Non-Fiction Returns

The year is young and there are things to look forward to already. I can’t say much at this point but, unless something untoward occurs, I should be published in two literary journals in only a few weeks’ time. Both pieces are non-fiction, one a personal essay, from the memoir genre, I suppose, and the other something with personal and historical elements, at the same time more frivolous and yet dealing with some serious issues.

Writing about something you can’t write about is pretty unsatisfying. Apologies for that. But there are reasons to be happy, to be positive, to think that I might even be on the right path. However the loss of our friend Mr Mu has cast a long shadow over our little world since early last month, and we are still in mourning, although perhaps the shadow is less dark than it was. It makes it less easy to celebrate a win when these are the circumstances, and you don’t really feel like doing it either. Maybe when these two essays (if they even are essays) are published it will feel appropriate and natural to be pleased. I’m sure it will.

Writing of this kind is a departure for me, in some ways. I tend to write about me and my experience even when I’m writing about other people – all authors do, to some extent, or so I’ve heard. I used to write a lot of non-fiction. All my energy for some years went into recording memories and descriptions of events and essays. I even had a column in a street magazine (which paid nothing), which allowed me to write about my world, or about anything really, which usually came back to me, in some form. It has only been recent that my focus has turned to fiction, and then almost exclusively. But recent in this case means over the last five years or more and it also means that I didn’t attempt to have something factual published for many years indeed – more than I care to think about.

Is this an example of the wheel turning and ending up where I was at the beginning? An essay which combined travel writing, memoir and political musings was the first thing of mine ever to be published, back in the early years of this century, in the UTS writers’ anthology. I subscribe to the spiral theory of history, which suggests that life moves forwards even as events seem to repeat, so that you have learned something since the last time the circumstances were like that, and you hopefully use what you’ve learned and that means you keep moving forward.

So I shall write in a variety of ways and submit things to people if they seem to have sufficient merit to warrant their consideration. I won’t discard an entire genre again.

Published in: on February 2, 2017 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mr Mu 1995-2017

mu-christmas-2016The time has come for me to write of Mr Mu, our venerable, princely feline who died last Monday after a long and increasingly complicated illness.

Mr Arthur Mu was deemed a suitable name for such a resplendent cat and it is difficult to believe that he was briefly known as Pepe. The boyfriend who suggested this didn’t last long and Mr Mu was subsequently known by many names, as seemed to befit a natural aristocrat, for he acquired names like titles.

He lived in several parts of Australia – in the suburbs, in the country, in Sydney, Melbourne, the Blue Mountains, the Mid North Coast and in Sydney again. He was better travelled and had more friends than me.

Before I met him, and he had already lived a long time by then, the image in my mind of what a cat should look like exactly resembled Mu – I just didn’t know it, because I hadn’t met him yet. He was a tabby with a white shirt, white gloves and gaiters on his hands and feet, and he loved to be cuddled after Laetitia had rather forcefully encouraged him to enjoy that sort of contact during his kittenhood. This meant he also knew how to use furniture as a human might, could open cupboards and turn doorknobs, and would be found in a bed with the covers over his body and his head on a pillow or standing on a chair, arms on the table, sharing peas and corn with his human mummy. His body seemed to naturally fit into the bumps and hollows of a human lap and to lie in that position, on you, being stroked, was one of his favourite things.

One of the things I miss now is the feel of his body. Of the way his ribs and legs felt, the texture of his coat, the way he smelled. I can feel it all now in my muscle memory but I so want to hold him again.

For a little while after we met, he treated me poorly – with disdain, of course, as an inferior, but he played mind games with me for some time, in order to test me. While threatening to steal food from my plate, knock valuable items over, eat food he shouldn’t eat, forage in a bin which had seemed out of his reach, and lastly to escape, he was gauging something about my character. Once he did escape, in the country, when I was looking after him for the day, and the way he kept appearing just a little too far way to easily grab him, on the other side of a paddock, was clear evidence of his mischievous and evil temperament. He was a cat, after all.

But I passed his tests, somehow, and we became mates. He had decided that I could be trusted with his Laetitia. And there were things which only the two of us would do. When he knocked on the door, I would answer it. We would spend time together outside the house after I came home from work (“man time”) and later spend time together inside, after he had retired and we decided he would be an inside cat (“lap time”). If you owed him some kind of affection and he couldn’t see a good reason for the delay, he would become quite impatient. It was one of his most endearing qualities: criticising you for not giving him a cuddle quickly enough.

