes, as I believe she did, then she would have had finally to dispose of the identity of the original Mary Martin Brown before her own death, possibly when that person finally died, and by fair means or foul.

Now, as it happens, just as with Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, my searches of the records in England during my clandestine visits threw up the occasion when this disposal of identity seems to have happened, and the interviews I subsequently conducted with other relations of my grandmother make it seem virtually certain, at least to me, that I have discovered at least the rudiments of the truth about this.

In the summer of 2014 I went to the Westminster Archives Centre and found a death certificate for  the Mary Martin born in Edinburgh in 1899, from study of which, as I now know for certain, from proofs I shall reveal within a number of paragraphs, my grandmother had faked her own death.

She is recorded as having died at the Central Middlesex Hospital, Park Royal, West London, on 30th July 1982, of congestive cardiac failure and coronary occlusion with generalised atheroclerosis. But the death was not registered until 5th August 1982, because there was a post-mortem without inquest. This meant that the certificate of death carried the certification not of a family doctor but of  D.M. Paul the Coroner for North London, and it was filled out in the florid and almost legible handwriting of someone probably called Raymond O. Sullivan, Registrar for the sub-district of Park Royal in the London Borough of Brent.

On the day this document was signed, the body would have been released for burial .On that very same day, 5th August, another woman, known simply as Mary Martin, the widow of one Leonard Cecil Martin, who had apparently been born on 6th August 1896, is recorded as having died, at the Royal Free Hospital, in the neighbouring borough of Camden, but her death, for reasons unknown, was not registered until 13th August.

The causes of death, broncho-pneumonia and cerebro-vascular accident, were certified by the strangely-named F. Fortuno MBBS, and the signature of the registrar, recorded as being of the sub-district of Camden in the registration district of Camden in the London Borough of Camden, is entirely illegible.

I think this second woman was possibly the original Mary Martin Brown, born in Edinburgh in 1899, and that she is likely to have been done to death around 30th July 1982, either at her own recorded address or at the recorded address of my grandmother, and to have been rushed, already dying, either to the Central Middlesex or the Royal Free Hospital, or left for a while for her body to decompose in the heat of August.

Her own address, as recorded on the death certificate, was 29, Ariel Road, West Hampstead, London NW6, but, as I discovered from the electoral rolls towards the very end of my stay in England in summer 2014, this was an entirely empty house at the time of the widow's death and had been since 1978 and was to remain so until 1984.

Clearly the widow had not been living at 29, Ariel Road, and if one detail in a certificate is false, the whole thing is likely to be designed to deceive. This document is very sparse on detail and filled out in a careful but uneducated hand. The informant of the death was a Martin Lolliard (or possibly Colliard - the initial letter of the surname at the space reserved for it is half-way between the versions of capital "C" and Capital "L" that appear elsewhere in the document, while the signature of the person is entirely indecipherable,)

This person of uncertain surname had the usual address of 356/364 Grays Inn Road, and this turns out to be the address of Camden Council social services, so he was an anonymous council worker. His qualification for being the informant was "causing the body to be buried", from which implies, although not with total certainty, that, wherever the body began its journey, it moved towards its final resting place from the Royal Free. The fact that a council worker was the informant implies that the widow was a solitary person, the circumstances of whose death were of little interest to anyone.

If the widow was not living at 29, Ariel Road, this raises the question of where she really was living, and I think it is possible that her home really was 94, Vanbrough Crescent, the recorded address of my grandmother. This is a very small bungalow between two more substantial houses and seems designed for an elderly person to live in alone. As she was almost certainly also called Mary Martin, she could have passed for my grandmother.

Vanbrough Crescent is a quiet street in the mainly anonymous landscape of far West London near the White Hart Roundabout. But when I visited the area I discovered that the population in the group of houses surrounding No 94 had remained surprisingly stable and several persons who had grown up in the area were still living there in their middle and old age.

A number of these were willing to talk to me, and I showed them several photographs I had procured of my grandmother, and none of them recognised her, and none had any memories of a couple who could possibly have been Mary Martin Brown and Percy Martin. One of them thought her face might be vaguely familiar, but of this she could not be sure. I therefore conclude my grandmother and her husband almost certainly never lived at this address.

But it was certainly her recorded address and that of Percy Martin according to the electoral rolls. The 1978 register shows a Margaret Sell as living at No 94. My grandmother and her husband are first shown in the 1979 register, which became operative from 16th February of that year, shortly after the time, therefore, that 29, Ariel Road fell entirely vacant. My grandmother vanishes from the time of the 1983 register, as one would expect, and then Percy Brown is shown until 1993, the year of his death, I believe. From 1994 to 1997 an Antoine H. Estienne is recorded, and from 1998, for quite a number of years, Angus D. Loch.

When I visited the area I was told something about Angus D. Loch by the current occupant of 94, Vanbrough Cresecent. He had been a very shy and solitary black man who hardly went out except to his local church, and he had occupied the small house for about twenty years and died several years before I visited the area in 2014. I therefore conclude that he probably moved into the house at some time before the death of Percy Martin and that the said Antoine Estienne was another phantom occupant.

