Monday, January 3, 2011

It's not so easy

The challenge of writing the story of my walk across the Peloponnese last autumn is proving to be a greater trial than I had anticipated.  Describing the route I followed, places visited and the scenery through which I strolled presented few difficulties, but finding words to describe the sensations the journey stirred in me, particularly those engendered by my fellow ramblers, is presenting many.  Most of all I am having difficulty trying to communicate how I related to my fellow strollers.  Throughout the walk we remained, superficially at least, a harmonious group.  There were, inevitably, differences of opinion about many things all of which were always resolved equitably.  My great difficulty has been to express the effects of these differences had on me without giving a quite fallacious impression of my being at loggerheads with my fellows throughout our time together!
To a large extent my difficulties are, I believe, a direct result of my being who I am.  My father died in 1993, my mother six months ago, but their influence over me did not die with them.  Much of it will, I expect, remain with me for the rest of my life.  Because they were decent loving parents they inured in me of showing, at all times, consideration for others.  Such an excellent job did they make of doing so that, well into my seventh decade, I am yet inhibited from unreasonably upsetting third parties and struggle to explain in writing my differences of opinion and disappointments in ways that are unambiguously congenial.  At other times and in other ways it is easy for me to carelessly repudiate parental tutelage but my written words silently point, like Dickens’ ghost of Christmas future,  accusingly back at me.
In writing this post I can but bring to mind Old Lark’s , “This be the Verse”.  I do not in fact subscribe to the substance of Larkin’s verse much preferring Adrian Mitchell’s rephrasing of it:
They tuck you up, your mum and dad
They read you Peter Rabbit, too.
They give you all the treats they had
And add some extra, just for you.
...
Man hands on happiness to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
So love your parents all you can
And have some cheerful kids yourself
However, when struggling to express what I feel while protecting the sensibilities of others it is Larkin’s original I recall rather than Mitchell’s rephrasing! 

4 comments:

H. insciens said...

Ah John, you are stuggling with the problems of writing under your own name. I know so well what you mean. I had a book published using total anonymity (much tighter than the leaky anonymity of "H. insciens"), with another one under construction now. The freedom is incredible (even though close family know, so some things do still hold me in check). But the downside of pseudonymity is that nobody you know will know that the stuff is yours. That is irritating. And you doubtless want your companions to read your story and know that it is by you, but don't want them to be disappointed by what you were thinking when they all thought they were getting along with you fine. It is a problem. Depends on your future plans for them as friends and companions, perhaps. But those worthy of true friendship should understand, and may with a laugh over a beer tell you what they were really thinking of you. Good luck with drawing the line. As for me, I may have to collect my Nobel award in a mask. (That particular problem is one I expect to avoid, actually :)

Claude said...

A few years ago, I started to write memories of my childhood. I'm the youngest of five. I still have two living sisters. The oldest (much, much older than I am!) is 95 today. Her memory is impeccable. The problem I had, with sharing a few chapters with my siblings, is that my feelings, reactions, rememberances of things past were so different than theirs. Except for names and dates, it looked as we had lived in a different universe, even when I was speaking about them.

I wish I could share with you an article: The dubious "truth" inside our heads. by Jay Ingram (who hosted Discovery Channel.) Françoise Giroud wrote "La vérité a, comme les oignons, dix-sept pelures." (As the onions, truth has seventeen skins.)

I decided not to worry about other people's experiences. My own version is what matters. I called the first part of my book: I WAS THERE...

Claude said...

Of course, the title is French: J'ÉTAIS LÀ...

H. insciens said...

Oh I would like to read it Claude... but then with my limited abilities in French I would experience yet another quite different version entirely!