And if he was hungry he would let you know that too. In the last months of his life he became a keen coffee drinker, having been given frothy and warm milk made by Laetitia from the coffee machine, and when she added some actual coffee he liked that too. Mu would demand his coffee and drink it messily with his front paws on the coffee table.

Our dogs didn’t appeal to him, as you can probably imagine, but his squabbles with the smaller dog were entertaining when he decided she needed the occasional lesson in manners. The dog would become cornered somehow – he knew how to do that very well – and might receive a sort of slap with a cat paw, using the motion of a boxer, as a warning, to show her what he could do, if he had been serious. But he wasn’t serious.

He was serious about the people he knew and there were so many of them. Neighbours unknown to Laetitia thought he was their cat when he visited daily. We knew of some who fed him better food than we fed him, guaranteeing repeat visits, when he was gregarious enough that the possibility of insinuating himself in someone’s life would have been enough to keep going back. He would stretch and sun himself and meow on the street and allow strangers to pat him. Sometimes he would snub people, just because he could, because cats sometimes do that sort of thing, but he had time for everyone. And that was the thing about him: I knew him half of his life and it seems like I was with him through so much more than that. There was enough of Mr Mu to go round. All his friends were special to him and all had their own relationship with him and he made them all feel honoured by his presence. Our neighbour used to look forward to seeing him, when he would turn up each morning to sun himself on their verandah and occasionally poo in their vegetable garden, and the neighbour was genuinely sad when we told him that Mu would be an inside cat from then on.

He was sick and old for a very long time and this meant a lot of attention had to be given him. He was indulged – fed whenever he was hungry, allowed to do almost anything he liked – and he indulged us back. The intensity of our relationship with him over the last three years or so goes some way to explaining the utter desolation which Laetitia and I have felt since January 2. Most pet owners think their animal is beautiful and intelligent and charming, but this cat was all of those three things and so many more. His personality was too big for a mere pet, and now it is hard to fathom that he is gone. It simply doesn’t make sense. But gone he is and the world seems to turn more slowly as a result. Our souls are bruised and our bodies weak with the strain of grief.

We will move on, somehow, in time: learn to cope, to fake it at first, and then to properly collect our emotions. But we will never forget our little friend. Before Mr Mu I thought I didn’t like cats. His example showed me I was wrong, and how wrong I was. He wasn’t just a cat though. He was far more than that and words are insufficient to do him justice.

Published in: on January 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

2016 – Year Of The Editor

Here I am again, at the outset of the year, writing something for my public, with promises of more activity for the year to come. My public is small, as you would know if you are reading this. In fact, if you’re reading this, you probably are my public. Or a sizable chunk of it.

But enough of this triviality. I am still here, still doing this, and once again it is early January. If memory serves, this blog was begun on a first of January, or the next day, on a year I can’t remember, but it must have been after the invention of the personal computer.

This is for me, then, in a way: this blog post as the first of many more blog posts. It’s a demonstration or a promise or something perhaps weaker than that – a firm intention, possibly, or a flabby intention – to keep going.

It has been a year full of incident, and I’m not even referring to the catalogue of violence and tragedy in the celebrity culture and geopolitics which largely shapes our lives. Those sad events have been dealt with by other people in other places and there is no more that can be usefully added here. It has been very difficult indeed to accept that some artists have died – that’s all that need be said. On a personal level, there has been work and strain, both in very large helpings, consequent upon the assisting of some relatives with their clutter problem (known by the technical term “hoarding”).

So not as much writing has been done as the previous few years, because there was less time and bugger all energy to do it. But there is more time and more energy now, and so there will be more writing too. Despite all of these calls on free time and reserves of vitality some stories were completed (none published as yet, but hope remains) and a longer work was commenced, which I stuck at for months until interest waned a bit and end of year activities began to overtake. I will pick this up again. All it needs is to make a start and then do a small portion each day – that’s what I was doing before and it’s what I will do again.

The one story published in 2016 year was written the year before, so that doesn’t really count. And, in all the usual ways, it was dispiriting to receive rejections. It never becomes easy. But what did soften the blow was the attitude and care which some editors took in their correspondence. Yes, they were saying no, but they took the time to really explain why. To write as fellow writers and as editors with many competing decisions to make, to lay out their intertwined considerations and even offer genuinely helpful comments on the piece they had decided against including in their journal. A few really fascinating and very helpful email conversations resulted, which had the effect of allowing you to feel like you were collaborating, however briefly, with an editor, rather than just being dismissed by someone who may not have even read what you wrote.

