William Blake – Part One

Songs_of_Innocence_and_of_Experience,_copy_Y,_1825_(Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art)_object_6If you asked me to pinpoint the anatomy of fiction, I’d say that what we call imagination and what we call memory both belong to the same flickering of synapses. But there are people out there more interested in definite distinctions, so while telling this story, I’ve tried to be as careful as possible. If you can read between the lines, then what follows is quite unsettling, and I might as well tell you straight away that one the characters involved died young. I didn’t find out about some of what was actually happening until later, much later, and while I guess it’s this knowledge that prompted me to get all of this down, it would be wrong to present it with any kind of certainty. Still, I’d like to be as sincere as possible; it’s my childhood we’re dealing with here, after all.

The story takes place when I was fourteen years old, during the summer before my parents moved the family to Cyprus. The village I grew up in stands close to the Welsh border. Not even a village actually, if you’re strict about the classes of habitation, as there was no church. A row of houses, all on one side of the road, ended in a pub on the approach to a railway bridge, which curved around a corner. My grandfather had a picture of the last train to stop at the station. I travelled on the bus every day to a school about five miles away, a long winding journey through some of the smaller hamlets which, if I close my eyes, I can still retrace in my mind.

William Blake isn’t the hero of what follows by any means (for better, or worse, I guess that’s me) although I’d argue that he’s the main character. He was a tall boy, pale and freckled, with startlingly sad hazel eyes. His parents were respected: his father a town councillor, his mother active in village life. His sister won some kind of musical prize. And William Blake really was his name, although it didn’t mean much to me at the time. I knew ‘Tiger, Tiger’ the way most children do, but to my shame I was no more able to name its author than I could that of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’ For a few years, simply put, William Blake really was William Blake for me, until I learned otherwise. In fact, I guess that’s what this story is really about: an early example of the way I’ve always moved through events, noticing nothing until all of it has passed me by.

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