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Bambayag Day

C

oming back from Sainsburys, Mrs Bambayag met The Single Mother on the tenement stair.

The Single Mother – Eileen – had two squalling children with her. The child in her arms was determined to pull up her t-shirt and expose her bra to the neighbourhood, and the other was being bounced around in a pushchair. The children, pushchair and three bags of shopping were being dragged upwards, step by step, with bumps and screams all round.

Mrs Bambayag calmly observed the operation from a lower landing until she could get safely past. Her own purchase, a tissue-wrapped bottle, was tucked like a hen’s egg in her stern, little handbag. Mrs Bambayag hoisted her bosom.

“Happy Birthday, miss McIntyre,” she said. “Doing anything special to mark the day?”

“Oh – ah, no Mrs Bambayag,” Eileen sighed, “not after… last year. And you, I mean…” She pointed at the twist of black crepe. “A celebration?”

“Oh, you know… an anniversary. An old lady still has her days, my dear; she still has her particular days.” And with that, she slipped past, pointedly ignoring the small voice that shouted furiously: “Why does that woman have a moustache?”

“Reggie!” squawked Eileen.

Mrs Bambayag was humming a little military march as she entered her charming residence, fluttering a doily or two as she passed. Her hat and coat were stowed and straightened on the neat little hooks in the hall.

The handbag, she took through into the lounge, where she fetched the fine crystal decanter from the mantle. A little silver funnel came next and Mrs Bambayag carefully unwrapped the bottle, uncorked it with a delicate ‘phung!’, and poured out its contents with a steady hand and gimlet eye. Watching the rich, plummy, liquid splash into the funnel, she gave a little shiver of excitement, as if it were triumph, rather than fine brandy, that was rising up in the sparkling crystal.

Exactly one year ago today, Mrs Bambayag had murdered Eileen McIntyre’s thirtieth birthday party. In fact it had been quite ironic seeing her on the stairs. The murder weapon had been a single call to the local constabulary on a black, Bakelite phone. The police had not wanted to intervene – Eileen’s mother had come over especially from Adelaide, her brother had come from the Kassala in the Sudan, and one of their off-duty colleagues was enjoying the Peach Champagne Punch – but a complaint was a complaint. An obscure fire Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order from 1805 had been quoted down to the numbered sub-sub-section and had to be upheld. Of course it had – Mrs Bambayag had once been a lawyer. Haemorrhaging guests, the party had managed to drag itself to a local pub, where, by all accounts, a substandard time was had by all, before the celebration had finally expired.

Mrs Bambayag liked to celebrate these sorts of victories as if they were great battles that could be pointed out on a map and marked with little, crossed swords: ‘No quarter taken, July 22nd, Battle of Bargaining Down The Fish Shop on a Quarter Of Cod’, or ‘Victory in Shortcuts Salon, January 15th, Battle of the Pink Rinse Voucher Being Out of Date, But by God it Was Redeemed,’ and other such dates. But today – the first anniversary of her Waterloo, you might say; the death of Eileen’s soirée – was a day yet to be named and awarded its colours.

On her wall was a spacious wall plan – a calendar – of birthdays, and on the drawing table, was her little black book, with its list of the other tenants in her block and the names of their landlords or landladies, and the phone numbers of those respective persons, ready for complaints, of course. And the tenants and their birthdays were all neatly indexed.

It could immediately be seen that all the birthdays had been crossed out with a careful stroke of red ink, and Eileen’s was double scored as the very last, with ‘Buy Brandy!’ written next to it.

Even Eileen’s children had been ‘nibbed in the bud,’ as it were. In fact, Mrs Bambayag had ruthlessly polished off every party, knobbled every ‘knees up’, and eviscerated every entertainment in the tenement for the last twenty years. She’d done it anonymously, of course, by phone, with some querulous complaints, a pitiful cough, and a few crocodile tears that clearly demonstrated she’d been driven to distraction – “Oh deary me, officers, I really didn’t want to complain, but what with the terrible noise and my having such a dickey heart and all….” The complaints were backed up with a raft of old and quite legitimate legal loopholes, the likes of which even the inquisitional lawyers of the Spanish in 1478 would’ve considered far too grotesque and underhand to use (though despite this attributed weakness, she was still a fan of Tomás de Torquemada).

“Peace and quiet Mrs Bambayag,” she said to herself, “peace and quiet. I never did hold with all that faffing and gadding about and pointless celebration.” A prunes a prune’s a cabbage, she liked to say, and by that she meant she was too old, or too content, to change.

