Born in 1956, with parents and grandparents who had a peculiar secret past, I had a swing, hanging from a wobbly plum-tree over a treacherous rough terrace of brittle flint. There hours passed in changing forms of light but when the sky filled with the dark grey carcophony of low flying planes, another’s terror of another arrested me, hurrying me down grazed-knee steps to the comfort of my mother’s beating heart.
Later, in a school made from the same rough stone, Hugh, Gill and I read of totem-poles and terrifying human sacrifice and later, straying from national trust paths through tall twisted grasses, we heard imaginary drums punctuating the silence, beating out the rhythmn of our own ritual burnings.
When my brother went to London, where my sister lived, he’d become an exhibit in Central London’s hot-spots, a sitting duck behind street facing sheets of plate-glass, refusing to be cowed by the troubles’ real and threatened angry, violent blasts, that he might horrify his family over Sunday lunch.
By the time I’d finished school, and enjoyed 18 years of post-war peace, I had witnessed violent erruptions between: Catholics and Protestants; mods and rockers; skinheads and punks; greasers and rockers; Enoch Powell and the rest of the world; Greenham Common protestors and the establishment; anti-plastic milk bottle campaigners and Clifford’s Dairies (Henley); ban the bombers and ban the ban the bombers; football ‘hooligans’ and ‘victims’ of ‘football violence’ and myriad other coflicts between one side and another including those who seemed regularly to lose and win elections.
Threats were evident in grand narratives such as the post apocalyptic – there was a terrifying repeated ‘after the bomb’ tale; threats to social order were phrased in terms of reds in beds and terrifying ideas derived from eugenics circulated by Enoch Powell; personal failure might, similarly, derive from falling under the power of some ‘external’ influence and exposing a weakness such as becoming addicted to drugs, contracting VD or conceiving a child – all of which involve some form of boundary crossing.
Growing up involved boundary crossing of course and yet, equally, not allowing others to cross the line. Any failure to disallow another to cross the line, any form of intrusion, represented a form of failure for the one intruded upon, the weaker party, the one who had allowed the invasion.
I left home with a ruptured and tenuous sense of innoculation from a troubled outer world.
A cult was on the cards. – A grand narrative promised an alternate exoticism and yet compounded division, shattering dreams of an integration.
Later, the see-saw returned me to a ‘norm’ in fractured 80’s Britain.
Married, fractured bones shattered dreams.
I divorced the first man I fell for, hook, line and sinker, on grounds of his irrational behaviour and encountered the wrath of those who were more invested than I in his public face, and my own. It was evident that others’ views had very little to do with what was. Romeo and Juliet’s sad story might well have inspired Capulets and Montagues to drop their feud but after an optimistic second bite of the cherry, I found that becoming a widow made me somehow accountable for disturbing the peace. The audience, longing for a happy romance, turn their dark faces towards the stage and jeer, venomous disappointment spilling into graves full of dreams, fearful and exposed.
Conflict rather than burning out, levelling as communication extends and matures or so we imagine, rages on in extremis and magnifies. Current others, to be feared we are told, even if we are in fact one of ‘the others’, since these ‘others’ are brainwashed beyond reason and should therefore fear themselves as much as those who are not ‘others’ fear ‘them’, sound, on reflection, just like the ‘others’ these ‘others’ are hoping to live with in Europe: frightened, lost and clinging to meaning.
Frightened. Lost. Clinging to meaning.
I am frightened. lost and constantly involved in the business of making meaning – writing a life – inventing a space – hopeful that, soon, that space between oppositions might gain an audience.
Fear is not a very good idea my dear – I fear. Oh dear. I fear this fear will kill us Dear – I fear. Oh, Dear.