I shall always mention at a later point that one of my cousins remembered the woman calling Mary Martin and Percy Martin living mainly on the top floor of a council flat in Acton and had no memory of them living at Vanbrough Crescent, although he was her grandson and had known them both reasonably well

There is one final strange fact about 94, Vanbrough Crescent in relation to the Central Middlesex Hospital. It is nowhere near there. The hospital in question lies between Harlesden and North Acton. But Vanbrough Crescent is so far out in the western suburbs, in Northolt or Yeading, that it is hardly London at all. In fact, Ariel Road is nearer to the Central Middlesex than is Vanbrough Crescent. Why, if my grandmother really lived at the latter, was she not taken to the nearby Hillingdon Hospital when she fell ill from standard causes?

What happened, then, on or just before 30th July 1982, which led to the death of the elderly woman of unknown identity and address, but possibly also called Mary Martin? Well, the exact details of this complex plot will perhaps never be known, and are certainly beyond the present writer to unravel in detail at this point. I shall indicate shortly that there are people still alive who perhaps know these details, but unless and until they talk the whole plot will never be unravelled.

We are left with the fact that my grandmother did not die on this occasion and that another elderly woman surely must have done, because a body must have been cut up. One possibility that occurs to me is that there was some sort of administrative link between the Central Middlesex and Royal Free hospitals, so that a post-mortem could have been recorded at the one but really have taken place at the other.

 So on the one hand, we have my grandmother, now herself elderly but still in good health, living quite near all the locations I have mentioned, and perhaps fearful that, in the event of the death of the real Mary Martin Brown, her own cover would be blown. Then there is the more hypothetical figure of the elderly widow who, perhaps for money, had accepted a slight adjustment of identity many decades before.

Perhaps the two women had always remained vaguely in touch and, when the widow came to die, she made sure my grandmother and Percy Martin were informed. That would be the charitable explanation. Against this is the fact that Percy Martin was the informant of the death and that the death certificate, filled out with every possible detail, and leaving no space for suspicion of any of the authorities at Central Middlesex Hospital, except a possibly corrupted family doctor, says that Percival Conrad Marshall Martin, the informant, the dead woman's husband,  was present at the death.

There is also the fact that 29 Ariel Road had already been entirely empty for four years at the time the second woman died. Why? It was a three storey Victorian house in quite a prosperous if very transient part of West London. Much money could have been made from letting it out, surely. But what if it were more important for the place to be readied as the recorded address of a solitary and dying occupant?

Surely the unfortunate widow was done to death at 29, Ariel Road, that silent and empty house, with perhaps the only sound disturbing the killing the noise of the overhead train. Probably her pulse was lowered to a point where death would shortly follow. And it is the Royal Free that is the nearest hospital. Surely she was taken there. The Central Middlesex is just that bit too far.

I do not necessarily suspect the coroner. He would have cut up thousands of bodies of elderly women at various North London hospitals in his time .Once his work was done, it was for F. Fortuno to provide the certification. And for Mr Colliard or Lolliard to take the widow to her final resting place.

And what was the motive which could justify what seems to have been a particularly callous murder, surely carried out at by the ageing Percy Martin, with my grandmother, who was rather older than him, perhaps watching in the background?

There was an ostensible motive and a hidden one. The obvious motive was to get rid of the identity of Mary Martin Brown for ever. But the final motive must surely have been to try and make sure that no one ever found out the true identity of the man calling himself calling himself Arthur Ernest Hills and the fact that he was not the Englishman he claimed to be.

For if the woman recorded as his former wife had been shown at her death to be a person of false identity, suspicion would have posthumously fallen on him. Much money would surely have been available to attain this end, more than enough to keep a large North London house empty for five years.

I have gone to 29, Ariel Road many times, often at night, and stood outside this corner house in the weird district near the three railway stations. If my grandmother and Percy Martin used 29, Ariel Road for their schemes, they must have had a connection with it, and perhaps once had lived there. Again and again I have tried to remember if this can have been the house we visited in 1968 to try to see my grandmother, the time she refused to see me or her own son. But I have got no certain answer from myself. And Arthur Ernest Hills, her son, told me the house was in Acton.

At this point I ask the reader to remember -  I have mentioned it twice before in this now enormous post - that Arthur told me his father lived near South Ealing Tube when in fact he lived near Boston Manor Tube, two stops further down the Piccadilly Line. No, from West Hampstead to Acton Central on what is now the London Overground is five stops, but East Acton Station, which is on the Central Line, is so close to West Hampstead that, if a direct line linked them, the number of stops would be unlikely to be more than two.

Now if Arthur could tell one undoubted lie about his father, surely he would have been capable of telling a very similar one about his mother. He always loved to deceive me, in matters small as well as great. And my grandmother's grandson by Percy Martin, Paul Martin, when I questioned him, said that, although he remembered our grandmother as living on the top floor of a council block in Acton, he thought that 29, Ariel Road was a possible address for her at one time.

I checked the electoral rolls for 29, Ariel Road in 1968. There were six people living on the three floors of the house: a man and a woman with the surname Cadogan, two women with the surname Gardner, and a couple called James and Mary Singleton. One of the Cadogans seems to have died and the other was left. The Gardners were two women. It is therefore Singleton that I think possibly to be the alias of my grandmother and Percy Martin. But I acknowledge of course that there can be very little certainty of this.

