Why I will never be a great writer.
It’s taken me a long time to work it out, but I think I now know why I’ll never be a great writer. It’s because, for my first eighty years at least, my life has been too happy, too comfortable; I haven’t suffered enough.
It could have been different; it started quite promisingly. I’m told, and I assume someone has done the research, that being an only child helps. I was an only child. Moreover, I was an only adopted child and that must be a plus.
In addition, I was an only adopted child in the 1930’s which almost certainly means I was illegitimate, at a time when such a state was shameful. And I was adopted into a family that was strongly Catholic on both sides, so I could have been seen in some quarters as a product of sin as well.
But, that’s not how it turned out. My mother’s side of the family – all ten of them – would have fought to have me if anything had happened to my adoptive parents. My father’s side – five of them – may not all of them been quite as keen, but they were kept in check by the way my father doted on me.
So, I had a happy childhood, always able to copy easily with school work, first at a private school run by a refined order of French nuns, then at a state Grammar School, run by nuns who were considerably less refined.
There was a great sadness when I was eighteen and my adoptive mother died but she hung on until she had seen me into University. So, I went further educationally than anyone in the family had previously. After University I taught, then one thing I had never wanted to do, but I loved it and had Secondary Modern children from Sparkbrook going on to Durham University and getting a First in English and Philosophy or to Cardiff and get a First in Maths. I can’t claim direct credit for this latter, only for the atmosphere I created that they were not failures because they hadn’t got into Grammar school.
Because it was fifty years ago, I had a husband, not a partner. I married and acquired another loving family in Ireland. I acquired a husband as well who combined being completely ethical with the ability to make a lot of monty.
So, by middle ad, I had two children at University, a large Victorian house in Edgbaston and a flat on the river at Canary Wharf. Later on we brought a flat on the outskirts of a village in Tuscany. What more could one ask for?
I am aware that all this sounds horribly smug and self-satisfied, but it’s meant to; I’m pointing out how fortunate I’ve been and why I’ll never be a great writer.
Mind you, I did say the first eighty years; things changed a bit last year. In July, in Italy, I had a stroke so severe that apparently only 4% of people survive. I was in a coma for four weeks, in three different hospitals in Italy, brought home by air ambulance (I don’t know whether it was the one I’ve almost paid for over the years by my contributions to the tin rattler who used to stand outside what used to be the Post Office in Harborne). Back to the UK, then in hospitals here from August until just before Christmas.
We were told that because of my age and the severity of the stroke, I would be unlikely to walk again. Now that would be tragic, my writing might bidet from that. But, I have an excellent physiotherapist who comes 3 times a week and who is hopeful I might defy the prediction.
And, I know that given a choice between walking again and being a great writer, I would unhesitatingly choose to walk and will do everything in my power to get there.
So, there you have it. I haven’t got the will to be a great writer. I am not prepared to suffer for my art. I prefer to go on in the old way, scribbling for my own pleasure, and sometimes that of the tolerant people in my writing group.
I shall not be upset if in 12 months time, I still haven’t had anything published, but I’d be very unhappy indeed if I were not well on the way to walking.