Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Storyteller

            My father was a fabulous teller of stories-- he could make you laugh until you felt sick, but you didn't mind. And you were still laughing the next day, thinking about his expression as he described how somebody got their face pushed into a plate full of egg, or how he tormented his little brother. How he was, of course, always in trouble.

            His stories were true -- not fiction, but about his childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, growing up under circumstances that few people today would experience -- but they were still remarkable, even magical to us, as we sat around him in rapt attention. He often wove a bit of humor into his tales and nobody else could tell them quite the way he did. I've always said I get my love of a good story from my Dad. But I still can't tell them the way he could.

            Growing up in England in the seventies we had a lot of power cuts, and maybe that's when he started telling his stories to entertain us, but I can clearly remember thinking how wonderful it was that he could make us laugh like that and put pictures in our heads as if we were watching a movie. But better.

            I wanted to do the same, but I would have to write my stories down for people to read, because I was never confident about speaking in front of people. I would have to hide behind pen and paper. Even so, the stories still had to come out.

            The fiction my dad loved were some classics of English Literature. His favourites were Dickens' "Great Expectations" and R. D. Blackmore's "Lorna Doone". I don't know when he would have read them as he left school at fourteen to work -- and from what he said of his education in rural East Anglia it did not involve a lot of books! -- but somehow he had absorbed those wonderful stories and he never forgot the colorful characters. I suppose that's another influence on me, because when I create characters I often think, "What would Dad say? Would Dad like them?"  or  I imagine I can hear him laughing. Which, for me, is the best review ever.

   My sisters and I are old ladies now (I can  hear them complaining - "Speak for yourself"), but when it comes to our memories of Dad, I think that's how we all still picture him, laughing and telling one of his stories.

            There were many deeply sad stories in his life too, but he left off telling those until he wrote his memoirs in his eighties. We knew they were there, but he didn't talk about them and so we didn't dare either. He said to me once, during the last two weeks I spent with him, "We didn't have touchy feely in my day". He just got on with his life, no matter what was thrown at him. I read his memoirs now, feeling very, very grateful that he took the time and made the effort to tell us the whole story in the end. And loving him all the more for it -- if that's possible.

            I understand now that his sense of humor must have saved him many times. It kept him going through terrible tragedy, when some would have given up and given in.

            One day, perhaps, I'll write a story about it. When I can  be as strong as he was.

            For now, I'll keep writing my silly creations, trying to amuse, surprise and entertain in the
only way I can. As I grow older I find myself greatly influenced by my dad, by the contrast of laughter and sadness in his life, and his love of memorable characters. My next story is no exception.

            Let's see. There's a lady's maid who keeps a pet demon inside a silver chocolate pot, an Indian valet who knows everything and tells incredible stories, a house that sings to itself-- when its being naughty, a gardener who thinks he has to feed dragons, several ghosts, a murderous pond -- and a corpse or two. Oh, and a Bow Street Runner who thinks it's all utter nonsense and they're all "Barmy". But that lady's maid knows, the minute she sees him, that they're going to be married. And she's not in the least happy about it.

            I think my Dad will like this one.
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Keep an eye out for Slowly Rising - coming this summer! In the meantime, you may want to catch up with the story in SLOWLY FELL, if you haven't already. And if you have, hey - read it again.

Photos - mine and my family's. Painting of "Maid with Chocolate Pot" by Jean Etienne Liotard c. 1745

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