The Perils of Parenthood; Serendipity, Irony & Christmas
20th December 2016, 09:30
As soon as I had sent you my last letter I realised that I’d made a mistake on the track listing for Not Nul Points, so enclose a corrected copy.
The sun is shining in through the kitchen window as I write this – the first sun we have had for a week. Our good neighbour cut down (or should I say cut back) the tall trees (conifers) on the border between our gardens, but we’ve had nothing but fog in the week since he did it, and now it’s finally obvious how much more light we have as a result.
I feel so much in stasis, mainly because it’s too cold for the guys to finish the house repairs, as a result of which I feel everything’s at a standstill. I’ve always been like this; if there’s one thing in my life that’s not right or not finished, it throws everything else out, or stops everything else from being finished. I suppose that might just prove that men really can’t multitask.
You’re right – I did know about your movement teaching. Interesting you say it keeps you humble – is that because you’re teaching young people who are still discovering the wonders of their bodies, or because you are still in awe of what you can do, or because you, like me, feel the waning of what we saw as immortality when we were young? I must admit my reaction to my dancing is quite different when I feel on form at our ballroom classes, especially if we’re dancing Quickstep. I fear I become quite arrogant and feel so in charge of what I’m doing (so in charge, in fact, that in our last class I forgot a whole new section we’d just learned). The thing is, Quickstep is a dance you can really step out, a dance that really is proper hard work, and if you push it as you should, it’s a real aerobic exercise, sweat and all. Many people who laugh at ballroom don’t understand that it’s real exercise, not something old people do when they can’t run anymore.
I miss other adult company when I’m working from home, miss the social aspect, as a result of which I talk too much when I go see my acupuncturist, or meet someone I know in the street, or when I go to the office in London that I sometimes use when I’ve got gaps in between meetings. It takes me some time (half an hour maybe) to suddenly remember that, actually, those other people don’t share my childish joy at being in the company of other adults. Though, of course, at the heart of it still lies the fact that I am really quite anti-social. I like my own space, like being able to choose when it’s loud or when it’s silent. Yes, M and the kids find this quite irritating and are probably grateful for the office I disappear into for most of the time.
You did tell me that you’d written a novel, but not what it’s about. That story? That leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Do I ask myself why I want to tell a particular story? I don’t think I do, or at least not exactly like that, and if I do ask myself it’s only something I’ve started doing since I was published because I’m supposed to be thinking about my audience. But then, I think, that’s crap, really, because it makes me (writers) write to pre-packaged conventions. It destroys the new. I think so, anyway. And, for me, saying writers should write in one genre (ie tell the same story over and over again) is the wrong thing to say. But we’ve been down this road before. The only question I really ask is whether or not the story makes sense within its own context. It doesn’t really have to make sense in the context of this particular world, this specific world we live in, because this one’s just one of millions.
The cultural reference thing is odd, because to be tied and yet not tied to culture (or is it fashion?) is a real contradiction. I suppose I am tied to one thing – music. That is my cultural reference. I cannot be without music, and I have to keep discovering new music. Someone once told me I was depriving my children of the most effective means of children’s rebellion against their parents, because I like the same music as they do. It’s getting to the stage now, though, where they are quicker than I am at finding good new music, and I’m quite envious of that. Nice to be able to be their gig-buddy, though. And they have found plenty of other ways in which to rebel against me.
21st December 2016, 20:30
The irony of my last sentence from yesterday is now not lost on me after an almost full-scale rebellion from the children on the first day that they are all on holiday (and M’s last working day, and my penultimate day at work). The details themselves are unimportant, but this all makes me think that I’m about in the same camp as you – “I’m not terribly fond of children.” BUT, we might not be, but we’d lay our hands in the fire for ours however badly they might treat us. Someone should have warned us – maybe that is the novel you and I should write – The Perils of Parenthood; subtitle Unconditional Love and its Life-Altering Consequences. What a read that would be.
When I was young, we always sat down to our Advent tea listening to the same record (I have inherited it, and the digital version of this will have a pic of it). That doesn’t happen now – and I wonder if it’s because life is too busy (even for children nowadays – because of social media in the main, but that’s another story), or because they’re all either agnostics or atheists (though they still like to light the Advent candles and want Christmas presents), or me just finally being a grown-up. The last time I felt safe (and I was thinking about this in the car today) was when my father was still alive and I could relax into one of those bear hugs of his, even when I was thirty. He died two weeks after O was born over 24 years ago. See, that’s all that time gone.
I like that phrase – creative rationalisation (even when I spell it the English way, sorry). It chimes with my continuing refrain of “there’s no such thing as coincidence; just serendipity.” I suppose I add that last bit on so I don’t have to argue with people about the edgy balance between fate and free will/self-determination.
And finally – I’m always glad for someone to be a much better host than me. I always reckon that if people can’t accept me the way I am, the way I have my environment, well, then they’re not really friends. M isn’t quite like that, not at all like that, in fact. A quote from The Unrecognised, the short story I published this year, the widower talking to his dead wife – “Hey, the tidying up you’d do, mental as always. That’s what killed you, you know. All this worrying about what people might think about the way you kept house, when all they were interested in was you, nothing else. You’re an old fool, and I miss you.” Mmm, I do worry.
And now I should close this and start typing it up. That will happen in the morning. There are so many words in my head for these letters, for my unwritten books. I will work out an unplanned plan over the holidays to make more time for all this. I find myself stultifying because I’m not writing enough.
Christmas has come just at the right time. I will be me. I promise.
Much love to you and E, and all your family. You’re a part of ours (meaning you and your family).