I now come to the proof I have that my grandmother lived for several years beyond 30th July 1982, and this in contrast is quite certain. The summer of 2014 in London was a slightly depressed time for me, after the much more joyful winter visit, and I was slow to follow up my discovery of the two death certificates of possibly just one woman called Mary Martin.

But eventually I visited Edinburgh to find surviving relatives of Mary Martin Brown, and one of these told me that, although, as I already knew, Alan Martin, the son of my grandmother by Percy Martin, had died in 2006 - I had perhaps better make it clear at this point that the name Martin was in the family of Mary Martin Brown, and also the real, or assumed, name of Percy Martin - his widow, Margaret Hibberd, was perhaps still living.

The Edinburgh relation gave me the address for Margaret Hibberd, which was in a town or city on the south coast of England, and a few days after returning from Edinburgh I travelled down there for the day from London.

I arrived at the gloomy modern British High Street towards lunchtime, poked round the charity shops, had an uninspired but sufficient meal at a Wetherspoon, and booked my ticket back to Portugal at a travel agent's. Thus fortified, I got a taxi to the suburb where Margaret Hibberd perhaps still lived, but the taxi driver did not know the address, or claimed not to, although, rather strangely, he dropped me at a point which was, in fact, very close to her home.

I then got hopelessly lost for several hours, and wandered over vast distances, but I experienced the civility of many strangers, who tried to help me, and which I have to to admit, whenever I get exasperated with England, is one of the real joys of English life. So when I finally found the quiet house in the little cul-de-sac I was still in a good and hopeful mood.

Margaret Hibberd answered the door without delay, and turned out to be a quiet, elegant elderly lady. Although I was later to learn from her son Paul Martin that she had been frightened by my arrival, she was able to control this, and treated me with great kindness and civility. She  remembered her mother-in-law and Percy Martin well, although she said that family relations had never been close. She said that my grandmother had treated Alan very cruelly when he was a child, but he had been a good man and had not entirely deserted his mother. When I asked her if she thought my grandmother and the grandmother of her children could originally have been a German, she said that her voice had been broad Scotch but that there could have been some other accent there underneath the Scottishness.

We talked originally in her sitting-room, but later we moved to the cosy kitchen where she entertained me to a fine cup of tea and, I remember, a little thing to eat. There I showed  the two death certificates, and outlined the theories I had about them. She originally reacted negatively to this, and said there could surely have been no connection between those two documents. She said she could not remember exactly where my grandmother had lived or when she had died. It had been some time in the 1980s. Relations had been so very distant with the unpleasant couple and they had even grudged giving their grandchildren birthday presents.

It was getting towards the time when the last bus towards the railway station would leave that quiet suburb, and it looked as if I would have to go without having found out anything much. Then Margaret Hibberd suddenly said she wanted to tell me something. She had had a daughter called Suzanne who had died two years before but, if she had been alive on that day, which was 1st September 2014, would have been 49 years old. This would obviously place her birth some time around 1965, and she would have been around seventeen on 30th July 1982, the recorded date of the death of her grandmother.

Now Alan and Margaret had gradually become angry about the refusal of the grandparents ever to give their grandchildren presents.  And it had been on either Suzanne's 18th or her 21st birthday (Margaret could not remember which) that they had visited the old couple with Suzanne and more or less forced a present out of them. With quickening excitement, I asked Margaret if the woman calling herself Mary Martin Brown, my grandmother, had still been in good health at the time of this incident, and in her quiet and pleasant voice Margaret said that she had been, and indeed that she had lived for several years after that.

"Do you realise," I said, with deep joy, "you've just given me proof positive that that death certificate is a forgery?"

"Oh, well,"  she answered, "I can't help what I've said."

"Oh, God, thank you so much, so much, for telling me that."

"I wanted to help you. Now look, you've got to get to the bus stop. I don't think there's much time now."

We hurried into our outer garments, I told her to be sure she had her keys, and we walked towards the main road, where there was a most beautiful raised green, and she showed me the bus stop, we checked the time, which was enough, and with a slightly nervous but warm farewell she left me.

During our conversation Margaret had given me the address and phone numbers of her son Paul Martin, and some time after I went back to Portugal, I phoned him (actually I phoned him from the island of Porto Santo, part of the Madeiran archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean). He was friendly on the phone, but said firmly that his family had no German connection.

On the day before I left Portugal for England for the third time - where I was to be arrested on arrival - I received a letter from Paul Martin enclosing a vast amount of genealogical research and a huge family tree showing his Brown and Martin ancestry in the British Isles over many generations. The fairly brief covering letter said that he had now helped me as much as he could on the matter of our common ancestry and insinuated, in perfectly polite and friendly language, that he wanted nothing more to do with me.

While I was in prison, however, I determined to visit him when I could, and one weekday in the summer of 2016 I rather wearily set out from the hostel in Hackney to the place in the Home Counties, fairly near Reading, where he lived. I left at very late lunchtime because his mother had told me that he worked at a job, and even in the evening was often out walking his dogs, so I must time my visit hoping to catch him when he had recently arrived home from work (I had meant to go the previous Sunday, and perhaps beard him on a free afternoon, but had felt too weary and disinclined in my room at the hostel.)

