By Ian Parkinson
I could, of course, explain my more base motivations, the uglier side of why I write, if you wish to call it ugly. I want to be famous. I want to have lots of money. When I was young I imagined myself living in a mansion surrounded by a landscape of trees. I have always had a fascination with Russia. I can at least trace this particular fascination back to a photograph in a book I found I don’t know where, a photograph of a wooden hut half buried in snow. I don’t know why this hut intrigued me as it did, beyond the gnarled, worn beams of wood from which it had been constructed, and the thick, beautiful curve of snow resting on the roof.
Over the years, still a child, when I imagined myself living with a wife, I made certain improvements, added a bedroom, a heated bathroom, a large roaring fire, and the hut gradually became a mansion to which I could escape when I was dreaming of becoming a ‘writer’.
To my mind a ‘writer’ was someone who wrote horror books. I don’t remember which horror books I read, but my grandmother would buy them for me in boxes by a subscription advertised on the back of a magazine. Perhaps she had given me the Russian book, though I doubt it, because I never saw her reading anything but romantic novels set at some safe distance in the past. My grandmother was, I thought, a fluent speaker of Russian, German and Italian, and I would sit and listen to her speak those languages, a little from each in turn, requesting a sentence in one or the other. Looking back now, it seems obvious to me that it was only a game, that she could speak neither Russian, German or Italian, and that her long, flowing sentences in each were nothing but a babble of nonsense.
Like my grandmother, I became good at lying, too. I told my friends that I came from Italy or Russia or France – for some unknown reason, many of my relatives had visibly darker skin than is usual for northern England. Again and again, I would use every available opportunity to lie. A broken window, stolen money, a punctured bicycle tyre. The truth never seemed to be enough. But lying is common to all children. In truth, I still lie, on the page, of course, but also in public when I am speaking to strangers. Sometimes I lie to friends and relatives. Do we all do this? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m not very special in this regard either.
I suppose we are in the habit of thinking that writers are in some way special. My ego, too, wishes to be inflated and caressed. But writing is a hobby or a profession like any other. We are born and we die, and in-between we do something to earn a little money. Or not, as the case may be.