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EXCERPT FROM 'WALKING FROM THE HIPS' - autobiographical essay


     I've known implicitly since childhood that my father's been a prisoner of depression all his married life.  He has no like-minded friends, no outlet for his interests.  As a teenager I'm desperate to fill the gaps.  I knit pullovers, weed the garden, scour the Radio Times for programs he’ll enjoy; I bring home library books, introduce him to Henry Miller, to Nabokov, to funny books like Clochemerle.   If he expresses the slightest interest I scour the shelves for new titles.  He loves Damon Runyon and we improvise together – I am Miss Adelaide and he is Nathan Detroit. We act out our wedding, complete with phoney accents, sometimes the union’s a triumph but more often it ends in comedy or disaster.  We laugh until our sides ache.  I bring him foreign foods – yoghurt, sweet corn, avocados.  My mother refuses to eat them.  I’m fifteen and I bring home a second- hand gramophone, bought with money I’ve saved from my Saturday job at the  bakery a mile from our house.  I collect 78’s  that I know he’ll like, The Red Army Choir, Paul Robeson, Kathleen Ferrier – she’s his favourite.  We're both in love with her lush contralto.  She’s made it all the way to the top despite her humble start 'up north' not far from Sheffield, where he was born.  He tells me over and over that she was turned down when she auditioned at the BBC for the speaking clock.  This gives him hope.

Pile Of Books
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