And on this weekday, I arrived at the railway station of the unpromising little town at about five o'clock in the humid afternoon, carrying my present of assorted cakes in a box, and many photographs and certificates, as well as books and magazines to read, feeling pretty browned off. I soon managed to locate my cousin's house by asking some passers by where it might be. It lay at some distance, and it was too early to go there immediately, so I decided to have an early dinner at a pub. I had to walk up a steep hill to get to the nearest one, and I sat alone, eating my unexceptional meal, in the scrubby garden. Then the day continued hot and grey as I walked again with my heavy bag the considerable distance from the pub to the house.

It was Paul's wife Tessa who answered the door (he was indeed out with his dogs) and she was initially far from pleased to see what she considered a slightly doubtful cousin by marriage who had called without warning, having already been put off by letter. In my nervousness I immediately made a dreadful faux pas about her being Paul's second wife (I had somehow got this idea into my head, possibly entirely falsely). So my visit threatened to come quickly to a sticky end, but just then my cousin Paul, a relaxed Englishman in middle age, drew up in his car with his fine-looking dogs and without much further ado invited me into the house.

I went with the couple into their kitchen, and conversation continued difficult for a while, but then I offered my present, only to be horrified that in my energetic journeys round the Home Counties the cakes had become totally squashed. But this, rather than angering Tessa further, seemed strangely to lighten the atmosphere, and I eventually was able to question the couple about the elder Martins for a shortish period, and I am pretty sure that Tessa made me tea or coffee.

They did not add that very much to the vital facts given me by Margaret. She was still well, and I sent her my very best wishes. Like her, they could not remember exactly when the old woman had died, but they thought it must have been about 1983. Paul said that really he had hardly known his grandmother, she had been such an unwelcoming figure, and, as a child or young man he would hardly have noticed whether she had a German accent or not.

The most important thing Paul and Tessa said was something  that I have mentioned at a slightly earlier point in this post: they had no recollection of the couple living at 94, Vanbrough Crescent and did not believe this could have been their address. Their main memories were of the older Martins living on the top floor of a block of council flats in Acton. There had been a number of others addresses as well, and 29 Ariel Road NW6 might just possibly have been one of these.

(As it happened, the archivist had also unearthed quite a number of addresses at which Ida Lotte Bleistein had been living, at least one of which Ursula Helene had been living with her, and it occurred to me that, should I ever wish to visit any of the places which this ghostly grandmother of mine had haunted, I would be spoiled for choice, aside from the problem that she might never have haunted them in the first place.)

(One aside, though, in the conversation of the younger Martins, which added a pleasant note, was that they had just come back from holiday two days before, so if I had visited them on the previous Sunday, as  I had vaguely planned, I would not have found them in. A fortunate disinclination to see them on that day!)

Quite soon Paul kindly offered to drive me to Reading Station, which was not that near, and in the car,  without the dogs or Tessa, we had a very friendly chat. I told him about the blog you are now reading, and about my career as a writer, and he said he thought I might well have the makings of a book in my researches, and thought his children might be very interested in what I was doing, and that the possible German connections of the family might add a touch of spice.

And I left him finally with a friendly wave, and entered the cavernous world of Reading Station, and the fast London train was just leaving. I clambered on to it just in time and made for the buffet car, Sitting down there with a welcome drink and a snack, and breathing a sigh of relief, I was surprisingly and immediately joined by an old friend, so I had very good company to Paddington and beyond, and that is as far as I intend to enlighten the reader about the identity of this companion.

Now if my grandmother was not Mary Martin Brown, born in Edinburgh in 1899 (and I believe I have demonstrated fairly convincingly that she was not), what was her real identity? Once again, I believe I can offer a fairly confident answer to this question.

Now the reader may remember the most sensational of all the discoveries I have made, that my mother was never officially a British citizen, as she claimed to be for over thirty years, but used the identity of a woman called Ursula Helene Hedwig Bleistein, who had been naturalised in 1954 with the naturalisation number 30638 and who was born in Berlin in 1919.

I discovered this because I have in my possession a very fragile document that I found a certain point in my house and which is the petition of my mother for British citizenship. It has stamped on it the number 30638, which, as I said, turned out to be the naturalisation number of Bleistein, and it is dated 23rd September 1954, which is only 12 days after my mother had ostensibly married Arthur Ernest Hills at the registry office in Hendon. And this marriage would have given her the right to apply for British citizenship in the perfectly ordinary way, so that there was apparently no need for this elaborate deception.

For a long time, I puzzled over why my mother could possibly have wanted to do this. Ursula Helene was certainly a real person, about whom many details, obligingly discovered for me by the archivist, were on record, so it was quite impossible that my mother, about whose origins I was then very uncertain but of which I knew the outlines, really could have been Bleistein.

The name Bleistein is well known to be Jewish, and for a while I wondered whether Bleistein could have been an enemy whom this pack of Nazis had succeeded in blackmailing into letting her identity be used in this way. But wouldn't there always have been the danger that Bleistein would rat? Wouldn't it have been advisable at some point to get rid of Bleistein? Yet she had died in apparently a perfectly normal way, many years later.

