The Sound of the Invisible
My father, whose name was Ben, loved telling stories. It was from his storytelling sessions with my Uncle Charlie that I first understood Pythonesque one-upmanship. These competitive narratives consisted of colourful descriptions of shoeless boys collecting firewood in the snow while daddy became emphysemic in a coalmine and mummy planned their exodus to Australia. In these sessions, matriarchs fight back tears while burying a succession of choleric children, patriarchs swear off the booze in a pact with God that involved, at the very least, the survival of the remaining offspring. These were the first ideas I formed of life in another place and time, and from these two old raconteurs, who liked to outdo each other in their colourful and not altogether nonfictional retelling of their shared history, I learned not only about making stories but about listening to them.
Listening; Roland Barthes; storytelling