In The Details – Final!

The small drawing-roomDespite its fancy name it was a small, poorly lit room and rather uninviting. It had once been the entrance hall before the estate was subdivided and the majestic driveway destroyed. was exquisitely neat and smelled of burnt lavender. There were some Dresden shepherds and shepherdessesThey were a wedding gift from a forgotten relation, placed safely out of reach in the room from which we children were forbidden. In my earliest memories I broke a shepherd’s crook and mended it with desperate, childish clumsiness. The inevitable punishment never came – in all the intervening years the damage was never noticed. Mother always hated those pale, pastel statues: perhaps that’s why father insisted they always be displayed.
, on the mantelpieceDark mahogany: beautiful but chipped at the edges and grimy in the cracks., simpering sweetly. There were framed water-coloursMother was a dedicated amateur artist in the last years of her life. The first, an early attempt at a Strelitzia, is skilful but uninspired. The second, completed in the last years of her life, depicts a stormy beach in late afternoon. In the far distance three figures walk ankle deep in the froth; another trails far behind wading through deeper water., two samplersWe did them for mother when we were kids, a craft project. My brother’s sampler is precise and elegant; mine by contrast untidy and childish. They had lain in the bottom of a cupboard for years; it was only long after we had left home that they were framed and put on display., and three needlework picturesThey have always been here. My mother must have known where they came from and why she kept them but if she ever told me the story I have forgotten it. on the wall. There were some photographsThere are twelve photos, apparently of my cousins. I recognise eight of them but can only name three. My brother would know them all, he was always more interested in the family. of what were obviously nephews and nieces and some good furniture – a Chippendale deskIt was my mother’s special writing desk – bought, years before, to write her novel from. At fourteen I first managed to pick the lock of the bottom drawer: there was no secret manuscript, just some old passports and a dusty Anias Nin novel., some little satin-wood tablesMade of exquisuite inlaid wood and always polished to a mirror-sheen: my grand parents brought them back from India in the 30′s. My brother, before he left, once said they were the only thing in this dreary house that he wanted to inherit. – and a hideous and rather uncomfortable Victorian sofa I remember my brother, aged nineteen, sobbing wretchedly on that sofa: hopelessly and frustrated. It was one of the last times we spoke.
I told him to just get it over with and tell my parents the truth about himself. I told him once they were over the initial shock everything would be alright. He should have known better than to take the advice of a fifteen year old: they never spoke to him after that day.

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Posted in 2011-10-24 to 2011-11-13 - In The Details | 2 Comments

2 Responses to In The Details – Final!

  1. jo says:

    This crept up on me – seemingly unrelated stories of the living room flotsam and jetsam, but they slowly come together. Somehow I had understood that the brother had left under a cloud, (I suspect he is gay), before I even read the Victorian Sofa paragraph.

    Subtle and meandering, it’s lovely. The only one that does not work as part of the story from my point of view is the needlework pictures – they somehow don’t hang together with the rest.

    Did you have a narrative in mind from the start or did it develop from the images? A lot of the imagery is a reflection of the family – chipped, dirty in the cracks, yearning for former glory, empty. That subtext works well for me.

    • andrew says:

      I had originally intended to be explicit about the homosexuality (and it my mind it is the most likely ‘thing about yourself that your parents don’t know’) but in the end I wanted to push the idea of an unreasonable (unnatural?) rejection of a family member.

      The idea of portraying a suburban-polite well to do family with out much warmth or compassion as brittle and quite horrible was at the heart of it – so atmosphere and imagery came first and the ‘rejected’ narrative seemed complimentary.