Quite soon this theory began to seem wholly unsatisfactory Above all, it still didn't explain why my mother had needed or wanted to go through with the deception. Then I thought about something she had always told me when I was a child, that when she got married to Arthur Ernest Hills, he had insisted that she give up her Portuguese identity. So, I suddenly thought, I think one day when I was in prison,  who was the that was in fact being blackmailed? Surely it was my mother.

She had lost Portuguese citizenship, and now, by being forced to go through with this deception, she was facing the threat that at any moment, if she ever blabbed about who her new husband and his relations were, she could be left in the position of being a stateless person, with all the terrible consequences that would entail.

Trying to imagine the situation further, I saw that the two men would have worked in tandem to blackmail her, the husband and the brother whom he had perhaps rather brutally supplanted, and my grandfather would have directed the whole ghastly process (there is a sample of what may be his handwriting on the fragile document I have mentioned.) As soon as I really thought about this theory, I knew that it was almost certain to be true

Now one thing follows from this. If my mother was force to use the identity of Bleistein, this means that Ursula Helene must have been very closely associated with these Nazis, and was probably a relation of theirs.

Now the reader may remember that Arthur had an older sister called Helen who had gone with her father at the time of the family break-up while he went with his mother. The reader may remember that I met her in my childhood. But what was known for certain about this Aunt Helen? When I finally looked into the matter in detail, which was in the summer of 2016, I discovered that there was only one document that told me anything about her for certain, and this was the record of her marriage, on 15th January 1955, at the Register Office in Ealing, West London, to one Frederick Patmore. He was recorded as a postman and she as a ward sister in a mental health hospital. Arthur Ernest Hills, her father, and an Edward Patmore were witnesses.

When my supposed half-brother Christopher Hills and I first became interested in researching our family history, we were puzzled that there seemed to be no birth certificate existing in England for a Helen Vera Hills at what was supposed to be her approximate birth date of 1919. But Chris was then told, I think by a relation of his mother's, that this was because Helen had been born in Scotland.

At a later point, Anthony Adolph discovered a marriage certificate for Arthur Ernest Hills Senior and Mary Martin Brown at Lady Glenorchy's Church in Edinburgh in 1918, and this lent credence to the idea that Helen must have been born, perhaps in Edinburgh, about a year after this marriage. There is a strangeness, however, to my grandparents having been married in this highly evangelical church, because everything that is known to them does not make them sound in the least like convinced Christians of a hellfire variety. I also notice from my copy of the certificate that one of the witnesses appears to have a German surname, not easy to transcribe, which again seems unusual in a marriage that allegedly took place in January 1918.

Because my aunt Helen initially seemed too remote from the main line of research, Mr Adolph never checked for her birth certificate. It was only in the disturbed summer of 2016, from the grim hostel in Hackney, that I finally phoned the National Archives in Edinburgh to try and procure the certificate. But it did not exist. No such person had been born in Britain.

A similar documentary silence surrounds the death of Helen Vera Hills, who had the married name of Patmore. No death certificate exists in Britain for anyone who could conceivably be Helen, although according to my relations in Edinburgh she has long been dead.

There is, however, a death certificate for a certain Helen Mary Elizabeth Hills, who had been born in 1908,  apparently with the maiden name of Harrigton, and who was the widow of one John Norris Hills, who is recorded as having been a park keeper. This Helen Hills had died on 31st May 1991, at the Edgware General Hospital. She had an address in Colindale, north-west London. The informant was Carole Keightley, a niece, living in Enfield, further to the north and east.

Once again there was a post-mortem without inquest, once again the death was certified by D.M. Paul, the coroner for North London, and the date of this certification was 7th June 1991. Underneath the main framework of the registration certificate are written the words: "Two Bk  Error in space 8 corrected on 2nd July 1991 be me B kenny (sic) Interim Register" The error in question is that "chronic diverticular disease", one of the causes of death, had been corrected to "colonic diverticular disease." There is also a correction in the line above, a simple spelling error unusual for a registrar to make when recording a a cause of death as metastatic pancreatic carcinoma. The first cause of death was bilateral bronchopneumonia and ascites, and there is no correction in that line. The whole document was surely all compiled by the Mr Kenny who so strangely in a registrar, even an interim one, wrote the initial letter of his surname in lower case.

We now come to what is known of Ursula Helene Hedwig Bleistein, who had the married name of Langston, and we shall analyse the death certificate of that person, whose demise is recorded as having taken place on 9th August 1991 and which was registered on the same day (a little over one month, therefore, after the error was corrected in the death certificate of the widow Hills).

As we know, Ursula Helene was born in Berlin (see my post "The Seventh Journey"), but the death certificate shows her as having been born on 7th November 1919 in England. Once again, the principle applies (which we have seen in the case of the widow Martin, and also of my father) that if one detail in a death certificate is gratuitously wrong, the whole thing will be intended to deceive.

This fairly sparse certificate is written, as in the case of the widow Martin, in largely indecipherable handwriting at crucial points, but the place of death seems to have been Harestine, Harestine Drive, Caterham, the address of Langston may have been 51 Martimes Court, 9-11, Abbey Road, London, and the informant was Diane (or possibly Diana) Bramall who, as in the case of the Camden Council worker, had the qualification of "causing the body to be buried". The death was certified by P.J. Ward MR, with the causes of death given as cerebral metastases and carcinoma of the breast, and the signature of the registrar at the Surrey South Western Registration District, sub-district of Caterham and Godstone, is entirely illegible. The nearest I could come to it might be something like "Line Barrets".

