Thievery: Francis Observes How Babies Are Made
Thievery is a series of blog posts about my story inspirations.
‘Francis Observes How Babies Are Made’ is published in New Writing Scotland #29.
Francis is watching the moon. It is white like a bowl of milk and it makes the plain outside the window look black and silver like it’s on television. Francis hopes that if he stays very still then maybe he will see the moon move. Kulowali says that a beautiful woman lives in the moon because she flew there to get away from a man she did not love. The man knows that she is in the moon but although he spends all day looking for her, he can never find her. Francis thinks that the man sounds silly, and is glad that he is clever enough to look at things in the nighttime as well as the daytime. He likes the story of the beautiful woman in the moon but he is not sure that that is Science. A thing is only Science if it is observable and repeatable.
My dad spent a few years of his childhood in Nigeria with his two brothers. It was the years of the Empire and my granddad had a job that was something to do with the British government, though I don’t really know what.
Lately I’ve been thinking about my parents and grandparents a lot. This is largely because my dad recently died, and of course that brings up all sorts of memories and thoughts about opportunities missed.
I’m 27, and that seems to be the age when you finally realise that the older generation are actually humans with lives and desires and opinions, rather than just grumpy creatures who exist to make your dinner and pay your rent when you’ve spent it all on Jaegarbombs and sushi. Okay, I haven’t actually done that last thing, but you get the point. My grandmother was a Proper Lady, the type who wore skirt-suits and powdered her nose. I know I can never be a lady like that because I have tattooed wrists and a tendency to mumble. But she raised three boys and had perfect pitch and ate dinner with the Queen (though she wasn’t the Queen at the time) and taught me to play the piano even though I was utterly rubbish. And I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to really know her as a fellow adult, rather than just as my granny.
My dad, however, I knew very well. Like all families we had our differences, but I’d meet him for lunch at least once a fortnight, and we talked on the phone every week.
So although the story is about Frances (or rather, about the child version of my dad, Ewan), it’s really about my grandparents and the life they created for my dad – and for me, too.
NOTE: My dad was always a science nerd. I don’t know if he asked for a calculator for Christmas, but I like to think that he did.