Carenza Hayhoe

How it all began

How it all Began

Life for me began in Hankow on the bank of the Yangtze River. I was born in a French Convent Hospital attended by a Royal Naval Surgeon Lieutenant who was seldom sober as there was little for a Naval doctor to do except drink. Two other babies were delivered that night, one a German boy, the other a White Russian girl. The ways of the hospital were at best casual so my real identity has always been open to doubt as I bear no resemblance to any other member of the family. I was cared for by an amah, I know no other name for her which saddens me still. The English accepted the loyalty of their Chinese servants casually, taking no interest in them beyond the work they did. Amah accompanied us back to England in 1937, returning to China where she had left her six year old son. With no more than the address of the house where my mother was living when I was born I had no hope of tracing her or her family when I returned to China in 1980.

My mother moved up and down the river following my father's ship, HMS Ladybird, a little river gunboat, she claimed we moved house twenty six times in twenty four months and at one point we shared a compound with Madam Chiang Kai-shek and Madam Sun Yat-sen. Life was full of drama, pirates were commonplace and there was talk of war. Our departure, I was told, was sudden, aboard the last ship to leave Shanghai as the Japanese invaded the Northern border.

Though I have no memories of that time I have always been fascinated by Chinese folk lore and stories of dragons.

My roots are in the West Country, my grandmother, a Cornish woman, was a born storyteller and was able to see further through a stone wall than most. From her I have inherited a crystal ball and a fascination with ancient legends and folk lore. Michette, who lived in a terrace cottage in Penzance, took Amah's place and like my grandmother, filled my head with tales of piskies and Arthurian legends of knights and dragons. After the war my family finally settled near Weymouth where, from my bedroom window I could see the lights of Portland calling me across the bay.

The Island has been my home for all of my adult life. It is a place of magic and mystery where some remember stories of the 'little people' who used to inhabit the stone walls of Southwell, where dinosaurs have left their footprints in the rocks and skylarks still sing.