Open To Interpretation
Parents are getting older. They’re waiting longer to have children and, it seems among my friends at least, are having trouble conceiving. Or as my doctor put it bluntly, ‘a geriatric pregnancy is one occurring after 35.’ I only mention this because I’d forgotten that when my mother started giving her oldest son advice she was extremely innocent and unworldly. The norm was to give birth around 21 or 22, which meant you would be teaching children while still in your twenties.
We have to assume our narrators are reliable. This idea was brilliantly upturned by Iain Banks in ‘The Wasp Factory’, a book my agent refused to represent on moral grounds.
My mother loved the arts but had little direct experience of them. Thinking back, this shows particularly in the way she used to sit on the end of my bed and describe books, films and plays to me, something she always did as there was no point in trying to talk about the arts with my father. Here are a few of the synopses I remember.
Anna Karenina – ‘A spoiled woman is so selfish and dissatisfied that she throws herself under a train before anyone else can punish her.’
2001 – A Space Odyssey – ‘Earth people set off an alarm that triggers a giant baby to attack our planet.’
Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple – ‘An evil Satanist is tricked by Jesus into becoming a Christian.’
Stevenson’s Travels With A Donkey – ‘A man gets mistaken for a tramp because he uses a sleeping bag and has a fight with a donkey.’
Bambi – ‘A skunk falls in love with a deer whose mother is murdered.’
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom – ‘Unreadably boring war story by a man who got a bit too friendly with Arab boys.’
The Wizard Of Oz – ‘You’re safer if you don’t go anywhere.’
Summer Holiday – ‘Some Teddy Boys illegally vandalise a bus and go on the run in Europe.’
Once you start seeing the world through a parent’s eyes – especially through their favourite books and films, it alters your own perspective. Examples of what you or parents thought things were about welcome!