While the birthday of everyone else in the tenement was so marked, Mrs Bambayag’s birthday was not amongst their number; nor had it ever been on any calendar. Her very own mother hadn’t remembered the exact day her daughter had been born – a sad thing, but true – and her daughter hadn’t had any presents until she was seven.  Mrs Bambayag could only approximate her ‘many happy returns’ to a Tuesday or a Wednesday, in June or February, but possibly to a Friday in September.

When the last drop of brandy was a smear on the glass, the funnel was gently tapped twice and kept for the kitchen, and she placed the stopper back in the decanter and placed the decanter back on the mantle. Her attention wandered to the wall plan once more and she picked up her sharp, nib pen.

It was a seminal day on Mrs Bambayag’s calendar. What was she going to call it? She thought for a moment, her tongue twisting around. Then, glorious inspiration struck. She couldn’t… could she? Surely –

“Ohhhh, Mrs Bambayag, you old devil,” she chuckled.

She scratched two words across Eileen’s defeated little space: BAMBAYAG DAY. Perfect. She didn’t have a day for herself, so why not take somebody else’s?

Time to put up the decorations! “Make it a public holiday,” she trilled. A red telegram day from the Queen: Bambayag Day!

Mrs Bambayag rummaged around in her hall closet and removed an old fashioned hat box from beneath the bundle of ribbon-tied documents she kept there, and some interesting National Geographics she’d put aside. The box smelled of old age, moth-balls and rubber bands.

Back in the lounge, she opened the box and took out a rubbery, half perished balloon. The balloon had Happy Birthday Eileen written on it. It was fragile, but precious. There were a few streamers still attached and she put those round the mirror. The balloon itself, was pinned, pride of place, next to her collection of Dutch porcelain schoolboys.  A small card was next, pushed between the mirror glass and the frame. It had been hand-drawn by a child, and featured a smiling cat with blue crayon whiskers and two tails. Hapie Birtda, Mumi, it said. Reggie. Xxxxxxxxxx xxx x.

With pride, Mrs Bambayag adjusted and tweaked these oddments: the remains of that last, pitiful celebration, disinterred from the refuse bins at the back of the tenement.

Then she made luncheon. On Bambayag Day, she decided, it was now tradition-nouveau to eat with the silver cutlery, usually reserved for funerals, and the Willow-Pattern plates that hung in the hall for when the Queen should call. And, as an afterthought, she climbed up into the small space above her airing cupboard and dug out a dusty, old Christmas cracker for the side of her tray. One and Ha’penny, the box of crackers said, from the Co-op. Oh she was in a daring mood today!

Sitting primly by the fire, bean-bag tray neatly installed upon her lap, she had a lovely forcemeat roll, three golden potatoes, and some toasted parsnips for one. Then she popped open her blackened metal tin – the one with the Pears Soap label of Britannia, resplendent-regina – and had a few malted crackers.

Dabbing at her lips with a starched cotton serviette, she placed her knife and fork quite parallel on the face of her plate. Two-fisted, she pulled the cracker with gusto. It didn’t go ‘snap!’ but it did at least frizzle with the smell of gunpowder when it tore in two, though she lost the little tin toy under the couch. She pulled out the hat, and folded it carefully, putting it between one of the Geographics for safekeeping.

Mrs Bambayag was not one for the common joke, but she was keen on the fortune slips you got in the more ‘exclusive’ crackers. Beware of Big Surprises, the little slip of paper said. Mrs Bambayag – who immediately took stock of her fate – got up to wash the Willow-Pattern plates, just in case. You never could tell when Her Majesty might call.

Once the dishes were washed, wiped and stored, she watched Prisoner Cellblock H in black-and-white, and a documentary that featured more than one incidence of mating baboons.

Mrs Bambayag yawned. It was time, she decided, for a nightcap and then bed.

She went to the mantle and took down the decanter she’d prepared earlier. It was full of her very favourite brandy – Dyuc de Frombergaine – an old vintage Armagnac aged in casks of Monlezun oak; it was the kind of brandy that Napoleon drank. She took out the thinnest of crystal glasses – that rang to a fingernail – and filled it. “Death to revelry,” she pronounced, and toasted the demise of her adversary. There were other days, but none had the same, satisfying note of conquest as Bambayag Day. She took a sip – the succulence of apple, cloves, fresh-baked bread, and a hint of marzipan, filled her mouth. There might even be a hint of persimmon in there too.

