Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An apparent shortage of words

I remember I once had a terrible dream.

It was a dream of an international air shortage.

I was standing by the bank of the river, and there on the dry land was a whole crowd of people writhing and gasping like fish do when taken out of water.

It was horrible to see, and distressed me as intensely as the sight of fish writhing and drowning did when I was a child.

And then I woke up and found it was true. I was lying in bed, gasping for breath, and there really did not seem to be enough air in the world.

It was at the time when I was suffering from heart disease, and after a oment I understood what the trouble was. I needed to sleep sitting up, and had fallen down the pillows.

And that was why I was suffocating.

This came to me tonight as I was reflecting on the fact that I seem to have stopped writing.

After years and years when it seemed like an iron rule of necessity that I write something each day to feel the day had been worthwhile. Or that I had the right to live in it.

Yet it's been almost a month & I have written nothing. And do not seem to be suffering unduly.

Am I simply tired, I wonder, or is it there is somehow a lessening of the air of common discourse.

A kind ofpsychic equivalent of the excessive carbon dioxide we continue so blindly, so foolishly and so willfully to pump into the atmosphere.

There seems so much hatred. So much unwillingness to find common ground. So little willingness to listen. To try to understand. To empathise.

I probably over-dramatise. After all, it's my job. (Or used to be).

But I can't help wondering why the only things I have cared to publish lately have been photographs of flowers...

Even when they're dying. As if I need to hold onto the reality of natural things....

Friday, September 06, 2013

Memories triggered by Goldfrapp's 'Annabel'

A rather beautiful film has triggered memories of my boyhood. 

Goldfrapp’s “Annabel” has a lonely boy in an idyllic setting. A boy dressed in black. A lonely boy with an intense inner life.

What made me shiver as I watched this was the fact the boy could have been a portrait of me. I was lucky to live in a series of houses with beautiful gardens. Less lucky to be so isolated; less lucky to have to struggle with the dislocation between my inner and my physical self with no help of any kind.

My mother sent me away to a boy’s boarding school, tears in her eyes, because she knew in her heart it would damage me. But felt, as a woman, subservient to the male. Subservient to my dad who subscribed to the view that it was bad for a boy to be too close to his mother.

 So there I was, eight years old, torn from my mother, and forced to undergo 9 years of what looks very much like the so-called “reparative therapy” that is still sometimes so wickedly imposed on boys who display effeminacy.

It’s a regime that involves forced separation from feminine expression or influences: a toughening programme of sensory deprivation, physical discomfort, team sports and bullying in a macho environment. All designed to desensitise the growing boy and make him fit to be a man.

It failed. Of course. It simply left deep scars it takes a lifetime’s work to heal. 

The bigger sadness is that it still reflects so much of the disastrous conditioning that is imposed on boys. 

The wonderful thing about the film is that the boy’s mother understands. She gives him a glittery dress: she gives him permission to be herself.

And the child’s life changes and becomes full of joy.

It’s the kind of childhood I could not even dare to begin to dream about. The kind of film I could not even have begun to conceive.

It’s not even worth speculating on how different my life would have been if I had not had to deal with the intense fear and self hatred and shame imposed on me. 

All I can do is give thanks for my amazing loving family. Give thanks for the life I now live: and the opportunities life gives me to bear witness to who I am. 

Give thanks to Goldfrapp. Her beautiful song, her beautiful film.

And be amazed at the rapidity and profoundity of the changes that have brought this work to be.

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