<a href=””>Obstacle Course</a>

mea culpa


I had a day off work and some very unusual obstacles in my way yesterday, I’ve had one before but not to this degree. Time! By the time I got around to settling at the computer I reckoned I had some twelve hours straight  free for writing, allowing for natural functions such as not eating etc. So I picked up my novel and started where I had left off the night before, at page one. I thought another 15,000 words yesterday would be a doddle. Oh, if you are wondering, I aimed to work 8.00am to

Now this is a fascinating novel all about life, religion, angst, romance and filled with belly laughs and tears. It would lead to a certain Pullitzer- no I’m in the wrong country for that – have to be a Nobel Literature Prize. You know the sort of masterwork. Like Hermann Hesse’s classic “Die Glas Perle Speile”, which we can all nod knowledgably at when mentioned, but don’t understand it in German or English, can’t spell it in either, and assume it must be brilliant because the Scandinavians say so. You know the type of book, like Sigrid Unsted’s Norwegian classic rip roaring yarn “Katerina Laverenstader”, which takes five hundered pages for a mediaeval nun to die of the black death. Real can’t put down – when going to bed – stuff. Works better than valium too.

Anyway my contribution to the world’s fifty greatest ever books had really inspired my muse. I wish I knew which one I’m controlled by, I often need a word with her, who had told me the only truly great story never told – truthfully – was my own autobiography. But where to start? Do you crack in at the high point in your late twenties when everything is coming to the boil at once and you know your readers will never put the book down? Or do you take pity on them and begin with your birth and gradually introduce your fascinating, larger than life characters, so that by the time you are twenty eight in the book your readers know who everyone is? I had to consider this carefully as I didn’t actually remember my birth very well and my mother’s two sisters, who were not present at the event, had both given me incredibly viviid and totally different accounts of the event? My mother’s only contribution that I can recall is telling me that after her seven hours labour was over and I was born the wrong way round, she shouted “Well that bastard’s not going back in there!” The explanation for my odd positioning on entering this earth was best explained by her golf pro who told her that, earlier that day, she had hooked her drive to the fourth so badly it was probably the cause of my five weeks prematurity and had also turned me round inside her. She was rich enough to fire him.

But given that I was born I then had to decide how to approach the masterpiece. Should I write in the first or third person? My lovely Italian wife Francesca brought me in a cup of tea at this point, 10.00am and one paragraph contemplated, and on learning the problem said she didn’t really think it mattered. “Darling you speak fluent Italian, French, Spanish and some German. Why not make every fifth sentence a different language. Your publisher would like that.” Oh she of little faith, but an absolute corker of an idea you know. So I flexed my fingers and began THE BOOK.

Nací el domingo 10 de mayo de 1942 como bombarderos alemanes todavía sobrevolaban la zona. Aber das Krankenhaus Krankenschwestern wurden keine Angst und sah nach meiner Mutter und mir sehr gut. I came into the world at one minute into that Sunday morning  so, according to the old rhyme, I was ‘the child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonny, and blithe and good and gay’. Anche io sono molto sicuro che ognuno di tali previsioni si è sbagliato, soprattutto l’ultima. Je suis né le jour de la fête de Saint Antonin et ma mère avait toujours dit qu’elle allait me donner mon nom du saint natal, en anglais. Alors, j’ai été appelé Anton. Well, be fair that wasn’t too bad. My world shattering opus had got as far as naming me and it was not quite noon, four hours into my labours.

The trouble was that my muse,was flaming because I hadn’t included Greek and that was her language. That might be why I seldom follow her or understand her. But she did once inspire me to say Hagia Sofia, which is roughly the sound of Holy Sofia in Greek, so maybe that was her name. I pondered this over the ham salad and strawberries and cream that my wife placed beside me for lunch, and after returning from the loo around half past one I thought the target 15,00o words was looking unlikely. But I consoled myself with the fact that I had never set out to use five languages. But I also needed an informed opinion, and as Francesca spoke all five languages as well I decided to ask for her comments so far. After all I didn’t want to waste my time. The response was roughly like this, remember it was August the eighth 2015.

“Antonino caro, I know you want to write a masterpiece but this is not it. You have just created obstacles for yourself all day to be put out of your misery, haven’t you? It’s after two pm, you are an Australian and England have just thrashed you out of sight at cricket and won the current series three matches to one with still a game to spare. Well, darling it’s all over, England won before noon.

“So be a man and drive up to the cricket club to watch your young son playing in the game there today. You’ll take a lot of stick, but it will hurt a lot less than spending your time writing this tripe!” I hugged her, thanked her, and took her advice. The lad scored quite a few runs and everyone was very nice to me. But it was after 8.00pm when we got home, and my target had been missed by a far bigger margin than our defeat by England.