When she turned in at 10:30, it was to unadulterated silence. Listening to the clock tick was part of the celebration; watching the dust motes sparkle in the moonlight and hearing the old tick, tick, tick, was all a part of Bambayag Day. What a wonderful day it is, she thought, and drifted off to sleep.

In the living room, it was very, very quiet; a crypt-like silence hung over everything. Then, at midnight, it began to get cold. A light dusting of glitter and a few plastic stars rimed the sofa like frost. In the display cabinet, Eileen’s balloon kicked once; the movement slid a Dutch porcelain figurine a fraction of an inch, with a slight squeak of glass. Some streamers slipped a little lower on the mirror, like a noose playing out quietly through strong hands. Reggie’s card fluttered to the floor, whirling over and over like a sharpened blade of paper.  An aura of exuberance and drunken debauchery began to build – whatever remained of good cheer had risen from the after-party and had come back for revenge…

*

At 3:00am, loud music woke Eileen McIntyre from a restless sleep. Her momentary reaction was to think she was dreaming, because nobody had parties in this block anymore. But her floor was vibrating, and a foil twist of aspirins on the bedside cabinet was buzzing and ruzzing as it crept towards the edge of the table top. A shelf of books had already collapsed, catapulting her stuffy cow, Gerry, into her knickers drawer. Birthday cards were tumbled everywhere. Somebody, somewhere, was playing one of her favourite songs – Annie Lennox’s Diva – far, far too loud.

After twenty minutes, unable to ignore the fact that it sounded like Annie was in the same bed, singing in her ear with a loud hailer, Eileen decided that she was going to have to be the one to deal with things, as usual.

“Nobody murders Annie with that much treble,” she muttered, levering herself up. She dragged up her dressing-gown from a pile of clothes by the bed, and swept a handful of hair from her face. The dressing-gown came like syrupy bread, sticky-side-down, but she bolted it on with a loopy twist of the furry tie. In the hall, she skiff-skiffed to the phone in her monster-feet slippers, only stopping to say: “Reggie! Bed! Now!” and “Yes, of course I can hear the music…” and “No, you can’t have any crisps! Go on… No, I’m just going to make a phone call! Now, bed!

In response, small, sticky-sounding feet padded back to their room on varnished wood, somewhat miffed, it seemed.

Eileen picked up the phone, flicked the same number three times and waited.

“Thank God. Police? There’s somebody playing loud music in my block. It’s ridiculous…” and she held the handset towards the thumping ceiling. A shrill old woman could be heard singing along to Legend in my Living Room and having a rare old time. The singing was completely out of tune.

At 3:45, the police buzzed up to Eileen’s flat. She let them in; just as the music went eerily and utterly quiet.

*

In the first glimmer of dawn, a cat disturbed some sparkly trash by the tenement bins and the wind blew some rainbow confetti around an empty brandy bottle. A small balloon, half deflated, bounced once or twice on its string of streamers and slowly shrank to the size of a peanut. On the gaily coloured rubber, Eileen’s name became newsprint and then nothing. A little worse for wear, last year’s party had finally staggered back to its final resting place. Of Mrs Bambayag, on her wonderful day, it left not a trace.

9 comments

1 Joan { 11.29.10 at 8:25 pm }

Hi, me again Stephen. Sorry, I can’t get into my email – I don’t know what’s wrong with it. But I did get into it once a few days ago – you were asking something – can’t quite remember – this may be the information you need, however: if I go into ‘Azazel’ from the Home Page, there is no comment from me or you, but if I go into it from the blog, there are the two comments.

I know what you mean about writing ‘situations’ – I’m still referring to ‘Azazel’ – have you read Stephen King’s On Writing? Sorry, I don’t know how to italic on this. I am, or was, a Stephen King fan – he wrote a couple of what I thought were duds, so I haven’t read him for a while – I have his The Dome beside my bed though, in the pile with all the other books I’m desperate to read. Anyway – On Writing – very well worth reading – I think it is him in this who says he writes situations. I think I do, also. I used to worry about plot (still do a bit) but I did this OU course, and though much of it totally got on my nerves, I did learn – one thing I learnt was that a story was a narration of events. I’d thought I wasn’t writing proper stories because I couldn’t get the plot sorted out. I’ve been working on that, and a common method of plot is through cause and effect – you probably know all this. But – a situation – sometimes I think of situations, but then I can’t get them to go anywhere. Not too worried – still working on it all.