What I think happened in this very palpable fraud, which is obviously closely modeled on the earlier one perpetrated in the case of the widow Martin, is this. My aunt Helen, whose original name was Ursula Helene Hedwig Bleistein, probably really died on 31st May 1991 and her death was recorded under the guise of the widow Hills. She was not buried as normal, because her body had to be available for examination in order to lead to the correction of the certificate on 2nd July. A interment was then further avoided, and the body was kept until the arrangements could be made for the false certificate with further metastases of cancer under the original name of my aunt to be ready. Then she was buried with all speed on 9th August.

This second fraud differs from the first one in that there is no suspicion of murder in this case, because my aunt Helen surely really died on the occasion of the first certificate and the two documents cover two identities but the same death.

Before I leave Urusla Helene, I will mention one further thing about her. We have said that the murder of the widow Martin was ultimately to protect my grandfather. This implies that my paternal grandparents at their separate West London addresses must have remained in touch. And surely it was in order to convey some vital information to her mother after my grandfather's death that Helen agreed to meet her despised younger brother Arthur, and I therefore met my aunt that one time, when we dropped her complete with male companion at the starkly outlined tube station early in 1968.

For if Ursula Helene was my aunt, then her mother, of whom there are plentiful records, was clearly my paternal grandmother. She was Ida Lotte Friederike Bleistein, commonly known as Ida Lotte Bleistein, born with the surname Friedemann (spelt on her death certificate as Friedeman), at Koepenick, in the far eastern suburbs of Berlin, on 11th April 1894, and she is recorded as having died, I am sure with total truth, at the Garden Hospital in Hendon, in the London Borough of Barnet, on 29th January 1987.

The death was registered on the day after the event, 30th January 1987, and S. Hart M.B. certified the causes of death as broncho-pneumonia and old age. The signature of the registrar for the Hendon London Borough of Barnet sub-district of the Hendon Registry Office is illegible and abbreviated, but I don't suppose there is anything suspicious about that. There are signs in the document that this registrar was of foreign origin (for instance he or she includes a hyphen between the given names Ida Lotte and Ursula Helene.).

The informant of Ida Lotte's death was Ursula Helene Langston, whose qualification was that she was the dead woman's daughter. My aunt's address was given as Flat 168, 20, Abbey Road, London NW8. But there turned out to be yet another strange circumstance connected with this large St John's Wood mansion block. I visited it one dark and slightly wet Sunday evening and was let in by the friendly and talkative porter. He was interested to hear that my aunt had lived in the block, but there was no Flat 168. The present building had been put up in 1992 and had 127 flats. It was quite a high building and the porter doubted whether the previous one could have been higher or held many more flats. It therefore looks as if my aunt, for reasons quite unknown to me, felt it necessary to give an invented home address even when reporting the presumably all too real death of her own mother.

My grandmother's last address (surely the true one) was Sunridge Court, 76, The Ridgeway, London NW11. This is a care home which in Ida Lotte's time was for Jewish old folk but now admits gentiles. I visited this commodious establishment in Golders Green on a Sabbath morning when the men and boys were out in their suits and broad-brimmed hats and was delighted to learn from the friendly black receptionist that every man and woman residing in the 47-bed home has his or her own room.

Ida Friederike Charlotte Bleistein was three months short of her ninety-third birthday at the time of her death. Her life was as long as it appears to have been evil.

I will just briefly summarise, without adding all the details, the other documentary records concerning my grandmother's life, and indicate where there is lack of vital information. Bleistein was her married name, and the archivist discovered copious details of her husband's family, but really it is nothing to do with me. They were quite a distinguished and prosperous eastern European Jewish clan, engaged mainly in the skin and fur trade, from Poznan in Poland (which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was usually called Posen and was part of the German Reich).

From the late nineteenth century this Bleistein family had a branch in England, and from the time of the First World War certain members of it adopted the name Blyth or Blythe.

Members of such a family would not normally have married out, and this is one of many indications that my grandmother was a Jewess. There is no official record of when my grandmother entered Britain or when she acquired the identity of Mary Martin Brown. She is recorded as being exempt from internment as an enemy alien on 30th November 1939. There is no certain mention of her in the 1939 Register, and nor is there of Helen Vera Hills or Arthur Ernest Hills Junior. It is not known when her daughter Ursula Helene entered the country. My grandmother was naturalised British in 1948, when she was listed as a single woman with marriage dissolved, and her parents were recorded as Julius and Rosa Margaretha Friedemann, who were from Germany.

I will also just sum up what can be inferred from everything I have said about the general course of my grandmother's life. This adds many more, perhaps somewhat contentious, details. The marriage to the man call Fritz Philipp Bleistein in 1917 seems to have been fairly brief. There is a record of a Fritz Bleistein in the Bremen to New York ship passenger lists on 9th August 1921 and this could possibly have marked the end of relations between the couple.

It is therefore possible that Ursula Helene, born on 7th November 1919, was really of the Bleistein family, although the close relations of the latter with my grandfather perhaps make it unlikely, as well as the fact that my aunt Helen had the family nose, passed down also from my grandfather to my father to myself.

