I have talked to a few novelists in my time.
They mostly admit that much of the fiction they write is actually the truth, but toned-down because the actual truth would be too far-fetched to believe. Especially where coincidences are concerned.
Yesterday, I bumped into Scottish comedian Jojo Sutherland.
I mentioned to her that today, bright and early, I have to go see my second cousin near Perth. At least he might be my second cousin. He is my mother’s cousin’s son. I think that might be a second cousin, but who knows?
Somehow I mentioned to Jojo that my mother had been born in the small village of Dunning near Perth.
JoJo said that, the day before, she had been in Dunning. Several comedians met there to leave cars and congregate on their way up to Elgin.
Dunning does not seem far from Perth. It does not seem far off the main road. But it takes forever to drive there, because the road to the village is in some sort of 1920s Einsteinian time warp. In the time it takes to drive there, you could raise families and empires could rise and fall.
There is no reason to go to Dunning (admittedly a very nice village) except for very specific reasons. Few people go to Dunning.
The fact that Jojo went there the day before I accidentally met her in Edinburgh would be laughably impossible in a novel.
The reason I am telling you this is because, yet again, I have no time to write a ‘proper’ blog before I drive off to Perth.
So here are some copy-and-pasted extracts from my electronic diary in – for no particular reason – 2001, the year Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick chose for their depiction of a futuristic science fiction world.
My father died in the early hours of Wednesday 27th June 2001. So it goes.
On Saturday 1st September, my mother asked me if pianist Russ Conway had died. I said, “Yes. Last year or at the beginning of this year.”
She told me: “I always said I was OK provided he was OK. Because he had his strokes just after I had mine.”
Sunday 2nd September was my mother’s 81st birthday. She was breaking down in tears all day.
Meanwhile, other people lived their own, separate, lives.
I had a chum who was working for a PhD at Imperial College, London. She was having problems.
She had access to unused unique research material which NASA was willing to supply to her for her Imperial College PhD, which she was working on at NASA’s Goddard Space Center facility in Maryland. Imperial College told her it would not allow her to continue nor give her a PhD unless the research work she produced was first published in scientific journals under the name of her supervisor at Imperial College.
NASA said they wanted her to publish her own research under her own name thus getting credit for what she had done and that it was outrageous for London University and its professor to take and get credit for research they had not done.
But that is the standard method of people getting PhDs in the UK – the university publishes students’ research as their own. The university staff get credit and perhaps a knighthood; the students get a PhD. But not in America, where the people who do the research publish their own work under their own name.
NASA was refusing to release the research material unless my chum got the credit; Imperial College was refusing to allow her to continue unless it was agreed up-front that their man got his name on the research.
On Tuesday 11th September, the World Trade Center was destroyed in New York.
On Wednesday 12th September, I wrote:
Went to Plumstead to watch an interview being filmed with gangster Dave Courtney. He lives in an ordinary late Victorian road, his house mostly white and blue on the exterior: battlements on the white walls with large blue and grey Camelot scenes. On the side of the house, there is a 30-ft high brightly-coloured painting of him as a knight, seated with his wife on a stallion.
Above the door, there is a painting of a shield with a white fist on which is a knuckle-duster; beside it, a royal crest. Beside that, on the patio, is a 20ft high white flagpole with a tattered Union Flag. Invisible on the ground but visible to police helicopters, two eyes are painted on the roof. His motorbike has a painting of him brandishing a knuckle-duster, aiming a gun etc. In front of the front bay window stands a miniature 3-ft high sculpture of King Arthur’s sword Excalibur stuck in a white stone.
Inside the house, his living room has a wooden ceiling. On one wall, there is a large painting of him; on other walls, three giant swords. His girlfriend is thin, black and bald except for a black velcro-like band of black hair on her head. Their daughter Courtney Courtney is 3 years old, small, golden brown and sweet. Two young men in black suits, white shirts, black ties and highly-polished black leather shoes sat on two grey sofas watching television coverage of the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack.
Later, outside, I watched a bespectacled Sikh walking past in a white turban with red dots pushing a bright yellow bicycle.
On Thursday 13th September, I got an e-mail from the director of the Dave Courtney interview:
My friend in New York tells me the entire reason for the New York atrocity is down to Monica Lewinsky – President Clinton a few years ago tried to bomb Bin Ladin to distract attention from the Monica Lewinsky affair. So apparently Bin Ladin has never forgotten it. So this is payback apparently. All over a blowjob!
On Friday 14th September, I got this message from a chum about her new boyfriend, who had just come over to the UK:
He is not used to people en masse. He has been living a solitary existence in the rainforest for ten years and is fairly knackered after the stresses of trying to decamp to the UK. He has a condition we call ME – good days and bad days – so needs a bit of a rest before meeting people.
On Monday 17th September, I got this message from a friend in England whose mother lived in New York and was there during the attack on the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington:
Thankfully all my friends and family are accounted for but it took until late on Friday/early hours of Saturday morning to get the OK from everyone I know and care about in New York and Washington.
My Aunt is a medic and has been working flat out to cope with the casualties and fatalities that arrive at the medical centres/ hospitals around New York. She will need post traumatic stress counselling, as will all the rescue workers and medical staff.
I did hope that the events of last week would prompt my sisters who haven’t been speaking to one another for the past 15 months to make their peace – they haven’t.
On Thursday 4th October; I wrote:
When clearing lots of my father’s spare bits of wood out of my mother’s side shed with neighbour Jenny and husband Albert, Jenny said – quite shocked – “She’s getting rid of all trace of him.” I agreed.
After my father’s death, I found my mother going through all their old photographs and tearing them up after looking at each of them. She thought it was better. She had her memories but felt she had to make a new start and that this was the best way of doing it.