Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Seventeen ages of man

A significant age looms within days, but it’s only significant numerically. These are the ones that really matter:
0 Born. A middle-class welcome.
5 Meningitis contracted. Neither dead nor deranged
9 Take easy GS entrance exam. Preserved from life of manual labour.
15 (and 358 days) Join Bradford newspaper. Capable of no other job.
17 Outward Bound Mountain School. Attracted to risk, can’t handle it.
19 RAF; am taught electronics. There’s more to life than reading.
24 Move to London. Out of primordial soup and into light.
25 Married. Start learning to be unselfish (Still learning.)
26 First daughter. Unprepared for fatherhood.
30 Six years in Pennsylvania. Stirrings of communal life.
32 Second daughter. Fatherhood still a mystery.
36 Mother dies. Can’t be; I’m not yet grown-up.
40 First editorship. The train set I’ve always wanted.
52 Buy house in France. It’s the language, stupid.
60 Retired. It crept up on me.
73 Blogging. Social circle widens (Is created?)
74 Resume fifth novel. Race against extinction.

WHERE THE WORK’S DONE This time it’s a seed-cake. My favourite.

NOVEL Plutarch recommends filling in omissions. The revised draft which he read has risen from 91,900 words to 96,840 words and I’m still only halfway through Chapter 9 (out of 22). Also, another chapter will be necessary between 21 and 22.


The Crow said...

My mother died the same year yours did, in December. I was 24, and felt the same thing you did. I felt orphaned - in some ways, perhaps I still do.

Happy upcoming birthday, BB, and may you enjoy many more!

Julia said...

I'm approaching a big birthday myself. I like your approach though - build your own milestones. We moved to Prague when I was nearly 29, just a year before your move to the States. It seemed like the right time for an adventure.

Sir Hugh said...

Was becoming a property owner not sufficiently significant?

The biggest milestone in my life was when I realised I could always afford to FILL my car with fuel instead of putting in paltry amounts.

marja-leena said...

Nice bio! You retired at 60, that's great. Still trying to get my husband to retire.

You wrote: "Resume fifth novel" - does that mean you've written four already? How come we've not heard about those ones?

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: My mother shaped my reading habits and, better still, laid an enthusiastic foundation for the printed page. She also brought me (and my two brothers) up in a slightly haphazard way, fitting hurried meals in between writing poetry (some published) and novels (none published). As I got into the car that was to take me to London and my own equally haphazard life she snivelled slightly, but we were West Riding and that was as far as expressed emotion went. Some people might expect to have achieved adulthood by 36 but the telephoned announcement of her final illness and death, stretched out over Christmas in the US, turned me into a baby again. And for some reason which I have never been able to fathom, her death contributed to my decision to return to the UK.

Julia: That's it, exactly, an adventure. A year spent choosing forty publications in the US, typing forty letters of ingenious application ("I don't expect you to promise me a job, only that you'll interview me.") and forty CVs because I worried about the impact photocopying might have. The surprisingly friendly responses I got (eg, the editor of Rhode Island's daily newspaper: "We say the US is a land of opportunity but I guess you have to make the opportunities."). The solemnities at the US Embassy in London where I had to answer, inter alia, two questions: "Do you intend to join any organisations dedicated to overthrowing the US government?" and "Do you intend to live off the immoral earnings of a woman?". The departure from fogbound Scotland in an Icelandic Airlines plane - the last airline to offer transatlantic flights powered by propellor-engines. The long Continental Trailways journey from NY to Pittsburgh. Each bit unfolding with something unexpected, in the way all good adventures should.

Sir Hugh: House ownership It's a financial transition more than anything else. A dwelling, owned or rented, was always necessary. There's an unearned benefit but it's retrospective, when you find you're surrounded by something worth £0.25m and you know it's yours. But it's all a bit Silas Marner.

M-L: None were published. But if it's of any interest here's the list: 1958, title forgotten, based on RAF national experiences in UK and Malaya (I was part of a big big herd with that one). 1963, title forgotten, subject forgotten - MS half-finished. 1969 - 1971, "Breaking out", US wife leaves unfaithful husband and finds new life working in a library. This attracted a young author's agent who bought me lunch. 1975, title forgotten. Thriller with magazine and ski-ing background. 1978, title forgotten. A half-hearted attempt to explore the theme (life in manufacturing industry) presently being tackled with more energy and more detail in current MS.

Totting up the dates I see I'm on my sixth (not fifth) novel. But I don't think anyone's counting.

Plutarch said...

Doesn't retirement deserve a more cheerful expression? Think of what you have done since and are doing now.

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Hattie said...

The last chapter is yet to be written. I like the idea of expanding, filling things in. And I would love some of that seed cake. I'm a terrible baker, because I am too lazy to make measurements, so I always have someone else bring the dessert.

Lucy said...

Oh I'd almost forgotten seed cake; carvi is caraway here. Enjoy picking the seeds out of your teeth!

Have a lovely birthday, BB!