Category:Philip Neal

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A boy in a wood in Holywells Park. He's two. Goosegrass brushes his legs, the overgreen canopy punctures his nostrils. A fear jungle. No Buster, no mumma.

Then some boys. Follow us, we know where your mummy is. I'm petrified, stone turned by fear.

Fifty years later I'm in the same place again, with my brother and sister. Do I feel anything? Nothing, no recognition. A pleasant Suffolk park on a summer day.

Appearances influence all my stories, whether maudlin or mad. The volume Watchwords arose from an addiction, one typical of mid-life: collecting. In my case, collecting of vintage watches. I'm a psychotherapist so my own emotional processes are hard to ignore.

I think, though, I've achieved a Bishop's Move around myself. In a dream (no really) I think of my grandfather, whom I never knew. The watch I have just bought is a silver half-hunter wrist watch made in 1916, the year of the Battle of the Somme. The dream revives my researcher self (I'm an anthropologist). Through visits to the National Archive in Kew I learn about my grandfather's service. He was a skilled saddler. I'm proud he guarded man and horse alike. I'm moved to see his signature for the first time ever, even if he's a bit vague about his date of birth.

This first story begins a parabola. I grapple with the immediate suggestion any watch makes. What might its provenance have been? Who might have owned it? What historic events, vile or virtuous, may it have seen? In all these stories there is some doubt as to authenticity of people, but for different ends.

If I want to impress anything on you, it connects my day job with writing. I work for LGBT asylum seekers as counsellor for Islington Mind Outcome. I want the world to feel this suffering, protected by the mask of confidentiality.

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