If Ursula Helene was the child of both my grandparents, then this will place the original meeting between them probably very early in 1919, a year or two after the marriage to Fritz Philipp, soon after the end of the First World War, and when my grandfather was perhaps still fluctuating between extreme left and right and would have had no connections with the Nazi Party, whic then only existed in embryo.

Ida Lotte's sons who were later known as Arthur Ernest Hills and Mieczyslaw Hufleit (commonly Hupfleit) were the children of this Nazi, and their possible date of conception might be February 1921, a few months before the departure of Fritz Philipp for America. Ida Lotte seems to have abandoned my father at birth and she brought Arthur, and probably Helen as well, to England with her when she entered the country, probably in late 1929 or early 1930.

She maintained contact with Arthur until around 1939 and with Helen until the end of her life. It seems that from the time of her arrival in England she was already using the false name of Mary Martin Brown and was recorded as the wife of one Arthur Ernest Hills, and it is therefore likely that she immediately took up with the original holder of this identity, that he was the father of Sonia and Dennis, that his real wife was somehow persuaded to vacate the scene, and it seems possible that both of them were later murdered at widely separated periods. What happened to the original Arthur Ernest Hills Junior I have no idea.

Once in England, and probably in or around February 1932, the time of the birth of her son Dennis, Ida Lotte broke up with the original Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, her two children by him were quickly disposed of, and she took up with a man called Percy Martin, whom she married as late as 1969. Her last child, by him, was Alan Martin, with whom she maintained distant and unfriendly relations until her death.

Her relationship with Ursula Helene seem to have been warmer, perhaps because Helen lived close to her, and they occasionally shared accommodation, at a confusing variety of possibly true and false addresses in West and North-West London. In later life, Ida Lotte seems to have used other aliases, such as perhaps Mary Singleton. She seems to have been a murderess.

And that, dear reader, is the sum total of all the grim details I have been able to find out about my paternal grandfather and grandmother and my father and my aunt and my uncle.

Yes, and how one tires sometimes of all this constant raking into the lives of those who should have been close to one, but they weren't, whom one should have loved, but I didn't. And how I tire as well of their false identities, their shabby little secrets, even, as I have been shamefully, delighted to discover, that perhaps they actually killed people! Isn't that enough, Charles, of your fearless but truly verbose honesty? Thank God you've almost got to the end of this post and can hopefully close it with something more pleasant. But this subject-matter is not really pleasant. Perhaps it might become so.

Here it is. I met a man in prison. He was a murderer. We were in Belmarsh together, on the same spur. He was called Wayne Collins and he was a hitman who had killed a man in front of his partner and four-year-old daughter and been given a minimum of 32 years. What I loved about him was that he was not crushed. He was a big and very handsome young body-builder and I first became transfixed by him when he was lifting weights most magnificently in the gym and I was going faster and faster on the cross-trainer and could not take my eyes off him until eventually he swaggered over to me to show off his full beauty.

Then I tried my best to be friends with him and he was sometimes nice to me but it all went wrong. Oh, darling Wayne, you're totally heterosexual, you're the most arrogant person in the world, you're totally devoted to your wife and daughter, you're in prison until you're old, what hope is there for you or me?

After I came out of prison, and could never see him any more, I went three times to the place where he had killed his man. It was a place right on the very outskirts of East London, in Wayne's own manor of Romford, a turning off the slightly larger road at a place beyond the distant suburb of Noak's Hill.

This is where London comes to a sudden end and it is possible to walk straight into the country on roads that are not too busy or too narrow. Of course, you will hit the M25 soon enough but nowhere else in London have I ever found it possible to walk straight out of the city into the green fields.

The murder-site is called Benskins Lane. The first two occasions I went there I walked down the lane and prayed for Wayne at various points, but that took a long time, and on this third occasion I wanted to go on, so I just stopped at the corner and said a quick prayer and in a way consigned him to my memory. It was quite a nice afternoon. It was six days before I was due to leave the hostel. The date was Thursday, 22nd September, 2016.

I walked on and soon came to the beginning of Goatswood Lane, where you leave the London Borough of Havering and enter Essex proper. After some hard walking I reached Murthering Lane, where it was very quiet and the road led northward over the M25, and now the country was deeper still. And at Navestock Heath, at The Old Village Stores, a woman was standing outside her house offering apples as windfalls, and I took three, and then a fourth, because one of the first three was rotten. And I ate the three good ones, and the rotten one the next morning, a bad day.

But this was a good one, and I said farewell to the woman and walked joyfully on, and saw two deer disappear into a wood and the flight of a bird, and then I came to the larger road that leads to Brentwood, and now I was as near to the station there as I was far from the one at Harold Wood, so once again I decided to walk on. And it was miles to go, but I refreshed myself with Martinis at the Black Horse and the White Horse, and then on the endless walk through Brentwood there was always the lure of the train station that would end my journey. And when I finally reached it, what joy to discover that my travel pass, which I thought covered only the six London travel zones, was still valid there.

And I skipped down to the platform, and a train for London was just leaving. How sweet it was to rattle back into town after so beautiful and spiritual a journey.