It wouldn’t be right to name names or name journals, but friendly and constructive correspondence with editors from two established journals and one very new journal made me feel a lot better about what I was doing and what I will do. And there were numerous felicitous exchanges with others too. It’s almost always a positive process, if you allow it to be. (Of course there is still the possibility of being treated cursorily, and that happened too – but those experiences were in the minority, and I like to think they constitute examples of a communication breakdown.)

Some of the books I read this year:

A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James – won the Booker Prize, deals with events surrounding the Bob Marley assassination attempt, a big violent book about big ideas, with multiple points of view and several characters, such an ambitious undertaking and brought off with such aplomb

Pour Me, AA Gill – a memoir of the drinking life of the food critic who died in the latter part of the year, beautifully written and amusing

A Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez – a book I’d been meaning to read for some time, the writing exciting and voluptuous (if it doesn’t sound too wanky to say that), many parts will stay with me, as will the possibilities he shows to writers about where you can go with your work, clearly an excellent book, rightly loved by good judges, I did wonder if there was a point that I was missing, but in any paragraph chosen at random you may find a story, more than a vignette, an actual small story, and I love that sort of thing

The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead – the father annoyed me at first and then irritated me and I really didn’t like him, but at no point did the question “why did she write him like that?” occur, instead it was the man she invented who I didn’t like, and this must be a sign of very great quality that he seemed so real, the book dealt in some ways with dysfunctional families and this could have alienated me from the material when I was in the mood for some kind of relief from all that

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark – a short novel and one of the best I’ve read, about a teacher and her pupils, her influence on them and their influence on her, but about so much more than that, the writing precise and economical, allowing subtleties and inferences which could easily be missed due to the ease of reading, I shall read more of Muriel Spark

 

And so it begins again. The blow of January has been softened by rather intense reading. I should have known it would be a help. I will write about the books I have read at another point.

Published in: on January 2, 2017 at 11:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Bruno’s Plan

On the day after Bruno’s little finger was severed in the accident the photographer came to his school and in the class photo you can see him, sitting there, in the front row, with his hair parted neatly and a bandage around his swollen left hand. What you can’t see is the patch of red, small at this time but spreading even then. By lunchtime that day oozing blood had covered the bandage and started to leave a trail of drips when Bruno ran about. His plan was to attend the sick bay after lunch and hopefully miss the rest of the day’s lessons that way, and he was very proud of the plan for it was both simple and fiendish.

Published in: on November 2, 2016 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Perhaps Not A Gentleman, After All

It has recently occurred to me that, barring some sort of radical change of direction, I cannot be a gentleman. This is not the sort of thing that might worry a lot of people. In fact a lot of people would think the concept is an archaic one and a nebulous one and a bit of a silly one and they might wonder what the hell I might be talking about anyway.

There are undoubtedly many definitions of a gentleman, although none come to mind now. Gentlemen should allow ladies to go first, hold doors for ladies, walk on the outside on the street, and things of that sort. A least I think they ought to do those things. I’m sure I’ve read it somewhere.

My own interpretation of this type of man is hopefully more relevant to contemporary life and is not so much about doing things for helpless women – because they aren’t helpless – but doing things for other people. People of any description, but particularly if they could do with some assistance, like if they are old or sick or injured or something of that sort. And yes, you ought to know which knife and fork to use and how to introduce someone to someone else, but the rules about these things are complex and not worth learning, let alone attempting to apply. No, the rule – my rule – is to make people feel comfortable. If you have just met someone, be friendly. If someone is a guest in your home and they wish to eat asparagus with a spoon, allow them to, without any semblance of fuss or protest. They are your guest. It is your responsibility to provide ease for them while they are under your roof.

Now the whole host thing is an area of struggle for me. I’m a bit shy and a bit unsure and this has frequently led to a guest with an empty glass which I could have filled or a lonely person who could have received a bit of sparklingly witty conversation from me.

You have to be confident to put people at their ease, but it was something I always thought I could work at.

