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30 December 2004

It is of course notorious that once you become alerted to something, you find it universal, when you had overlooked it entirely before. Classic example from my own case: before I first went to Taiwan, I never knew there were so many Chinese in Newcastle. Since the day I came home, I see them everywhere. As it happens there actually are many Chinese in Newcastle, especially in the university, and Chinatown lies between me and the city centre, so I really do see a lot, but even so I think Iíve been hypersensitised.

That one makes me happy, but the more immediate case in point is starting to oppress me. Or rather, I worry that Iím becoming oppressive to other people, because I keep talking about my father, writing here about my father, seeing funerals and death all over. Perfectly normal, Iím sure, but there must come a time where it slides over from a natural expression of grief into self-pity and self-indulgence and see-how-interesting-I-am,-my-dadís-dead.

I was thinking about this yesterday, walking into town - and found myself face to face with a giant billboard, representing a fresh burial where the flowers spelled out ĎDadí. I think itís part of a government anti-smoking campaign; I didnít look too closely.

And now a friend of mine is dead, a young man Iíve known since he was a child. Iíve been intimate with the family for twenty years, and this is a whole different bank of sorrow.

And through all of this I have just started trying to work again, because I have to. Iíve agreed the tightest possible deadline for the rewrite of ĎSelling Waterí, just one month from now. So Iím reading through the manuscript as it stands, trying to get a grip on the needed changes, and Iím finding it almost impossibly hard. Partly thatís due to all this other stuff (aka Ďreal lifeí, which I can usually separate off quite efficiently), but itís also an actual creative bewilderment. I understand the editorís notes precisely, when I read them as a separate artefact; I just cannot see those points reflected in my text. There seems to be no room left for negotiation, though - and no time, either - so I just have to screw down my professional hat and follow instructions.


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© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.