Yesterday was a strange one. The evening before – Wednesday, at roughly a quarter past ten – our front door lock ceased to function, sticking firmly inside its metal shell, like a small animal hibernating, and with the chubb lock also playing up (but just about useable by the other people – Nicola, Polly and Cory -who live in this big old house alongside us), I rang my carpenter friend Brendan to see if he could come in and sort it out post haste. He did. Which is why I spent yesterday half supervising Brendan and half working on the prologue to THE SMITH.
Which resulted in a satisfactory-yet-not-satisfactory two thousand words, which I know I badly need to rewrite, to incorporate all sorts of ideas and necessary commentary – which I’ll hopefully get done today. But it’s now a very respectable 5500 words and I hope to have a version (probably twice as long) ready by the end of next week. The idea of the prologue is to create the world and present the characters, themes and major plot-lines. It’s a lot to ask, but I think I can do it.
Of course, there’ll be yet more plot lines to be introduced in the main body of the work, and more characters, and probably more themes, but the main stuff has to be introduced here. And it has to drag the reader in, making them want to read more (and yet more) of my tale.
But that’s what I’m good at, and I’m confident that I can do it. But as I‘ll also be working hard to get new synopses done of ROADS TO MOSCOW and AN ENGLISH BOY (by the end of the month, so that Diana, my agent can present them) then I’m going to be a busy boy.
Yeah, you’ll note from the heading that I’m still on about my need to hibernate, and I said I’d say something about “the Barlow side” of my nature. Now the Barlows are one of four elements which make up my genealogical mix. The Wingroves are obvious. Hard-working, socialist, good people. Then there are the Jacksons, from my mother’s side. Also hard-working, but also a bit stern morally. Temperance people. The kind who’d have one child rather than six. And then there are the Clarkes, clearly not temperance people as my great-great grandfather died from falling over drunk onto the metal plate in his head that he’d got from… falling over drunk. My great grandfather ran a rag and bone shop, and my Nan Lil was a Clarke, and a nicer, more hard-working person you never met.
And so we come to the Barlows. My dad’s mum and her (many) sisters. Now I loved my Nan – who we called Nan Goodson, because she married again, after her husband, my granddad died aged 31 of TB. But she and her sisters and their brood have passed on to me genetically the urge to slob out on a sofa and do fuck-all. There were several branches of the Barlows who lived in the housing estate – in Vicarage Crescent, where we grew up - and all of them had the reputation of being troublemakers and lay-abouts. My mother’s brother, Jake, married a Barlow and was at her beck and call all of his life until she died. She never did a thing for herself.
So you can understand, when I feel that urge simply to let go, to hibernate rather than face up to the cold and inconvenience and get things done, it’s to the Barlow side of my nature that I look for someone to blame.
Oh, and here’s an interesting little story. Some years ago, when I was investigating my side of the family, I found, on the map of my native Battersea, a small group of houses, no more than twelve in all, forming a crescent, all four of my grandparents families – Barlow, Clarke, Wingrove and Jackson – all living in that crescent, and occupying four adjacent houses. It’s little wonder they got related!
I might have said, but similarly, years later, when I was researching where my family was buried, I went to the big cemetery in Battersea Rise and there, just beyond the gateway, found a large upright tombstone with all my family on it… and one with all of Sue’s just a pace or two away.
Coincidences? Or fate?
Okay. I’ll post this now, because there’s much to do and time is flying.
David Wingrove Friday 6thJanuary 2012