‘Mrs Bambayag’ – yes, we’ve all met people like her. The character, or story, reminded me of (at least early) Stephen King – I used to think his stories were – well, they were horror – but mainly, they were tragedy. There was some tragic reason for things turning out the way they did – if only they had gone that way instead of the other way – if only he’d looked behind at that moment – she wouldn’t have been such a vicious old bag if only her mother had taken note of her birth date – Mrs Bombayag. But she was – and she got her just deserts as per the horror sort of – expectation, I suppose. Yes, it was just too late for her, and it was fitting that an unfinished remnant of party got her in the end.

I liked the fact that her handbag was ‘stern’, I liked the detail of Eileen’s slippers being ‘monster-feet’. Oh, that was a nice touch also – about the Regulatory Reform Order. She used to be a lawyer. Did you research that bit of information, or make it up? It seemed real, in any case.

Good character sketch of Bambayag – and Eileen – this is apart from what happened in the story.

2 Stephen Hewitt { 11.30.10 at 7:13 pm }

Hi there Joan – comments only show on the individual posts, not the home page, so, yes, you’ll need to click through.

I read Stephen King’s On Writing some time ago, and enjoyed it at the time. Now you’ve reminded me about it, I should check it out again – it’s been a while. I love his stuff, though feel he’s a genius at beginnings and small town life, and terrible (on occasion) at endings; but that first three quarters is generally a work of art.

I find situations work well when small, but don’t like ‘big’. The cause and effect is the bit I need to work on, too. Somehow, everything comes back to poetry for me and I think sometimes I get stuck trying to invoke a static mood or emotion.

I’m glad you picked up on the semi-tragic elements of Mrs Bambayag’s story, but yes, alas, she had to go. I quite liked the idea of a ‘party pooper’ getting eaten by the ghost of a party she’d ‘pooped’, as it were…

The legalese I based on something I uncovered on line, and embellished it. I have to watch – often, I’ll just make stuff up that sounds right, particularly if I think it will slow down the writing of a first draft, but then I have to remember to go back and change it. Occasionally I fall in love with these fictions, though, and I leave them. Hecklers be damned.

Thanks for your comments, Joan. Most welcome. Especially that the story reminding you of early Stephen King 😉

Stephen.

3 Joan { 12.05.10 at 7:25 pm }

I presume it’ll be possible to leave a comment to your comment. I’m glad to see you’re getting other people commenting also now.

Yes – the cause and effect idea of plot – that is probably only one way of looking at it. I forget (so easily) things I have learned. But – on the OU course – it said put an apple on a table and describe how it looks over the space of a few days or weeks and you have a story. That is, the time element alone gives a story – or a plot – that would be all – time – that would alter the apple.

Also (OU again) – a man looking in a mirror, shaving, say … remembering how he used to look – and occasions and memories that come with that – and this gives a story – again – it’s mainly the passage of time that gives a story.

I found this time idea interesting – it gives you courage with your own stories. Your stories seem to be complete, by the way – you start off, build up, reach conclusions. And you’re not afraid to use ideas – which is as it should be. I feel as though I don’t get lots of ideas, more that I get one and build it up – that’s me, though.

‘Static mood or emotion’ – moods in characters change through the story, though.

I know what you mean by falling in love with your own fictions. (I think the ‘legalise’ in this story worked very well.) Sometimes, not a word can be changed …

Years later, though …

Yes, I agree with you that Stephen King’s endings are not always very good. I love Stephen King, though.

4 Stephen Hewitt { 12.07.10 at 2:35 pm }

Hi there Joan – yes, you can comment on comments.

And good that other folk are also sticking some comments on. 🙂

I like the apple mouldering away idea – I guess, to a level, an apple going rotten is still following ’cause and effect’ just not a plot-driven one, but I know what you mean, and it’s a very concise image for demonstrating the point. Also the man shaving. Makes me want to try a story like that.

Glad you find the stories to be complete. I definitely like to use ideas, though they are somewhat of a ‘fractal’, I think: you have a big idea for the story, smaller ones to flesh it out. Most short stories, if you summarise what happened, don’t have a lot of structural complexity. Quite a lot can occur, but generally in one, focussed way. That can feel like one, main, idea and, if you’re unlucky, it’ll feel a little sparse.

