THE WRITER’S LIFE
REO Speedwagon, I can’t fight this feeling: One of many guilty secrets in my eclectic music collection and a song I’m listening to now, which means a lot to me. Like so many songs, this particular track takes me back to a specific time and place, where there are fond memories. I threw away those oars a long time ago.
It’s nice to be able to listen to music again, after a week away with my kids at my parents’ house. It was a break which was three years in the making, so it was pretty affecting. I lost a lot of time when my only love was alcohol, so there was a lot of catching up to do now that I’m sober. I knew it might be difficult but I only had a couple of wobbles.
Generally, I was paranoid: It’s part of my unique condition and I assume that any tension I perceive is because of me; I come with my own atmosphere. The jitters weren’t alcohol-fuelled. I did get a little angry and upset but it was with myself and the situation I’ve created. I was among people whom I love dearly but for all the time I was drunk, I was hurting them. I’ve written before of how I can sympathise with alcoholics who lapse: Fuelled by my chronic depression, I have very weighty feelings of guilt. It would be very easy to numb them by getting rat arsed. Last week was always going to be the biggest test but if I ever lapse, things will go back to how they were and I won’t see my family. So I didn’t succumb. Being an alcoholic really is a life sentence.
We had days out and days in, with visiting relatives. On the in-days and in the evenings, I spent most of the time writing: It’s therapy but I was also writing stories for the children. They did confirm that it’s pretty cool to have a dad who’s a writer. So I wrote a couple of stories, with the children’s bedtime companions as the main protagonists. The premise was that the cuddly toys go on adventures while the children sleep, and vice versa. That turned out to be a pretty good way of getting the kids to sleep.
They loved the stories and I’ve promised to write more and send them by email. It’s not the same as having the author read them to you but we’re back to monthly meetings now and the stories are a good way to keep in touch. It also means that I can hold on to last week and keep it going in some ways.
I brought the kids over to the studio in the week, just so they could see where I live. The studio isn’t big enough to have them stay but they thought it was a cool little place. I must admit that I’ve looked around a couple of times since I’ve been back, as I thought I caught a glimpse of one of them. But they are gone and I’m empty. The coping mechanism is to just carry on, writing for comfort and to keep my kids close.
As well as the stories I wrote specifically for them, the eldest (11) and youngest (9) love the Cyrus Song stories and can’t wait to see the book which has evolved from them. It’s not a children’s book and they probably won’t get some of the deeper sub-texts but that’s part of the point: Cyrus Song is a story for everyone, which some will understand at a deeper level than others. It’s a skill I’ve been praised for in the past: An ability to effectively write two stories in one, dependent on a reader’s perspective. I can also change styles very easily, so I can still feed the adult horror audience as well as writing the more fun stuff.
Back to my parents’ and I was let loose on the kitchen a couple of times, because I’d not cooked for the children in a long time and there are a couple of my signature dishes which they love: Nothing gourmet; just waffles and eggs; and southern fried chicken with fries. There’s a very specific way that I cook waffles and eggs. I make my own southern coating for the chicken and the fries are home-made too. To me, the best fry-up is my mum’s. To my kids, the best waffles and eggs, and the best fried chicken, are cooked by their dad.
We had some fairly lengthy discussions: Despite seeing the kids regularly, there are few opportunities to talk in any depth when walking around Milton Keynes, which is all there is to do there. Without prompting, the eldest stated that he doesn’t believe in God. The youngest does and their mum’s a Christian but not the kind to force views upon the kids. I wondered if the eldest had stopped believing because of everything which went on with me (They were told that I was ill; They know it was because of alcohol). No: He just got bored of school assemblies.
I would never force my atheist views on the children but my beliefs do at least have a grounding in science. Losing my religion was one of the most enlightening things that has happened to me. I did tell Louis though, that I can’t fully rule out the existence of a superior intelligence, when science still has questions which it can’t answer. I just don’t subscribe to a religion. What doesn’t exist is God, as created by Christianity. But I can’t deny that there may be something else: That’s fuel for the science fiction writer in any case.
Despite their relatively tender years, my children are remarkably grown up (alcoholic father; honest mum) and intelligent. I shouldn’t be surprised, given the genes they’ve inherited. Where I had my IQ measured at 147, my ex-wife isn’t so vain, but I’d wager she’s smarter than me. I’d not spoken to the kids at length before last week and they’re a credit to their mum and step-dad. They’re still kids though. For now, one of them is perhaps agnostic: I know what that feels like; to be confused.
My daughter is less easy to define, as she’s just herself. She’s endearing, more care-free than my son, and has a personality ten times her size, without being in any way objectionable. Paternal bias perhaps, but they both seemed to win over everyone I introduced them to. They bicker like siblings do but they’re best friends. They make me smile, especially when the littlest comes out with one of her idiosyncratic observations (Pointing at a black and white cat: “Cow cat!”). They like Pointless and The Big Bang Theory as well.
My auntie said the sweetest thing, as she watched me writing for the kids: “I wish I had the brains.” Trouble is, I’ve had an IQ of 147 for a long time; It’s only recently that I realised what it was for. A life wasted, or a life spent just wondering? My kids seem to think the latter. For me, it’s been the realisation that I can do something: Something which affects others. It was a long journey; I paid a heavy price but I’m a much better person.
It was good fun, last week. It’s good to be back but I wish I was back there. I suppose a part of me is. I wasn’t judged and people know that I’m a writer now.
I was treading water while I was all at sea and many metaphorical ships had sailed. Then I was without a paddle for some time, before a life boat picked me up. The drinking is under control now but others will always judge me.
It’s time to bring this ship into the shore and throw away the oars forever.