Welcome to justthoughtsnstuff

I started posting to jtns on 20 February 2010 with just one word, 'Mosaic'. This seemed an appropriate introduction to a blog that would juxtapose fragments of memoir and life-writing. Since 1996, I'd been coming to terms with the consequences of emotional and economic abuse that had begun in childhood, and which, amongst other things, had sought to stifle self-expression. While I'd explored some aspects of my life through fiction and, to a lesser extent, journalism, it was only in 2010 that I felt confident enough to write openly about myself. I believed this was an important part of the healing process. Yet within weeks, the final scenes of my family's fifty-year nightmare started to play themselves out and the purpose of the blog became one of survival through writing. Although some posts are about my family's suffering - most explicitly, Life-Writing Talk, with Reference to Trust: A family story - the majority are about happier subjects (including, Bampton in rural west Oxfordshire, where I live, Oxford, where I work, the seasons and the countryside, walking and cycling) and I hope that these, together with their accompanying photos, are enjoyable and positive. Note: In February 2020, on jtns' tenth birthday, I stopped posting to this blog. It is now a contained work of life-writing about ten years of my life. Frank, 21 February 2020.

New blog: morethoughtsnstuff.com.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

furniture, the past, forgiveness, new start

Later this month I shall travel to a warehouse in which the furniture and personal possessions I grew up with are stored. I was away in Shropshire when these things were put there. I was working on a farm, doing my year’s practical before agricultural college. I have not seen the furniture and possessions since I left for Shropshire. That was nearly thirty-four years ago.

At the warehouse I will identify the few items that were in my childhood bedroom. These will be saved, the rest will be sold.

During my recent holiday I have thought about the past and about what the trip to the warehouse will be like. I cannot imagine what it will be like.

A family’s whole culture obliterated--by what? By a strange way of thinking about a painting of the Godolphin Arabian that robbed time of its meaning and caused incredible mental distress. What happened went against, it seems to me, all the usual norms of good sense, humanity and compassion.

I have thought of the essay I wrote for my cousin in 1998, in which I tried to outline my concerns about what was happening and what it had been like to live with the pain for so many years. The essay resulted from insights I gained into what was happening after I wrote a simple letter to a lawyer on another subject. The past suddenly started to fall into place. As I said to someone recently, I felt like a cult member emerging from years of isolation. I saw the past very differently. The essay was therapy, a cry for help and, it has to be stressed, an act of love. As I have said during talks about the origins of my second novel, which is partly about writing therapy, you do not spend so much time trying to get at the truth of a situation if you do not care about the people involved. I still love the people at the centre of this tragedy. They should have been protected against themselves.

I have thought over the past weeks of those who were there to protect my interests--amiable but hapless men, who I am sure never meant things to turn out this way.

I have thought about forgiveness. I approach this from the standpoint of a religious humanist, not as I was once, a Christian. Forgiveness is, I believe, something that will come with the passing of the seasons, as death is followed by rebirth, the cycle that defines the world in which we live. Forgiveness is not something that can be forced.

I am aware that there are others, like me, who have decided not to make a claim in respect of what has happened, even though they have suffered financial loss and unhappiness. I also know that others who have claimed have suffered a great deal--materially and emotionally. I sympathise with both groups of people.

I have to say I do not understand how a bank (HSBC) could allow a debt to escalate so much that it destroyed their client--destroyed not just them but, as I have said, a whole family culture--as well as damaging many others. (Not good for the bank's shareholders either.) I suppose things in the banking world have changed in the last couple of years. I hope very much that is the case and that other families will be spared this kind of distress in future.

I think of my great-grandfathers who I never met but who entrusted so much to future generations. I am pleased that I managed to save a small part of their legacies and, I hope, do some good with it.

I am grateful for the support I have received over this last year from members of my family, from Jess’ family and from colleagues at the University. Above all I am grateful for Jess’ love and support.

Later this month I shall travel to a warehouse in which the furniture and personal possessions I grew up with are stored. After that I shall start the rest of my life.

[23.01.12 and 03.02.12: In the light of recent sad events I have decided to rewrite parts of the above post. I have kept a copy of the original post. 05.15: Further revision.]


  1. Very moving to read Frank, thinking of you and hoping it all goes ok.
    Sophie x

  2. Thanks very much, Sophie. That's much appreciated. x

  3. Family, always a difficult subject, with each member creating their own translation of the transition of time.

    Obviously you have moved on and now for the future chapters in your life.

  4. Thanks, Rupert. As you say, I have moved on and am looking to the future!