For the ‘static mood or emotion’, for example, I might be trying to evoke a ‘dreich’ atmosphere (to use a good, solid Scottish word), but without it necessarily going anywhere. Sometimes I can get too keen on the description and leave the story behind – though I think I’m starting to tame that now 😉

I love Stephen King, too – just a few too many inhalers used to off the bad guy… I forgive him, though.

5 Joan { 12.08.10 at 12:46 pm }

Hmm – when I read – or in the past at least – I used to skip through long passages of description. Yes, I think it is important to keep description to a necessity for the story you are dealing with. I have read plenty of stories where nothing much seems to happen. I’m just still trying to figure out what a story is – and I think it can actually be a lot of – ways – I used to read mainly plot-driven stuff – popular fiction – also historical novels at one point – these – the structure is there, if you want to take that structure – a life-story – you can begin with someone being born and take them through to their death. Of course, you can use this structure with anything. On TV the other night – Graham Norton – forgotten the guy’s name – he wrote his life-story through writing of other people who had influenced him. Writing your own life-story – there are bound to be things you forget and later – once it’s published (you never know) you think of all sorts of things you should have said that were so important. It sort of stops you in your tracks before you even begin. It needn’t, though – you could take it through ‘things you learned at school’ that interested you – through other family members – whatever. I like the idea of fictionalizing this sort of thing, though. No matter what you write on the page, it isn’t you. People interpret in different ways. Fictionalizing it to start off with … Oh, I did postmodernism once, but that word is getting to be a dirty word for me. I’d rather be able to drop it, but what interests me most is the difference between fiction and fantasy, or reality and unreality – just that thing of not being able to get across what you mean anyway, so where is truth? I’m interested in all that sort of stuff.

I looked on Stephen King’s website because you’d said you liked it. Very smooth. I mean it seemed smooth to use. I admire him – the fans can say some awkward things, and he – stays with them, and with himself. I couldn’t be bothered going round his ‘office’ though. That is me, though, and I’m surprised at other people’s reactions sometimes (often). I also looked on Neil Gaiman’s since you’d said you liked his – yes – he’s very productive. I got American Gods out of the library. I remember now we went to see Stardust with Mick once up in Dundee. None of us liked the film much. This was where I remembered him from, I think. Interesting he did comics. Saw Beowulf on TV the other night – I haven’t read the epic poem, but I didn’t like the film much. Didn’t like the way it depicted women. I’m trying not to mention the word ‘feminism’ in a similar way to the way I want to drop the word ‘postmodernism’, really – it gives the wrong impression. But, even if the poem was like that about women, it doesn’t matter – I still didn’t like women being depicted in that way. I like Angelina Jolie, also. I’m not a prude, but I hate it when sex is just shown from a man’s point of view. All the women wanted, it seemed, was to be made pregnant. I know, they wouldn’t have had much choice in the old days.

Anyway, that’s my gripe, but it did put me off the whole film.

So – I’ll read American Gods, and I can see how creative Neil Gaiman is – and I admire that – but I’ll reserve judgement.

I’ll have a look at another of your stories.

6 Stephen Hewitt { 12.11.10 at 12:17 pm }

Hi there Joan – apologies on the delayed reply.

Yes, I think a little bit of description can go a long way. It can be a bit like seasoning, and occasionally like the ‘main course’ if you deliberately want things to run slow.

Interesting trying to nail down exactly what story is. I’m not sure I know myself, but ‘know it when I see it’. The various pieces I’m reading on line, are almost always stories – surprisingly, you’d think more people would screw that up, somehow – but there can be technical things that get in the way of reading that story clearly (again, something I need to work on: clarity).

I like the idea of writing about your make-up by writing about the people that helped to create you. That has to be an interesting read. Was it John Walters on Graham Norton? I think it might have been.

Interesting thought, that you’d have to get whichever section of your life story written in full or at least entirely to your satisfaction if writing an autobiography – no second chances. That hadn’t occurred to me and you’re right, unless, perhaps, you structured things as a loose set of anecdotes to which you could add, or it was all online and you can keep refining it; though that might not necessarily go down well.

Your right about the ‘things you learned at school’ approach – you could add another book using different perspectives. I guess – as often seems to be the case – it comes down to how cunning you are with structure.

Very interesting the nature of truth… this would turn into a blog, itself, if I tried to cover that here. What is the truth, if the reader is so intimately involved and it’s all about interpretation?