What defeats me is the other element. Always put other people first. This is mainly achievable, and therefore not a problem, when circumstances are without the element of stress. But when it all gets a bit harder, then I can be self-centred and unable to find my way outside my own absorbed little world, wrapped up in me and my nerves and how I feel and why I’m put upon. And these things do not add up to putting other people first, when they see you stressed and can do nothing about it and neither can you. The result is confusion and tension and discord. Certainly it is not putting others at ease and placing their needs before yours.

So that’s that. A gentleman only sometimes, when things are going well.

A pity – but there are no good clubs to go to any more, so maybe there was never a point to any of this anyway.

Published in: on October 24, 2016 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Deprived Childhood

They were watching the Olympics on TV, the whole lot of them – everyone in the company who was at work that day. This was only a brief interlude. While it was the sort of company which would put a broadcast of the games up on a big screen for people to watch at lunchtime or while they made a cup of coffee in the kitchen, they had not gathered for an event before this. It was the big one. You know, the one we were supposed to win? The one we were supposed to win and then didn’t, because that’s the way it goes at the Olympics sometimes.

And there was long jump on the screen before our big event, and the colleagues watched and made comments, as you do, and became transiently well-versed in the byways of this complex and irrational discipline. The athletes were compared and their performances analysed. There was laughter and cheering and some form of delight that only comes when adults immerse themselves in something foreign and trivial and allow themselves to be, if only for a moment, like little children again. Unashamed to admit a lack of knowledge, indeed positively rejoicing in it, they asked each other questions and didn’t know the answers and speculated wildly without any substantial basis in fact.

And someone asked her what she thought. She was sitting there, sitting next to him, wearing leggings and wearing some kind of running shoes. They were sitting in front of me. And he said that one of the women looked strong when he could see that she was openly admiring the athlete on the screen, with her muscle definition and general hardness. Admiration was mixed with a certain envy, it was clear, as she made comments.

“Why can’t I get that?” she said. She spoke as if it were achievable to look like an Olympian, and she spoke as if she was used to getting what she wanted.

He said it takes four years to look like that, and that it can take a lifetime too.

She realised that she was being a little silly. That’s what she said anyway. But you could tell she hadn’t let the thought go. She was still assessing or making some sort of plan.

He asked her if she’d ever tried the long jump, and she said she hadn’t. She wondered if she would be any good. “I didn’t know I liked running. My mother put a violin in my hands when I was six. I didn’t know I even liked sport until a few years ago.”

It was challenging herself that she was her real obsession. She would go on to more and greater challenges: increasingly dangerous pastimes. Running would be a memory when she began scaling rock faces and skiing off mountains.

And the desire to brag would never leave her either. Those lost years in the music room made her want to boast about the poshness of her quite featureless early life and not very grand upbringing. She assumed we would think that everything is sophisticated in England, for some reason. It was really a little ordinary and more than a little tawdry, as we learned later when news came through of her freezing to death half way up a cliff in the Andes, and her mother came in to collect some personal effects from the office. Her mother did not speak with an accent from far way and she told us that her daughter had never learned the violin at all.

Published in: on October 5, 2016 at 7:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Different Somehow

He’d been told that they were more tactile than he was used to. They liked to touch each other and were freer with their bodies, invading each other’s personal space, or obliterating the concept of personal space altogether. There were stories of what they got up to at school, being all over each other, arms around waists, fingers in hair, grooming like certain primates do.

Things were different in his day, of course. It sounded absurd to think of it being his day back in the day, as his day wasn’t all that long ago, and how much could things really change between then and now, but they were different. Quite different. He kept hearing it. And he had no reason to disbelieve what he heard.

None of it really interested him, at first. There was cyberbullying and that seemed like it was a massive beat-up. Except a mate of his was a school teacher and he said it was a huge problem from top to bottom of every school. They touch each other when they’re in close range and they’re nasty when contact is virtual. It seemed weird. He didn’t get it. He also didn’t really care.

It wasn’t just the girls who might be given a bunch of flowers on their birthday now. Boys would get flowers too, and they would kiss their female friends goodbye and hello and just for no reason at all. It didn’t make sense. It was as if all inhibitions had been cast off and that must mean everyone would be happier and more well-adjusted and all those things teachers say, but if things of that sort had changed so much in a few short years he wondered what else had changed and it bothered him.

