Reading

What a horrible drive. Sheets of rain slamming out of the sky. Flooded roads. Vile. I stopped off in Reading in the hope it would get better, but it only got worse.

I know Reading. My parents sent me to university there against my will. They were pulling out all the stops to prevent me from going to drama school. Their correspondence from this period has been largely preserved because they were already divorced so they wrote to each other. And the phrase “until he gets it out of his system” comes up countless times. My brother had been to Reading University on purpose, so mum knew it existed. I woke up one morning and my mother had phoned the English department, which was coincidentally flooded with female applicants, and told them my grades. She secured me a place through clearing. “Three years will be enough for him to get this acting nonsense out of his system,” my father had written. She then marched me to the phone and made me confirm the place. I never forgave her for it while she was alive, but I made the call. It was the source of so many arguments, right up until she died. But I did it. I wasn’t yet mature and self-defined enough to combat parental pressure like that. I forgive her for forcing me to do it now though. She thought she was acting out of love, not fear. And I could’ve walked. I didn’t. She told me I wouldn’t have a roof over my head if I didn’t make the call but that was just words. I could’ve got a job and worked something out but I didn’t. It was all a bit unexpected, which was the main thing. I had it all lined up for drama school but the plug got pulled. But I know from reading their correspondence that this was mutual parental care. They didn’t want this lifestyle for me.

I miss her. She was a good mum and cared about me. I miss both my parents. Dad was a brilliant man and made so much possible. They just didn’t know me as well as they might have, but I was the youngest of many. “Get it out of his system.” Pffft. It was wired in my blood, even then. Still, I ended up at Guildhall years later once university was done and dad was no longer there to fight it. And Guildhall was an extraordinary school, and exactly what I needed.

In Reading I stopped briefly at my (unrecognisable) old student pub, and raised a shandy to my mum and dad for their awkward love.

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Then to Castle Street for Sweeney and Todds pie shop. It used to be part of a run of three perfect consecutive shops owned by the same people – a pie shop next to a barber, and a butcher in the other side. So the customer can be amused by the reference to murderers, but know where their meat is coming from (or at least hope they know – the butcher, not the barber!) Now the butcher has gone, but the barber is still there and so are the tasty meat pies… Worrying.

I didn’t think too much about it, I just bought a load of pies, avoided having my hair cut, and missioned back home in the rain.

I’m so glad to be back in London in this flat I only have because of my parent’s passing. I’m working tomorrow in the morning and then slow roast lamb. Omnomnom. In a short time away, I’ve discovered some valuable things about myself and how I keep doing things I don’t want to do, to punish myself. Knowing as I have for years that my lost parents both spoke of my vocation in the same language as you’d speak of a disease has been tricky over time. But that was just their care for me mistranslated. They could never be happy living as I do. I am. But not when I’m doing stuff like that golf tournament. The disease still courses through my veins and invigorates them as it burns when I’m working in my proper medium. There is more to do, more to make, more to write on the wind. More friendships, more beautiful chaos, more joy, more fellowship.

It’s time for me to really focus the beam now, and identify and secure what I need to get into my system. The past is past. It builds us, but it doesn’t hold us. I’ll miss mum and dad until the day I die no matter what battlegrounds we had. Parental love is another thing that never gets out of your system.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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