Sunday, December 12, 2021

"Wakefield" and piles of paper

A plug for a show I've enjoyed immensely: Wakefield, from Australia, the story of a psychiatric nurse of Pakistani origin who is wrestling with past trauma himself. The depiction of the patients at the clinic is extraordinarily sensitive, the casting and acting fantastic; the series incorporates dancing and music, flashbacks and fantasy sequences and lots of grit. Excellent. Well worth your time. 

Yesterday was extremely mild - 14! Like early spring. Today colder but sunny. I'm at my desk with my face in the sun. Happiness is. My young assistant Nishat came over to help with organizing. As I may have mentioned (!), I'm drowning in paper and photographs, the detritus of my past, my parents', my grandparents', all of it has ended up here. 

So I showed Nishat - the two big plastic boxes plus the accordion files of family photographs plus the cardboard box under the spare room bed; the suitcase, big box, and file drawers filled with diaries from 1959 on; the research materials for various books in drawers and boxes; the stacks of letters - a whole box to and from me, several boxes from or to my parents. And more, much more. As my daughter said, sighing in despair as she looked at it all, "Mum, if you don't deal with all this, SOMEONE ELSE will have to." And we both know who that someone else will be.

The problem is that it's useful. I could not have written my memoirs without all this material; the diaries and letters brought back details long forgotten. And for my ongoing writing, there's all this juicy material. I just have to know where it is and be able to access it when needed. Hence, Nishat. We just did a reconnoitre this time, as just looking at it all exhausted me. She suggested we start throwing stuff out, but no, I need to check it first. It will be a long process.

For example, as we dug, I found a photo I'd been looking for, of me with my long lost childhood friend Penny Harris, whose obituary I just found; she died in 2019. I'm writing a story about her, about us. In 1995 I was appearing in a play in Vancouver, my last acting job; she came backstage and we met for coffee. I'd been so stressed I'd lost ten pounds and looked ghastly, and I seem for some reason to be wearing suspenders, but it was joy to meet my old friend again. Memories flooding back, thanks to the photo. Thanks to the piles of the past littering my life.

I have five weeks now with no teaching, though perhaps some editing work for various clients. Almost all the Xmas gifts are hidden in my bedroom, many of them from Doubletake. The poinsettia given to me last December, that lived all year in my office, is blooming again. It's beginning to feel a lot like ...

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