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Sport 40: 2012



This is the way of it. Before I have memorised her in a way that will last forever, my mother is gone. If someone asks me to recite my first memory, which consists of chickens in a yard and an old farmhouse and an outside toilet, it will contain this absence. For the rest of my childhood, I don’t think it matters.

When I was small I was provided for, though most of the time I found it necessary to keep my head down. I didn’t walk out of my childhood bruised or broken in body, but when I was reminded of this by someone who was there I wondered why I should be grateful. I want to believe a protected childhood is a thing that can be taken for granted. Films featuring children sometimes worry me. It’s a delicate balance—they could go either way. In the next scene, the mother might look away or the father might lose control and the childhood could be ruined. There are no guarantees.

There are some things bestowed on me by my upbringing that others might find unacceptable, or at least distasteful. From the earliest I learnt that people come in categories—separate shades of colour that all represent aberrations from the norm of culture and behaviour. Poor people are inherently better than rich. Men have no restraint. Women are slippery untrustworthy witches. I rather like the idea of that, but can never quite get over the man-thing, even when experience suggests otherwise.

I find I disagree with most of this inheritance, but it is inherited just the same.