Wednesday, 19 April 2017

points of view

Edited version

1970

You reverse your tiny
Pale blue car
Into what seems a
Tinier space

In a trice.

My gaze forced by
The speed and grace
Of the movement
Away from the black and white globe
Bobbing - in oil? -
Sealed in its own
Atmosphere,
Fixed firmly to the windscreen
With the tip of an arrow.

The compartment heaves and settles
As your huge shoulders swivel back round.
A gentle smile as you switch off the ignition
With panache.

1996

You leave a message on
Our answerphone,
Which I pick up
From a payphone in Galloway.

My mother also phones,
Telling me you have gone
'Most peculiar',
That I should have nothing more
To do with you.
I refuse her request because
In the summer
The truth
Had begun
To come out.

I will hold firm,
Over the coming years,
Refusing to be turned against you.
At expense to myself.

The globe turns

That Summer

The lawyer's office.
I am there because of a will.
Not that I have much.

I had wanted to make my wishes
Clear about who my things should
Go to
If I should die -
My wife.

Since we got married,
Mum has been increasingly
Hostile.
Seething
Sometimes.
Unable
To
Contain
Herself.
ERUPTING!

I no longer trusted her
To do the right thing
When it came to
Those possessions
Of mine
That were in storage,
Which she had control of,
And I wanted to get it all down
In black and white.

A routine question
About the trusts
Has revealed they
Have been
Plundered.

You are not here
But abroad -
On holiday, I think.

At lunchtime, I am sitting on the edge
Of that strange dais that used to be outside the
New Bodleian.
I am eating a sandwich,
Having walked in the Parks,
My mind boiling,
Barely able to understand
What I have learnt.
I can't have got things right, surely?

Your right-hand man and his young family
Happen to pass.
A long way from home.
I recognise him from one of your parties.
They are visiting a museum,
Or some such.
When I tell him I am homeless,
He is bafflingly sympathetic.
I explain that it is library closed-week.
He laughs but seems even more
Baffled than
Me.

That Autumn

You fly out for a conference
And while there try to help
Mum and Dad,
Using your contacts.

You are run ragged
By my urgent, phoning parents and their
Increasingly unreasonable demands.

When you tell me what happened,
I wonder.
I recall Mum, in September,
Sitting me down and telling me that
Christopher, her arch enemy, has tried to 'put someone in'
And that if 'the person' isn't careful,
They'll take out an injunction
For-interference-in-their-business.
She is talking to a child,
Her thickening voice,
Churchillian, grave.
I want to laugh.
I can't believe it, I say.
I honestly can't.
Her behaviour is more intense
Lately - but not untypical.
There's no use trying to make
Sense of it.
She will explain, when she's ready,
When there have been more rows with friends,
More never-speak-agains.
She never does explain,
Though.
It is years before I fully understand.
Maybe I still don't.

The globe turns

Some weeks after the lawyer's office,
I tell my father that I want to speak about
The trusts.
'The tru-husts!' His voice rises octaves.
'Why do you keep going on about the trusts?'
I cannot remember when we last spoke
About
The trusts.

That September, after Mum has
Sabotaged a planned reunion lunch
At the school both Dad and I
Attended,
My father - again on the phone -
Says,
'I'm so sorry, Francis, so sorry.'
He sounds exhausted,
So weary.
He reassures me that everything will be put right;
It won't be long.

When, in December, you tell me what has happened,
I realise what he meant.

The globe turns

1997

Only it doesn't.
This word-globe,
That was really a compass.
Sometimes it's stuck in its see-through ball
Like the liquid's treacle.
Other times, the compass
Spins like topsy.

1998

By now I haven't seen my parents
For over a year.
I feel stronger.
I've composed an essay
In an attempt to write out my
Understanding of what's
Been going on.
I discovered that the auction
Prices for the artist of the painting
That is supposed to save our family's fortune
Has been flat-lining at about
A sixteenth of the value that Mum boasts about -
And taunts people with -
Since 1984.
Why didn't anyone else check that?

Once, it did rise meteorically
But then the two old billionaires who
Duelled over this kind of thing,
Driving the market, died
Or grew senile,
And the party was over.
Though not, sadly,
For my mum.

I go to a new lawyer,
Who, after I explain,
Swivels his index fingers
So they point at each other
And he makes a Mr Bean face.
Everyone blames the other
In this kind of situation.

You don't blame anyone, though,
Just don't really want to get involved.
You say Mum sees you as 'the enemy',
In psychological terms,
And you'd best not do anything.

I had this idea that you would be like
A wise uncle and sort everything out.

I hoped you would want to
Help Mum.
You have the knowledge.
You were always close to her.

I think of what has happened
Not legalistically,
Not threateningly,
But in terms of humanity;
A family story.

I understand that you have your own problems
To deal with.

But even so, I feel disappointed.

2014

Years later, after a modest resolution
And the revelation about a million-pound
Debt (thankfully not
My liability),
You tell me over lunch that when
Mum and Dad asked you to sign something,
They told you it was
Just a formality.

I have asked you
To lunch
To try to put
The past
Behind us.

You were the inspiration
For my academic career.
Also, a victim
Of the same force of nature
As me.
Despite it all,
I feel I owe you.

We part on what seem good terms.
But you do not keep in touch.

I do not judge you
Harshly, now.
I know from what you said that
You regretted what happened.
I imagine you do not know
What to say.
It's being made to
Look so ridiculous.
I've come across it when talking
To others who dealt with
Mum and Dad.
A shame at being so gullible.
For some, it meant
Depression.

I told the trustee in
Bankruptcy
That Mum and Dad had a gift
For making people
Act against
Their better judgement.

A folie à deux, you called it.

Mum was better after Dad
Died.
More sociable.
I don't think she believed
Her conspiracy theories any longer.
In a way,
She seemed to be having
A whale of a time!
In the Tesco car park
She told me she'd get it
All back.
We'd have an estate
And my wife's mum could
Live in a cottage there.
Mum would have the big house,
Of course.

The globe turns

Families, eh!

Blood is thicker
Than water.

There is still love in my heart,
Should
You
Ever...
Want...
To
Get
In
Touch

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