Ginette Baker’s experience of writing the Hellraiser biography and her life growing up with Ginger.
When I came to write my father’s autobiography Hellraiser in 2009 I was transported back to our sixties world and so was he. The following paragraph (from Chapter Five) sparked my recollections.
“Back at our little ground floor maisonette [recounts Ginger Baker], life seemed normal and happy. I bought a load of timber and constructed bookshelves and cupboards. We had a small back garden where I grew lettuce, carrots, radishes and large cannabis plants among the runner beans. Liz [my mother] was aware of my [heroin] habit but had accepted it and to all intents and purposes we were a happy couple with a beautiful young daughter.”
My first feeling when writing that was the conviction that the statement was in fact quite far from the truth as far as I was concerned! We were short of money, or as Dad later put it to me, ‘when I was twenty-one I had a wife, child and heroin habit to support’ (not necessarily in that order) and he often got paid £3 a night and would walk all the way back from London in order to save his bus fare.
In no way would I ever have described my parents as a ‘happy couple’ and in truth neither would they after about 1959! As we shall see, Ginger Baker had insecurities like the rest of us, the existence of which had led him to seek solace in drugs in the first place.
The 1960’s sun did indeed shine brightly on the tall rows of runner beans twisting up their bamboo canes with their bushy leaves and scarlet flowers and the harvested cannabis, cut and dried, resided in a square red biscuit tin with multi-coloured balloons painted round the sides and on the lid. My very first memories are of 154, Braemar Avenue Neasden, but let me tell you briefly how I got there.
My parents were young and they had married young, when they were both nineteen on 17th February 1959. Dad definitely married ‘up’ you might say and my mother’s Auntie Dorothy on asking her if Dad was ‘nice’ and receiving the reply ‘yes of course’, countered that with ‘I mean OUR kind of nice’ (which of course he wasn’t)! They were too poor to become parents when Mum fell pregnant in the Spring of 1960 and had abortion been legal I certainly wouldn’t be here now but that doesn’t upset me at all. Their relationship was all consuming and volatile to them.
The story of my birth is recounted accurately enough in Hellraiser, though for the record my Mother swears that she never tried heroin whilst pregnant (but at another time) and my Father swears more vehemently that she did, which is the way of things with the history of those two! In the writing of his own book he also disagreed violently with his sister about certain events. But the women (as always) capitulated and my Mother said that as long as I got some money out of it she didn’t give a toss what was said about her. My parents loved me and were proud of me as an extension of them (he was ‘Ginger Monster’ and I became ‘Little Monster’). I shared their early adulthood with all its extremes of violence and glory. The old values were as at odds in their own personalities as the slums were with the concrete edge of the architectural ‘brutalism’.