As I am just putting the finishing touches to How to Write the Perfect Novel, my next masterpiece, available now from Amazon for pre-order How to Write The Perfect Novel – everything you ever wanted to ask about writing bestsellers but were afraid to ask, I haven’t got the time to find an interesting subject and write you one of my dazzling analyses – and I desperately need to write a blog.
Actually, I think I’m finally suffering DANNY 3/1 withdrawal.
I had fallen out of love with 3/1 recently, for the longest time. Felt I’d finally lost the DANNY soul-connection, and I maybe have a little bit (scary), but my lover’s tiff gave me the time to do the compiling/rewriting/editing of this book (The perfect Novel) which Mr Scratchmann had been pressing me to do. Now I’ve been working on it for so long that I’ve got to the place where I’m thoroughly fed up writing ‘reasonable’ arguments and I just want to let rip in the realms of where you don’t have to justify everything. Also there’s something basically depressing about writing How To’s when you could actually be doing said writing instead.
Also I’ve been playing it really safe in this blog for a long time now. I know people consider stuff like the Nora Roberts blogs to be ‘dangerous’, but they aren’t. It takes no effort to criticise someone who hands you everything on a plate and has a string of ‘monkey see – monkey do’ girls running along behind them begging to have a new drama to get all righteous about. That’s just plugging into staple internet fare, no effort traffic increase.
No, what’s really hard is writing something that exposes you, makes you feel vulnerable, and so, because I’m bored, adrenalinised, needing to vent, I’m going to talk about something personal, close to the bone, uncomfortable.
I’m going to talk about me and my brother.
Already I want to delete it. Stop. Go no further. Oh, my self-preservation shrieks, What are you doing?
Oh it’s not so terrible, heaven will not fall, but how much I hate going there at all.
I feel some guilt about poor old DANNY. It’s been neglected, passed over, unloved, and all this writing about ‘never do anything that matters, destroy your heart, trample your creativity, being published is everything’ is really getting me down and, oddly, making me feel like a hypocrite, even although everything I say in the book is, sadly, true. It’s just that I don’t do any of it. Everything in the book is an anathema to me. It’s such a dark, hard cynical book – and it’s meant to be funny too. God help me, I’m even dark, black and cynical when I’m writing ‘comedy’. There really is no hope for me, is there?
I have always felt – worried – that my brother has bearing on my book. I never look at it, never explore it. To a large extent my brother is left out of DANNY, which is why I feel that he isn’t. It’s a basic psychological precept that what you most repress is the thing most likely to surface elsewhere – and where more obvious than my book?
So let’s be as upfront as I can without giving myself a nervous breakdown. I never had an incestuous relationship with my brother.
Yuk. Got that out the way. Now we won’t refer to it again.
Okay, deep breath, I can do this.
Here, however, are the uncomfortable facts:-
My original name was Jane, my brother’s Andrew. The two leads in my book are John & Danny. Jane & Andy – John & Danny. You’re seeing it, right?
Let’s move on again. Getting sweaty.
There is, however, a very major third in my book – Ian. Ian, Jane. You’re seeing that too, right?
I should maybe just tell you, although I shouldn’t because I am feeding information to the prosecution, that the names Jane and John are the same name altered for gender. I should also tell you that the name Ian is the same name as John – just a derivative. That would mean Jane, John and Ian are all the same name.
Fuck, that’s scary shit. I should also point out that I’ve always known these things since I first discovered them at around eleven or so in the back of my family dictionary. It had a section of names and their meanings. I still have it, the section. Although the dictionary went out of date eventually I kept the bit with all the names, bound up in a homemade cover. One of the very few things I own from my childhood. Is that deep and significant? Fucked if I know.
Enough CIA coincidence trivia. Let’s just plunge in.
I did love my brother, very much. Now I don’t know how real it was, only that it was real for me then. Now I not only don’t know him, but don’t want to. That still hurts. Nothing in my family life hurts me, unless I think about it in too much depth and sometimes, then, I’ll plug into something that becomes momentarily real again. But, mostly, I can just switch it on and off. Mostly it’s off anyway.
I don’t know how rare it is – but I expect not that uncommon – but nowadays my parents, family, are all just people I knew, like I knew school teachers or family friends. Curiously, they have much more of a real three-dimensional quality this way. I have no idea why. It’s like when they were still connected to me I could only see them through me and my feelings. Now I can see their behaviour in a much more rounded way, as if they exist separately from me.
Oddly, it’s shrunk them. My father and mother both – even my brother to some extent – were larger than life before. Now it’s like I see them down the wrong end of a telescope, like people I knew in a different lifetime. I suppose they were.
But I did love my brother. He was the only member of my family I felt no hatred for. He was the only member of my family I felt I shared something with. My parents had no idea who I was, and cared less. I was merely an extension of them. So much so that when I left home they had no real further use for me. It was rather like I’d been their butler and moved to a different estate. They continued to send me a token sixpenny piece at Xmas but they never thought of me from one end of the year to the other, other than the nuisance value I’d provided when I’d left their service so unexpectedly.
Losing my brother was like amputating an infected limb. Necessary to save the whole, but you never really come to terms with its absence.
Actually, it was nothing like that, but I can’t describe it for you. I am at a loss for a metaphor – make a note of the date.
Let’s try again. It was necessary to remove him, but I fought long and hard for him – for a while. For even longer I hung onto the idea that he might come back to me. But I knew even as I did it that it was an illusion, because he had never been mine.
Anybody seeing Ian and John yet? Well you should be.
