Lost Opportunities

September 10, 2013 at 8:54 am

I’m a writer. I have been writing stories since I was about eight years old. What I write may have varied over the years, but it has always been a constant in my life.

My father’s a writer. His first book was published almost thirty years ago. He’s kept going since then, and now has many titles to his name.

My brother writes album reviews and has been known to write small sketches for groups to perform.

My son, aged seven, recently won a creative writing award in his class at school.

My father’s father was a wood machinist. His mother was a binder of books, definitely not a writer of them.

Um …? So where did writing come from? Did it suddenly pop into our genes with my dad? Did the genetics of his parents somehow combine to make us all writers?

No idea, really. I wish I did. I frequently wonder where the talent came from. Did my paternal grandfather have the ability to write, but didn’t? It’s certainly possible. He was an intelligent man. He might have chosen wood machining because he could make a living out of that, whereas in early 20th century London, being from the lower classes, he was never going to make a living from his pen.

Many of my father’s ancestors were from the poorer quarters in London. My husband and I have done some family research and I know that many of them were abjectly poor. It is clear, from Xs in the place of signatures on marriage certificates, that many of them didn’t even learn to read and write.

Sometimes I grieve over this. I’m sure our talent for writing didn’t magically appear in my father’s generation. It had to have been there before that. But it seems many of my ancestors were too poor to use it, either because they needed to work down a mine or on the roads to put food on the table, or simply because they never learned to write. I mourn the stories that might have existed in their heads, things that we will never be able to read, simply because the class and time they were born into meant those things are lost to us forever.

Stories are important. We must find a way to tell them, and we need to give everyone the ability to tell them by teaching them to read and write. The future’s so much brighter that way.


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