Sorry about that

I grew up in a family where secrecy
held pride of place on the mantel piece between the crucifix and the statue of
the blessed virgin Mary.  The
statue was not your typical blue and white plaster cast nor was it simply a
statue of Mary on her own.  It
was cast in a glazed terracotta brown and it included Mary’s baby Jesus and their crowns. 
It seemed apt therefore that the
statue stood on the mantelpiece directly above my mother’s head as she sat in
her usual chair alongside the fireplace. My mother was queen of the babies. 
My father sat on the other side of
the mantelpiece closer to the crucifix, which fitted him given that the
initials of his first two names matched the JC of Jesus Christ.  Our father
often gave the appearance of a man who was tortured. 
My father did not hang spread
eagled on a cross but he exuded suffering, though I did not see it like that
then.  Then in my childhood my
father was not Christ like at all, not the Christ I had learned about at school, the one who was meant to be loving and kind.
My father was a brute.  And in my imagination in those days I
considered it the role of fathers everywhere to dominate and to control.  It was necessary therefore to keep all things
from my father.  It was necessary
to stay safe by staying away. 
My father I think now must have
been lonely in his large family with so many children.  
So what were the secrets you
ask?  Or was it more an attitude of
secrecy, as if we all had things to hide from one another and so we went about our
daily lives hiding things from each other, especially from our father. 
I put some of this compulsion
towards secrecy down to the fact of confession and sin.  I learned early that many things were
sinful.  Thoughts alone were enough
to get you into serious trouble within the heavenly sphere above. 
It did not
stop me from having such thoughts but it led me into a pattern of doing and
undoing – commit the sin and then seek forgiveness, the sin of theft being
highest on my list of real sins. 
The other sins I made up.  I
admitted to disobedience when I was never so, at least not in my memory. 
I admitted to telling lies
once.  Every week the same list of
sins, disobedience once, telling lies once and stealing once.  I did not elaborate on any of these
things.  I had them down pat and
they worked well enough. They fooled the priest.  Once a week off to confession to wash away my sins. 
It did not work so well with my
impure thoughts though – thoughts of bodies, desirous thoughts that now in my
imagination I can scarcely remember. 
The impure involved games with my
younger sister where we cavorted together on the bed; where we touched each
others bodies the way we saw the grown ups on television touch; where we felt hot with excitement, an
excitement I did not then understand, only I knew it was wrong. 
I could not admit to such sins of
impurity to the priest.  I could
not even utter the words and so I resolved these by novenas.  To make a novena you needed to go to
Mass every Friday for nine Fridays in a row and the all sins, mortal and venial, were washed away. 
The point of all this talk of sin
is that the sinful nature of my childhood evoked a spirit of secrecy. This
might account for my all too ready tendency these days to say, ‘I’m
To say ‘I’m sorry’ has become a joke in my
household.  It has morphed into the
words, ‘I’m sorry about that’. 
A certain tone of voice, a certain
emphasis on some of the words in this short sentence can give the impression,
as my husband says, not of contrition but of an exasperated ‘sorry about that’,
as if I couldn’t care less. 
I’ve had enough now.  ‘Sorry about that’, but you’ll just have
to lump it. Sorry about that and now fuck off. 
And so ends this morning’s reading
from the bible of my childhood, of which I have written and read many chapters
and now I get to the point as I do in life generally, I’m sorry about
Enough for now. 
I shall skulk off to the privacy of
my room and hide my secrets behind closed doors.  

How books are made.

The dentist did not send us a
reminder of our half yearly visit this year and I have used it as an excuse to
avoid the visit.  Even though I
know in the back of my mind that I should call for an appointment, I use the
dentist’s failure to send out a reminder as an excuse to avoid doing what I
know I must eventually do.  
signed up for the Keiser weight training though, that’s a tick in the box of
the doing-things-good-for-you category, but for the dentist and the rest I
can’t claim much success.  The rest
being all those other jobs I put off until I must get them done, the washing,
report writing, cleaning out cupboards, but I will get there. 
Procrastination I call it, the
demon of progress.  My greatest
avoidance is to immerse myself in the book I tell myself I am writing.  Actually it’s written, mostly, only I
must put it together, make the pieces into a whole, and eliminate that which is
I joined a class recently, six
sessions,  to help us produce a manuscript, and Lee Kofman who takes this class gave me the task of working on my structure, at least four hours a
week.  Lee knows how much I hate
Even the word sends shivers through
me.  I gather that structure is
like a skeleton on which the flesh of the story hangs, but then I think of what
Julian Barnes has Flaubert say to us in his novel, Flaubert’s Parrot:
Books aren’t
made in the way that babies are made: they are made like pyramids.  There’s some long pondered plan, and
then great blocks of stone are placed one on top of the other, and it’s
back-breaking, sweaty time-consuming work.  And all to no purpose! 
It just stands like that in the desert!  But it towers over it prodigiously.  Jackals piss at the base of it and
bourgeois clamber to the top of it, etc.
I lack structure, I entirely lack
structure through out my life.  The
obvious example to me comes in my approach to housework.  I might start to tidy up the kitchen sink,
put dishes in the dishwasher, wipe nearby benches, but as I stand stacking and
wiping a thought will come into my mind about what needs doing elsewhere or an
object will appear in my line of vision that needs to be put somewhere else and I
will traipse up through the hallway to the bedroom or bathroom or wherever and
while in this new room I will see something else that needs attention, the
bathroom cupboard calls for re-arranging for instance, and I will work on
this.  Pathetic really.
I hold my experience of my father
responsible.  My father may have
been a man of structure but he passed none of it down to me.
 The man of structure even as underneath the neatness he was beginning to fall apart.  
When my daughters complain about
writing an essay, their father will insist they come up with a plan first of
all.  Then he will urge them to
work on a beginning, a middle and an end. 
Say what you are going to say, say it and then say what you’ve
said.  Simple. Hey presto – a
typical academic essay. 
To me it’s boring, but if I had
learned this, whether from my father or from the nuns at school, I might not be
in trouble with this book as I am today. 
I do not plan anything in this way,
not anything written.  No, I simply
plunge in where the fancy takes me and I wind up with many possible beginnings,
several chunky middles and an occasional ending, but they do not necessarily
fit well together.   I
cannot get the form.  As Julian Barnes writes:
Form isn’t an
overcoat flung over the flesh of thought (that old comparison, old in
Flaubert’s day); it’s the flesh of thought itself.  You can no more imagine an Idea without a Form than a Form
without an Idea.  Everything in Art
depends on execution: the story of a louse can be as beautiful as the story of
Alexander.  You must write
according to your feelings, be sure those feelings are true, and let everything
else go hang, when a line is good, it ceases to belong to any school.  A line of prose must be as immutable as
a line of poetry.
Blogging is the perfect medium for
me because it can be more chaotic than a novel.  My only structure is the weekly post.  The rest I leave up to chance.  And chance is a fickle creature,
sometimes she offers wondrous gifts and at other times, a load of crap.