It bothered him because there was one of them, right now, working under him. He said “working under me” to himself, because it amused him to be a bit cheeky. The sort of joke you have to make in your head. And yes, she was good looking, with blonde short hair and a Superman T-shirt, and teaching him about how the section he ran might be run better. She was sitting on his desk, her legs dangling, the thongs on each foot fiddling with each other as she thought about what to say next.

Her vocabulary was perfectly good, which was what he looked for, and she seemed to lack inhibition in any form. This ought not be confused with arrogance or bossiness or conceit. She was not loud. It had just never occurred to her to be nervous or self-effacing.

And he liked that. He overcame his fear, because that’s what it was: it bothered him that much. She would be a valuable member of his team.

“It’ll be fun to work under you,” she said with a wink, and he thought so too.

Published in: on September 19, 2016 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Emerging

He told them that he hadn’t been up to much at all. That there was almost literally nothing to report.

They looked incredulous, confident in their vast store of growing children anecdotes and updates about the inexorable progress they were making in the corporate world.

They both could have given a Powerpoint demonstration on how the kids were riding bikes now, without training wheels, and how they were confident that the kids would get into the private schools they had earmarked since some time shortly after their they were born. They could then have given presentations on the current issues in the law, as they affected their careers, and how much more interesting yet taxing the work had become now that all their clients had high profiles.

It was the same person twice. Their stories were almost interchangeable.

But he had no such confidence. He had no stories which suggested maturity and success and confirmation from the Great Architect that he was on the right path. There were no photos in his wallet, no smiling kids, looking up at their daddy. There wasn’t even a photo of Ingrid. She and he didn’t do that sort of thing, and anyway, if they had, and there was a photo of her, he would have to explain that they weren’t married, because, frankly they couldn’t afford it. He couldn’t afford to ask and so they couldn’t do it. It was shameful, the whole thing was, and he so wished there could be some sort of pride in some aspect of his life.

But what could he tell them?

“You mean, you’re still at the same place?” the older one asked. And he was. He worked at the same place he had been at a decade ago, and the pay wasn’t much better now than it was then, and they couldn’t understand that, so he didn’t try to explain it.

He tried to change the subject, but the younger one steered the conversation back towards his life and his reticence to talk about it.

“You can tell us, mate,” said the younger one. “Go on.”

When he started to tell them they seemed interested and he felt liberated. For so long he had kept these things – these decisions and indecisions and feelings – secret from other people. It felt good to lay out some of it, connect the parts together. Show how it formed a coherent whole.

He was an emerging writer, which meant almost nothing at all, except that he hadn’t become a success yet. Or not the success he wanted to be. He feared that he would be an emerging writer forever and never actually emerge. Worse, he feared that he might not even really be emerging yet, and wondered if he had been lying to himself about a few rather pedestrian instances of early success. But these were word games really, and that was what writers did, partially, so he apologised for going round in circles a bit.

They both took a sip of wine and leant in, across the table in the restaurant.

He was worried. Worried he might have wasted his time and worried he might have spent so long doing it that there would be no chance to do anything else. It was surely too late now.

And he would never have a house or a decent car or a daughter. They took these things for granted and could only dream of security like that. In truth he found it hard to even imagine not having that fear pursue you wherever you went.

You needed time to write and he had that with the job he did and you hoped you were just putting off some of these signposts of maturity for another time, when you were ready, established, emerged.

But nobody wanted to publish his stuff. He wondered if he was making progress. He wondered what he needed to do to get noticed and he wondered if he wanted to make any changes anyway.

“You two talk about how hard you work, and how hard your lives are, but I would swap with either of you, right now.”

They scoffed. They couldn’t help themselves. They treated him a bit like a child, as if he had been left behind while they grew into adulthood.

“You don’t really mean that,” the younger one said.

Perhaps he didn’t. He was working on something which could become big. It was exciting and he knew he wouldn’t be able to make them understand this sort of excitement. That it could be years before it went anywhere, but it could be very good indeed.

And that was the difference between them. The work he was doing on that idea.

