Wrapped up in bed clothes, my thick woollen jumper smelling of wood smoke, I am trying to contemplate finding my voice. All evening I have sat slumped at the end of the garden, in darkness, in front of an open fire. I am searching for inspiration. My dad sits next to me, red wine in hand, to tell me of his father who died young. Harry Poole contracted tuberculosis, a disease of poverty and poor living conditions, and died prematurely of pneumonia at the age of thirty-three. I had mourned Harry at my Great Uncle Albert’s funeral several years ago. The grandfather whom I had never met was mentioned lovingly at Uncle Albert’s funeral, and I cried uncontrollably. I was crying for the injustice of an early death, for the grief and loneliness my own father must have felt at the age of twelve to be bereft of a father. For how difficult life must have been in the years immediately following his death and for the loss of Albert, Harry’s younger brother, who had loved him so dearly. I cried and cried because sometimes I feel like I know so much and that is why I know it must be hardly anything at all. I don’t understand why I feel this way.
Is it perhaps, because I have been forged in the fire? The bright, white heat of experience has changed me. I have been battered and bashed into new contortions, thrust into the furnace and then pulled out again, a strange figurine of darkest metal. In essence though, I must be the same. By withstanding the intensity of such heat I am changed and hammered into something new. I cannot go back. I am always searching. I am trying to find my voice, for as Hanif Kureishi has said:
‘It’s a terrible thing to ‘find your voice’ – because once you do that, you’re done. You have to keep going.’