“You look like a carthorse” said Julie as I left Waitrose loaded. I said immediately “I knew a carthorse, her name was Blossom”.
I was sent to the country to Mr. and Mrs. More, who had a smallholding with chickens and a pair of heavy horses . I remember the birds flying behind us on the rut as we ploughed and I sat, small thing, on Blossom’s neck – the smell, the leather, the air, the earth. Almost everything leads to a story and the stories vary with the teller as well as the listener, what is heard, what is omitted, what is inferred, what I would call if I were a musician, the tone..
As television programming declines, I read and thank God for Moorfields. But I have other “books”, albums of ideas, impressions, memories. I usually write on Sundays and I do not read read … that’s what I said to myself … read read. My mother had a trick of repeating a word for emphasis. I read the paper, not a book, before I try to write. Not read read. She’d describe the weather as “not cold cold.” It came to me this morning when I couldn’t sleep. If I follow this sort of story in my mind it leads to kitchen furniture, the pantry, the back garden and my mind seeks memory
as if it had fingers.
All stories are prismatic, they have lots of sides, and how you interpret the side you’re told varies too. We have different ideas and perceptions, we are different people, we respond differently to all sorts of input to the human and no machine is ever going to rival that.
Unusually, one day last week I switched on the tv early. I loathe the so-called breakfast programming, whoever does it. So I went to the BBC News Channel where I saw a man in a legal wig
sitting behind a bench, the word “Preston” in the top left corner of the screen. He was a judge and he was summing up.
I had never seen such a thing. If you say “summing up” to me, I think of a well known actor in an film or a play, a couple of minutes and the story moves on. I didn’t set out to watch this, I didn’t know what I was watching – but it is a very good insight of how the same story plays different ways to different people.
There were nine counts, evidence was assessed, put to one side, its perception explained. It was the story of a young woman now 22 who had made through what the judge called sophisticated use of telephones, keyboards and other all too accessible accessories false allegations against men, Caucasian and Asian, involving alleged repeated rape, sex trafficking, brutality – and none of it checked out. The police involvement over three small towns went on up to and including riots in the street – those who sided with her, those who didn’t believe her, the destruction of businesses, homes and health.
The judge continued, adjusting the length of the sentence to include different tariffs and time that must be allowed for this or that. There were 2 psychiatric reports, one of which he set aside explaining why he did so. He sentenced her to 16 years which he cut by half because of her extreme youth. He spoke of how she would be managed after that, what she would be allowed to do and not do.
On the evening’s Channel 4 news, I saw an item with a good reporter which included a brief interview with the mother of the accused. The word that came to mind was “unreal”.
I’ve seen two pieces in the paper, heard a couple of news items and they are all reduced for a whole slew of reasons including historical relevance, interest and (I imagine) a great wish to move on. It is a complicated case which doesn’t lend itself to easy journalistic compression and was out of the main stream.
It was one side of a story, I had never heard that story or that side before. It did not close the gate in my mind. It made me think. Now I know why “know-it-all” was such a criticism in my family. We don’t.