This is the truth of my relationship with my brother. My brother never loved me. Never ever. All my brother’s heart and eyes and lungs, and every fibre of his being, craved his mother’s love. And I’m sure his father’s too, but just not so much. I think even Andrew, blindsided, neglected, forgotten and overlooked as he was, knew that expecting my father’s love would be like expecting Jesus to come down and save you. Only less likely.
No, Andrew was so desperate for his mother to love him, notice him, that he simply didn’t have room for anything else.
I realised early on that parental love wasn’t going to be forthcoming for me, and I believe I had the inklings from a surprisingly young age that I wasn’t going to give it either. I know I went through a brief faze – I estimate about two or three years – where I actively hated my mother and despised/despaired at my father. After that I accepted my lot and took to eating instead of fighting. A bad decision but what can you do?
Running away from home would actually have been preferable, and I did think about it, all the time, but I lacked the courage. Mostly because I’d been so brainwashed – I believed that an ‘ordinary’ job couldn’t provide for you, let alone being homeless – to the fact that I had no friends or family that would take me in. Every time I visualised running away I thought of being brought back home again and there was a curious horror in that, which was – wait for it – they’d know.
I couldn’t face running away because then my parents would know how I felt, they’d know about my pain, I’d be vulnerable, they’d understand things about me they didn’t know about now, I’d show my hand. And, to me, it seemed paramount that I never, ever show my hand. I’m not sure why, and I don’t want to think about it.
If my brother ever had to choose between me and my mother there was never any competition. I didn’t even get to first base; I wasn’t even in the game. I knew this, but could never accept it. Right up until I was in my late twenties I couldn’t accept that my brother wouldn’t one day wake up and smell the roses. It was only a matter of time. One day he’d see who my parents really were and come back to me. We’d have a better, stronger bond because we’d finally be on the same page, not me standing on one side of the river waving and him walking away from me, never seeing me, never hearing, forever divided by it, destined to keep separate pains when we might share them.
We didn’t. We haven’t. Oh yes, we used to share horror stories, up to a point. But after that my brother’s gag reflex would kick in and he couldn’t swallow any more.
For him my parents have always been flawed human beings who’ve tried. He’s kept a place for them in his heart, saying he doesn’t expect much from them, he just accepts them for what they are, knowing they’re not capable of more. But I don’t believe him. I never have.
My brother hangs on in there. It’s hope, and hope’s a horrible thing. To quote my own book, hope kills you by inches. I know it’s fashionable in the world of self-help, positive-thinking, ‘you can heal your heart’ guru-ism, but hope can be the biggest bastarding cunt that ever walked the face of a scabrous earth. People die of hope. Hope is the thing that wrings the last bit of life out of people who might have survived a tragedy if they’d only embraced it and so let it go.
I forget which mother it was, but one of the mothers of Hindley & Brady’s victims (a little girl) used to always be trotted out when they were talking about letting Myra out. This poor woman was consumed by the death of her child. Completely, utterly consumed. She was living in Hell on earth while Brady & Hindley were getting on with whatever lives they could muster in prison, but I imagine in no more pain than they’d ever been.
Although it may not look like it, it was hope that (finally) killed this woman. She hoped that somehow if all the hatred and bitterness she felt was turned to campaigning against Myra getting out it would right the balance of a universe that had gone awfully awry. She hoped that her child would forgive her if she made Myra’s life a misery. She hoped that she would find some redemption for herself if she could only hurt her. Perhaps she hadn’t concerned herself with where her daughter was that day, perhaps she’d shouted at her, perhaps she’d never warned her about strangers. Who knows? Who cares? Hope killed her. And everything about her. Whatever she’d been, could have been, was forfeited in chasing some horrible twisted hope that she could make the unputrightable right.
She couldn’t. And my brother couldn’t. And I couldn’t save him. And he couldn’t love me. And I have no idea if any of this is really what DANNY is all about.
But just one final thought, because this is going to run to a hundred pages otherwise.
My father had a brother called John. I never met John, not in my memory. John died at 40. No-one seemed to know much about John, and no-one talked about John. To me, John had no history. He looked different from the other brothers, had a curious look about the eyes that they lacked. I always looked at John in the one photo we had of him (a tiny figure in part of a group) and wondered who he was and why no-one knew him. I always felt there were secrets around John and no-one was saying.
My mother had a brother, Ian. Like my father’s John, Ian was an outsider, the third wheel on an odd triumvirate of her, her brother Bobby, and Ian. Ian the fat drunk, the one who went off up Benbecula, or got blotto and drove his tractor off the pier on the isle of Coll; who was fucking a different woman, and sometimes more than one, every time you saw him; who abandoned his daughter to an obnoxious child molester because she cramped his style. Ian who always had to be life and soul of the party and who sulked if he was upstaged by a child. Ian who everybody had to love, or else. Ian who was really, really angry – if you scraped even the barest layer of skin off his facade.
Or maybe it was my uncle Danny: black sheep, musician, foul-mouthed, misogynistic antichrist of anarchy.
Is it one of them, all of them, or is it just me and my brother locked in the “Why don’t you love me like I love you?” nightmare scenario forever?
I don’t know, and I don’t want to. Not yet.
And that’s more than enough self-revelation and discomfort for one fucking day, thank-you very much.
P.S. Please forgive any clumsy, ugly, awkward or just plain disorganised writing in this piece. I wrote it, I posted it. If I edit it I’ll delete it. So you either get it like this or not at all. It’s your call.