Published in: on August 24, 2016 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Claus’s Prolonged Retirement

When Claus finished show jumping for Austria he looked around and thought about what he’d like to do next. Being an Olympian had been a dream, but he knew he would be a success. He always had been in the past, and people told him that he was one of the best riders of his generation. His career coincided with a golden moment in Austrian show jumping. It was politics that ended it, abruptly, as far as he was concerned, and a next chapter in his life began, unwillingly and with a certain amount of complaint on his part, justified, so people told him, as he still had so much to give and it was such a shame that petty jealousies could be allowed to get in the way of one the country’s favourite sports. Incidentally, the team declined when Claus left, a state of affairs thought by no knowledgeable observer to be a coincidence, and yet there was nothing that could be done. And so he dabbled in a few places at the craft he had decided might suit an opinionated sort of cove like him. He had always been good for an interview, as journalists knew he was a good bloke, and they recognised an ability to tell a good story and they let him write articles here and there and once retired he asked, begged, pleaded – at one stage on his knees, in the sports editor’s office – to be given more opportunities to write things. First they were comment and opinion and analysis and then he was given a column in which he could mix stories from his career with his view about what was likely to happen in the big tournament. Readers loved them. They thought he was a funny bastard when he was a rider but now that the gloves were off he was funnier and it was universally recognised that he really was a top bloke like all the show jumpers said he was. Publishing was the next challenge he took on and he succeeded titanically because a gargantuan appetite for good food and better wine at lunches which lasted some hours was just as popular in book circles as it was among old equestrian mates reminiscing about why the sport had gone soft. Even by the standards of former riders accustomed to being fed peasant portions when they competed in France, Claus could prodigiously put it away. This made him sought-after as a dining companion … which lead to more lunches, and this resulted in a book deal. The first book was something frothy, a confection replete with anecdote and witticism, theories and amusing speculation about all manner of things, and it sold well. After that the books got serious. People loved them. They thought he seemed a decent guy. A man who could almost be their friend – almost actually their friend – and there was a certain loyalty that came with this. People told him he wrote funny prose and it was true. Claus was forced to believe them. He had no reason not to. And he moved into biography, and succeeded there too, with athletes and politicians and business figures, told in his folksy style, which had now become a selling point on its own. Readers wanted to read him because of his idiosyncrasies and felt like he was really talking to them. And the shift to history was a natural one, using the large team of researchers in his employ, and he wrote the same way and debunked as he popularised and people who said they didn’t even like history would read his books and more copies were sold than all of his other books and he was the best historian the country had produced, or so people told him, and he had no choice but to believe them because the evidence was there. All he could conclude was that life was pretty good, that he, Claus, was pretty good, but to be honest, deep down, he already knew that and it had been true for some time.

Published in: on August 18, 2016 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mr Nobody

It was a pretty ordinary sort of upbringing. Pretty straightforward things of no real interest happened to him every day. Or at least that’s the way he told it. Nobody knew for sure. His boyhood was a mystery. No-one had ever met a relative of his and nor could anyone find a record of his parents or ancestors. As a matter of fact, hardly anyone seemed to be called by his surname, in the city he grew up anyway. The only members of that family seemed to live in Perth, which wasn’t right at all. But we didn’t ask questions. He told us not to so we didn’t. We didn’t burden him with questions anyway. He couldn’t prevent us thinking certain thoughts, much as he would have liked to have that level of control. He certainly liked to control everything else. Having come from nowhere and being related to no-one he joined the army, as we all did, and went overseas when we all went, and the least said about all of that the better. It’s painful still, which really means that none of us wants to talk about it. Most of us would rather not remember all of those times, where life was hard and you just wanted it all to be over. And he did something tremendously brave. Absurdly, almost suicidally brave, and the rest of us really did wonder if he was trying to get himself killed, although we never told him that. He wouldn’t have allowed it. After that there were medals, many of them, for him, and he ended up in the prison camp, as we all did, and life wasn’t bad at all there, with relatively good food and a commandant who treated us pretty well, all things considered. But you had to escape, or try to. It was your duty. And he was active in our planning and in the dangerous work we did. He must have thought he’d be leading us out of the camp one night while the commandant was sleeping soundly. He was the obvious choice. But he injured himself, just a sprained ankle, but it was too close to the day of the escape and he couldn’t go. Our commanding officer wouldn’t let him. So he stayed behind while all those boys were machine gunned in the tunnel and after the war wrote books about it and about all the heroic things he knew about. People loved his books and he made a lot of money and had everything he could want. He had big homes in London and the South of France and a place here, of course, and he got married three times and divorced three times, and ended up with the woman who did his typing for him. But he was never happy and it was never happy to be around him. And when he finally died, a death brought forward by the effects of too much of a good time, which never made his life more satisfying, he was bitter about the whole lot of it.

Published in: on August 8, 2016 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment