Saturday, 8 April 2017

cilip talk, welcome time off, allotmenting, grand national, happy memories, poem: all changed

Very much enjoyed attending the CILIP South East and Thames Valley AGMs at the Jam Factory on Thursday and giving my talk, Micropublishing, teaching, digital research: different worlds, or all in a day's work for the (future) librarian? Especially enjoyed the wonderful discussion we had at the end. Thanks, Nora, for inviting me!

I have some time off now until just after Easter. So pleased to have got to this point! It's been such a busy winter.

Hoping to do lots of work on the allotment - and the weather is looking promising. Yay!

The photo btw is of allotment sheds by the Thames on the field where we had our original allotments when we lived in Oxford. Such happy memories of Twenty Pound Meadow.

Looking forward to the Grand National later - and the annual bet. What with this and the Boat Race last weekend... How much sporting excitement can I stand! The National's not been the same since those brilliant far off days in Belfast with D and M. Brisbane's just that little too far.

And now, another poem, also available as a reading on then estimable SoundCloud. The poem revisits painful memories first talked about on jtns in 2011. Because of the nature of these events, they've taken a long time to come to terms with, though I think that being able to work with them creatively is a good sign.

All Changed

(Edited version)

Our world changed in that hour -
Things could never be the same.
All the trust that Dad had worked so hard
To build,
The lawyer's words a revelation
Of misguided deeds
That seemed unbelievable,
Yet somehow, sub my consciousness -
Still in a fog of love that stubbornly
Clung to the scorched branches
Of our family tree -
Rang clear as a bell.

I'd had my suspicions about the trusts -
These investments potted up into three
By my great grandfather after his only
Son died;
Pots that were meant
To protect, manage, ensure a good future.
But nearly all the understanding I had
Was designed to point to one end:
Income and loans of money from the pots
Were my dad's preserve until his death
When I would inherit. I had been told
This since I was a boy of what,
Eleven or twelve (I remember the dining room,
The seriousness of their tones, my mum's
And my dad's, how grown up I felt to be
Entrusted with such a truth).
My brain was washed, brushed and patted
And the first I knew different was when I was
When asked, some years before, to sign
Over half the potted cash to Mum and Dad,
I had done so, with all the seriousness and pride
Of a boy. I knew no different.
There were things that did seem odd but that was
Just Mum and Dad: they always did things
In a different way but things always turned out
Right; didn't they?
When asked to sign again, over the phone,
A couple of years later,
I did venture Mum some simple, obvious
Why do you want more money, was one?
The rage should have alerted me,
The gale of whipping words and scorched-earth
But all I could do was say sorry for
Speaking out of turn and reassure her
Poor bruised ego - so hurt by my
Boy's outspokenness.
I had recognised that rage, though,
Seen it meted out to my dad when
I was a boy, seen her break him,
And I decided to steer clear,
Yet not to question the stark message,
We can do what we want with these pots.
My mumbling lips had tried to say
That surely they had something to
Do with me -
I would have to sign, I must have some say,
'I don't give a bugger about your rights.'
Not even this gave me the confidence
To question - though I was wary, after that
Phonecall. Putting protective distance between
Me and them, whether speaking to them
On the phone or at their house - a house I
Stopped visiting as often as I did.
That vicious conversation, a way station
From boyhood innocence, unnaturally
Stretched out, to knowledge. And what a lot
There was to know. Two decades of
Revelations, each more shocking
Than the last.

I signed.
I took the blame for misunderstanding
How things stood.

When in that office, aged
The lawyer told me that I'd
Inherited the pots when I was
Twenty-one, I could not believe him
Fully. And in a way I still can't.
A boy's desperate clinging
To the myths of childhood.

Trust died that hour.
All the work of decades lost in an instant.

When, a decade or so later,
Mum and Dad's other frauds
Came to light,
The lifetimes of cheating and lying -
To themselves and to each other as much as others;
To others as much as to me -
The one million owed, the bankruptcy...
When all these came out,
Reputations in tatters...
When all this...

Everything began to make sense.

A shadow world, the windows thrown open,
Sunlight streaming in, blinding everyone.

And I was glad of the shock that nearly
Broke my mind immediatley after
I left the lawyer's office.
The thoughts of choices made in good faith
Throughout my life till then.
Choices about the big things -
Career, marriage, children.
No one likes to be made a fool of.

But I survived, grew strong, so the final
Truths, the final smashings
Of trust, were seen from a different
An independent adult, looking at
The wreckage, the chaos, the misguided.

Did I hate?
No, I felt only pity - the
Sort you would feel when a child's
Den was blown apart
By the winds.
Mum and Dad's fantasies, protections against
A world they couldn't understand.
They were children after all this time,
Who needed to be protected against themselves.

There was love too - amazingly that survived -
And we tried to help as best we could, J and I.
There were some happy conversations
Before the release of death.
Something, at least.

Our world changed in that hour -
In the lawyer's office.
That human beings should treat trust
So lightly.
That there are some things after which
Life can never be the same.

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