And it gave me strength for the longer journeys that were to come, starting with the leaving of the hostel on the Wednesday, where they hassled me to the last,. But again what a delight not to look back as I marched out savagely with my luggage of two enormous and one small bag. Oh, all very difficult, but the 277 bus left from right outside the place and the Overground from Dalston Junction was relaxed and, although the walk towards The Lodge at Crystal Palace- the hotel where I planned to stay for two nights before taking the Channel ferry - was absolutely awful, I was delighted to find, when I reached that resting point, that you only had to pay thirty-two pounds a night.

And there were various bureaucratic problems on the following day, but I circumvented them, and in the evening the archivist, thank God, was too busy to say goodbye to me. But his friend the writer came to the Victoria area, warning me that he must be brief, and we had an enormous struggle to find a pub where we could sit down but finally succeeded at the Wetherspoon at Victoria Station, and we overlooked the Kent trains and talked quite pleasantly, and only his farewell when we parted on the concourse carried a slight sting.

And what joy to leave him and get a seat facing forward at a comfortable alcove in the train to Crystal Palace, and the park when I returned was fresh and mysterious in the night-time, and in the early morning on the final day I had time, before I breakfasted, to do just the beginning of the local section of the Green Chain Walk, going south-eastwards, as I had done so many times during my long London years.

And on leaving the hotel on my way home to distant Portugal, the taxi driver, thankfully, dumped my bags in the car for East Croydon Station, and then there were struggles there with altered platforms three times, but a kindly young man helped me, and when I was on the train, with my bags around me, it was great to watch the outer suburban landscape pass as we came into the rich countryside of Surrey and Sussex. Then there was yet another change at Lewes, but there I met a another most pleasant young man, blond and quite handsome this time, called Martin, and he helped me get my bags on to the Newhaven train.

And we went past the mysterious halt at Southease, in the valley of the Ouse, and then once more Martin helped me get the bags along the platform at Newhaven. He was going to his own home at Peacehaven, so he left me with a cheery wave and almost falling over I dragged the bags across the yard towards the ferry terminal. I bought my ticket there and, oh, it was so cheap, at sixteen pounds!

It was still late morning, and the boat did not leave until the later afternoon and there were no lunch facilities at the terminal and the rules said you could not leave your bags there while you went into the town. But the kindly English people at the terminal understood the total impossibility of the situation and, with a nod and wink, said I could leave my bags there just this once.

So I walked with my smaller bag, which was quite supportable, and where I had put all the most precious things, into the flyblown harbour town, and had a fine lunch in a friendly pub, and went prospecting for yet more books to take with me. My final tally was to be 55. And a wonderful selection of books they were! But I also had another plan. I would walk down to the beach where we always used to go when I was a child and which I had loved so much and not visited for many years.

The weather was bright and just a little windy and the sea air was wonderfully fresh as I walked along the final stretch of the Ouse to the cliffs by the sea shore. And what quiet joy that was! The way was long, but I had time. And how I wanted to see once again the wonderful sandy beach where I used to come so often with my mother and Arthur on happy days during what had often been the sad times of my childhood.

I reached the line of the shore and began to walk along the sea path to the beach. I passed an elderly couple who were walking slowly ahead of me and I asked them the time. Oh, they said, it was only just after two. I had plenty of time, I thought to myself, and once again I walked on. But when I reached the beach, it turned out, to my surprise and disappointment, to be stony. So what had happened to the one I remembered? Was it still there? Or had my memory played me false?

I began to walk back and saw the elderly couple again. They were sitting on a low wall. At that moment my boat was steaming in from France. But there were still more than two hours before it would sail again. I hailed the old couple and asked them where the sandy beach was, and they said that it was hidden by the high tide but would be just beneath us and that the French now owned it and would not allow access.

We agreed that this was a pity, and I sat down beside them a while and we began to talk. It turned out that the woman was seventy-one years old and came from very near Hornsey Rise. When she was a young woman in her twenties she had caught the 14 bus to her job in Piccadilly, at the final bus stop to the north, which was just around the corner from 19, Hornsey Rise, our one-time home.

Of course we were no longer living at the house by that time, but it must have been still there, not yet knocked down, and still the house of the Maccariellos. My parents and I had lived in one room the ground-floor, opposite the Italians (my aunt does not remember whether on the right or the left), but perhaps that woman had stood by the very room as she waited for her bus around the corner from Hornsey Rise, in Beaumont Rise.

It was lovely to meet that pleasant couple and find out about the strange link that bound us. After a while they left me and I lingered by the beach. But on the road coming back I saw them for the third time. They were talking to someone else, but the woman chatted to me briefly once more.

Her name was Pam. We had a lot in common. Like me she had often taken excursions to Alexandra Park and still went there sometimes. Like me, she was a Christian. I felt that she had been sent to me at the last to tell me how much I was connected to England.

Then I had a good tea back at the port, retrieved my luggage, and boarded the boat with the expectant crowd. The crew had a little trolley to take the two larger bags off me before I got too exhausted.

And I saw the sandy beach of my childhood as the ship sailed slowly out to France. It looked so fine and beautiful. But it always was. Perhaps I will not stand on it again. But what joy just to see it, with my hand on the rail and the sea all around me, at the beginning of the good years.