Archive | The Blog

10. Why tears and laughter speak louder than words

 Mark continues his attempt to make sense of the world for his grandson – and for himself. Theo was nine months old when this was written. +++ It was one of those minor lightbulb moments: a sudden glimpse of something that should always have been blindingly obvious, a small epiphany, if you like. And it came about, I think, because of this baffling business of being a writer. Let me explain. As a novelist, one of the things you very quickly discover is that it’s not enough to have a story to tell. In order to give it context, make it real, you have to know at least a little of the way the world works. So a big part of what you spend your time doing is observing, studying, thinking about the world around you; you find yourself questioning it in ways, perhaps, you never quite have before. And […]

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9. The illusion of permanence and a house of belonging

 Mark  Haysom, is the author of ‘Love, Love Me Do’ and ‘Imagine’. In his monthly Blog, he attempts to make sense of the world for his grandson – and for himself. Theo was eight months old when this was written. +++ Some time ago, I came to the conclusion that I’d lived in too many places for any house to ever truly feel like home. Let me explain. People say that home is where your heart is; there’s no place like it; it’s your castle. They say these and many other things about home and all of them, I’m sure, are more or less true. But for me, ‘home’ is a word freighted with wonder and tinged with regret. It has always meant something more, something else: home is an idea, an idea about permanence and belonging. And, back then, when I reached my conclusion, that was my problem. Because when […]

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8. Is this how it ends?

 Mark continues his attempt to make sense of the world for his grandson, Theo – and for himself. Theo was seven months old at this time. +++  It was, of course, absolutely of my own making; my fault, no-one else’s. And yes, before you rush to point it out, it was entirely ridiculous to think that I could get away with it – walking for six strenuous miles in gathering Cretan heat, taking barely a sip of water. Not that I was thinking about it; that was the trouble. But that said, I have to admit that when it hit, it was one of the bigger shocks of my life. And, in truth, I am not sure I have come fully to terms with it yet, these months later. Because there was a moment – a brief moment of what I took at the time to be lucidity – when I thought it was […]

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7. That’s the trouble with teeth: they let you down, cause you pain

Mark continues his attempt to make sense of the world for his grandson – and for himself. Theo was seven months old when this was first published. +++ I can still hear it – the slow-motion swish of the cricket bat as it cuts through the air with a practiced arcing sweep; the snick of the ball as it catches the top edge; a small clinking broken-china sound as it ricochets on and into my mouth. I can see it – me in my pads and cricket whites, still on one knee, the bat dropped, instantly discarded; and one and a half broken teeth, lying where they’ve fallen. On the close-cropped grass, just short of the crease. I can still feel it – a moment’s mystification, then shock and the first sucking breath through newly exposed nerve-ends. A dizzying pain to send me reeling. Now, I confess that time and frequent […]

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6. The madness of food and memories to savour

Mark continues his attempt to make sense of the world for his grandson – and for himself. Theo was six months old. +++ Three of my grandparents grew up working-class poor in the cramped and shadowed yellow-brick terraced streets of South London: the fourth, poorer still, in rural County Cork in Ireland. I picture them as children, running their neighbourhoods ragged with great tumbling gangs of flush-faced friends; scabby-kneed, whippet-thin, always hungry. I see my grandmothers endlessly playing hopscotch on the pavement, their heavy heads of unruly hair bouncing as they leap from square to square. I see my grandfathers locked in titanic, do-or-die, 16-a-side football matches in streets that have never known cars. I see them all hurrying home, holding hot hands with smaller brothers and sisters, as the light fades on another day, always hungry. And they were always hungry – not just with the consuming hunger of […]

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5. The world from above and how fears can be contagious

Mark continues his attempt to make sense of the world for his grandson – and for himself. Theo was six months old at the time. +++ I have never been good at heights, edges, ledges, precipitous drops that draw you dizzyingly forwards, buckle your knees, threaten to pitch you down. Which is a great shame because, as I’ve discovered, so much of the world is best seen from on high. I’m okay behind the safety of glass in tall buildings: we were on top of The Shard last year on a perfect cloudless February day with all of London spread in hushed miniature majesty far beneath us. I’m fine in planes: we landed recently at Gatwick, circling over the patchwork of Sussex with views that stretched like an invitation all the way home to Brighton. I can even cope in a hot air balloon: we rose before dawn, crossed the […]

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4. It’s how you bounce; how quickly, how high

Mark continues his attempt to make sense of the world for his grandson – and for himself. Theo was six months old at time of publication. +++ A wise man once gave me some advice at precisely the moment I didn’t want to hear it. Wise man? I make him sound almost biblical – but he wasn’t some magus travelling through the starlit desert night by camel from the east. He didn’t bear much resemblance to a guru, shaman, swami or mahatma either; nor a saffron-wearing sadhu, an ascetic bringing enlightenment. Nothing so mystical. He was a craggy chain-smoking Yorkshireman in a business suit breaking bad news to me. It was thirty years ago when I working in newspapers; I’d been hoping for a big promotion but didn’t get it. My wise man saw the shock of disappointment register and what he told me then was this: it’s how you bounce […]

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3. Why it doesn’t pay to be always in a hurry

Mark continues his attempt to make sense of the world for his grandson – and for himself. Theo was five months old at the time. +++ They say that it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive. And I have spent many years nodding in agreement with that sentiment while secretly checking my watch and thinking: ‘Absolutely. As long as we do arrive. And quickly.’ I have always lacked patience. People are meant to become more impatient the older they get. I started out that way. That’s not to say that I don’t relish long and difficult tasks. In fact, it’s the opposite: the more complex the better. I can sit through three-hour films or plays with total absorption; watch cricket all day; lose myself in labyrinthine novels; spend hours solving arcane puzzles. It’s not that I lack patience with things – I don’t throw up my hands and walk […]

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2. Why it’s hard to be invisible

Mark continues his attempt to make sense of the world for his grandson – and for himself. Theo was five months old at time of publication. +++ I was walking to the railway station the other day and a small boy of no more than four years old, wearing a spider suit, was trailing disconsolately some yards behind his mother. He dragged his feet, hung his head, complained loudly: ‘It’s hard being invisible, mummy.’ He said it again. And then again. His mother didn’t answer. Perhaps she didn’t see him there. It’s difficult to imagine what had led him to this conclusion, to this complaint. I was brought up at a time when it was said frequently that children should be seen but not heard. Perhaps the rule in spider-boy’s house went further – he had to be unseen, unseeable and unheard. And that’s pretty tough for a four-year-old boy. […]

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1. Writing is my excuse. What’s yours?

Mark attempts to make sense of the world for his grandson – and for himself. Theo was four months old at the time of writing this. +++ I want to have a word about not sleeping. Now, I don’t want to appear unsympathetic here but it seems to me that you’re under no great pressure in your life. Demands are not exactly overwhelming, expectations not unrealistically high. As I understand it, all you’ve got to do to delight everyone around you and be judged a success are two simple things: you’ve got to feed and sleep. Believe me, it doesn’t get much better than this. And let’s face it, these are things that come automatically to most of your peer group. That teenagers then spend years perfecting: raid the fridge, go back to bed. And that adults look back on, nostalgically: there was a time when the world was young […]

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