The links I put on to the sites aren’t necessarily a vote for the site itself, but more for the author, writing or ideas involved. I’d imagine Neil Gaiman is a little like Marmite, you’ll either love him or loathe him. I came to him through the comics and really liked them. And I love his ideas. Some of the stuff I haven’t enjoyed. for some reason, but I still love him for the ‘good times’.

Interesting point about women seeking offspring in Beowulf – it does read that way, but I’m not sure why. I’ll think on that. It may have been to do with the importance of heirs – and the survival of those who produced them – and of course, it was most likely formed from the perspectives of men, even as a word-of-mouth tale.

Good luck with American Gods. I liked that one, mostly. You could also try ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, one of his short story collections to get more of a variety.

And thanks again, Joan, for your detailed posts and reading my stories.

Stephen.

7 Joan { 12.12.10 at 8:43 pm }

Once more – I can’t leave this alone. The idea of ‘clarity’ in writing. I know what you mean, but – there is the theory that it isn’t actually possible. Had a gripe with a certain university about that one.

Sometimes – I wrote a letter today and I thought of extra things to say – tried to put some of them in at places in the text that most people would agree were ‘appropriate’ – they wouldn’t go – one piece in particular – had to leave it out – it spoilt the ‘flow’ of what was already there. I have problems, I believe, with poetry, despite the fact I’ve written it in the past, and done (yet another) course on it, and got a good mark – I say this because, by this, you’d think I was ‘good’ at poetry – but it frightens me still. However, the reason I mentioned this – when I write, I tend to listen to it – the rhythms – and that was what was wrong with that comment I wanted to add – it ruined the rhythm that was already there. Although it was a letter, it wasn’t entirely ‘me’ – I mean, it was, because I sat and wrote it – but it was a particular mood – and if I’d added those bits I thought of later – would have ruined that mood. I think you can’t actually get everything in a piece of writing – most often you can’t. It has to be what it is in the end – what it became in the process, if you see what I mean. I do edit – people get me wrong here – they think I must be extremely ‘laissez faire’ – I edit like crazy – but sometimes, things come out as they are or as they will. This is one reason not to be afraid (I tell myself) of what you might miss out of your autobiography. An autobiography isn’t everything – it can’t be. But, once you’ve written it, you can write something else with things it made you think of, or remember. Oh, even formal letters are constructs. I’ll shut up now.

8 Stephen Hewitt { 12.13.10 at 9:55 pm }

Hi Joan. I know what you mean about rhythm. With this, and other things, it can almost mean that you can’t say what you want to say; that writing comes with a built in limitation. It’s a bit like theatre, creating a ball-park thought in the reader’s mind, rather than a direct representation, and not everything works in theatre; within its conventions. If you forced it, you would ruin your best chances at getting anything across, rather than, hopefully, most of it. Apart from that, words can be a poor representation of reality. What are we creating here? Something good in other people’s heads, I hope. And you’re right, you have to celebrate and respect what you end up with rather than what you necessarily intended, especially if people like what you’ve created. Dismissing the result can be a crime on the audience, otherwise. Also, you want to make good use of those random, happen-stances that pop out, often subconsciously. And yes, in writing that autobiography, it probably needs to be a good read rather than a slice of reality, or ‘everything’. And that doesn’t mean badly or lightly written.

After all my words, your example of a formal letter is great – and compact – example of the type of artificial construct involved. You’re ‘not allowed’ to put everything in there – it’s an agreed convention with the reader.

You’re definitely right about writing giving you more to write about. I think that’s why getting anything down is a good idea – for every idea you use, you get another six.

9 Joan { 12.19.10 at 5:53 pm }

Yes – you seem to be prolific in the ideas department. I’m glad you know what I’m talking about when I say writing writes itself – people think you’re nuts if you say things like that. You can keep control of it, of course, to some extent – this is where skill comes in – but writing is not 100% proof – against anything. I could go on and on, but there are the things your reader brings to it for a start. I’ve written things in the past, seen things in it that I wasn’t aware I’d put there. Of course, I had – in one way. And I’m very keen on the idea of letting your subconscious into it – not being too rigid. Have you read Roland Barthes’ ‘Death of the Author’? That was what started me off on all this stuff. I like Derrida as well, though it’s difficult and of course I haven’t read it all. You can’t read everything, in any case. I’ve found you need to be selective, or deliberately read anything and everything that comes your way – but that is another way of being selective. You can’t cover everything, though.

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