The child of a moment ago enters without a word… Andre Breton, Nadja.
Where do I locate myself in memory? In time? In space? In a projected idea of myself living in a time and space to come? In a memory of the future?

Imagining myself in a future time and space, I remember the past. Memory randomly selects the year 1974. It was the year I moved to North Kensington, and on arriving in the area, my first priority was to furnish a bedsit I rented just off the Portobello Road. To this end, I spent all my spare time searching the Portobello market for household items and secondhand furniture.

*

One sunny afternoon while casually strolling down the top end of the Portobello from Notting Hill Gate, I spotted an antique figure displayed on a market stall. Cast in iron, the figure had a top hat, a blue frock coat, a walking stick in his hand, and a large decorative clock pinned to his chest. I asked the stallholder the age of the figure, and what it represented. He told me, with absolute authority, that it was ‘Late Victorian, Dutch, and represents a clockmaker showing off his craftsmanship in the streets of Amsterdam’. Intrigued, I picked the figure up and carefully examined it with the studious eye of a would-be expert, joking that ‘He must be selling the illusion of time’. As to the cost, the stallholder leant forward and confided, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll let you have it for a knock-down price of £40, but I can’t go lower than that’. This was a fortune, more than I earned in a month, but inexplicably drawn to the figure, I agreed the sale and got the stallholder to wrap it up for me. Then, shaking his hand and thanking him profusely, I continued on my way down the market, clutching my prized acquisition, feeling exalted, proud.

Half-way down the Portobello, just before the Westway flyover, in an antique shop called Bliss, I was horrified to see a whole row of clock figures identical to the one I had just purchased, all ticking away, priced at £10 each. I had been robbed blind, and when I reached the Golborne Road, the so-called rough end of the market, there was a stall with over twenty of these clock figures displayed on it. Red with rage, I angrily shouted at the poor, unsuspecting man selling them, ‘And what bloody price are you knocking these out for?’ He went pale and replied, ‘A fiver mate!’ and, looking at the package clenched in my hand, he perceptively asked, ‘So, how much did you pay for yours?’ When I told him, he shrieked with laughter. ‘You’ve been had! This lot just came in from the East.’

Arriving home, I unwrapped the figure and slammed it down on the mantelpiece. Then, inserting the key, I wound up the clock and set the time, and tried to convince myself that although the figure was a fake, it was a very fine reproduction, and in time I would grow to like it. However, after ten minutes or so, the clock stopped dead, and no amount of rewinding its mechanism got it going again. ‘Work, you bastard!’ I shook the figure with both hands until, in a fit of despair, I threw it in the bin and burst into tears.

That night, as I tried to get off to sleep, I wound myself up into an agitated state, blaming myself for being so gullible, stupid, and for spending all the money I had in the world on a decorative, rather grandiose figure, which turned out to be a worthless piece of kitsch. ‘Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!’ I kicked myself, until eventually depression set in and, gloomily aware of the darkness surrounding me, that moment when sleep draws its shroud over consciousness, I heard a faint ticking coming from the direction of the bin. At first the sound seemed like a fragment of a dream, but the ticking grew louder, stronger, faster and, sitting bolt upright, I suddenly became aware that the clock figure had sprung back to life.

Leaping out of bed, I retrieved him from the rubbish bin and restored him to the mantelpiece. He could stay, I resolved, on the condition he worked and kept good time.

*

Over the next few months, the clock figure received numerous warnings and eviction notices, but at the last minute, he responded to gentle, and sometimes brutal, methods of persuasion. Once, holding him round the neck, I bashed him against the wall, threatening him through gritted teeth that it was his last chance to work until, on his seventh battering, he came round and saw sense. When my landlord came to do an inspection of the bedsit, he noticed the chipped paint and dents in the wall, and angrily demanded to know, ‘Who the hell did these?’ Gripped with fear, I pretended to make light of the damage, and pointing to the figure on the mantelpiece I casually said, ‘Don’t blame me, it was him!’ Realizing the insanity of this statement, I corrected myself, but the landlord refused to listen and looked at me as if I were deranged. ‘Whoever did it, get it fixed or you’re both out!’

Other times, when friends came to visit, I never failed to draw their attention to the clock figure on the mantlepiece, trotting out the line, ‘Late Victorian, Dutch, a clockmaker showing off his craftsmanship in the streets of Amsterdam’, tagging on my little joke, ‘He must be selling the illusion of time’. I told this story so often, I began to believe it myself, until it became impossible to differentiate between who was the bigger fake, the figure or me.

*

In an attempt to authenticate what I perceived to be my suspect identity, and utilising photography as pictorial (forensic) evidence, I returned to the Portobello market every weekend, and took up photographing a variety of objects for sale, starting at the top end from where I had purchased my clock figure, avoiding the market trader who sold it to me. Quite soon, or so I believed, I was able to discern whether an object was genuine or not. To test myself, I played a mental guessing game, where I examined all the items on or around a stall, such as a chair, a painting, a pair of candlesticks, a figurine, and pronounced my judgement out loud for all to hear; ‘Real! Repro! Copy! Fake!’ Most people ignored me, until one day a burly stallholder with cropped hair and pierced ears, overheard me calling one of his ornaments a fake and, gripping me by the throat, violently pinned me up against the wall and spat in my face, ‘The only fucking fake around here is you! Now piss off!’

Panic stricken, I ran full speed down the Portobello, dodging in and out of the tourists, until I reached the Salvation Army church, disorientated and panting for breath. To regain equilibrium, I distracted myself by mechanically photographing the market stalls opposite me which, when I became conscious of my surroundings, turned out to be selling cabbages. Nothing fake about cabbages, and nothing of interest either, I concluded, but further up, just past Tesco’s, there was an image which grabbed my attention. It was of a faded strutting cockerel painted on the side of a metal kiosk selling poultry, above which hung the carcasses of plucked chickens. Framed in the viewfinder of my camera, the juxtaposition of these two elements of the composition – the plucked chickens strung up above the emblematic strutting cockerel – hinted at what I unconsciously felt about myself. ‘Here I am’, so my inner narrative went, ‘strutting up and down the Portobello Road, spending money I do not have, projecting an air of authority and self-containment, when in reality, all my bravado is nothing but a pretence designed to conceal the extent of my emotional vulnerability – the plucked chickens.’

Armed with an idea that what I selected to photograph in the market could equally represent an aspect of my inner self, I ended up rummaging about and photographing the junk for sale in the Golborne Road. Here,
among the bruised and battered household objects – I could have furnished an entire house for £40 – I found an intrinsic honesty I seemed to have been searching for. No one fakes junk! Junk is junk! The inherent value of junk is only what we ascribe to it, both according to our financial circumstances, and whether it still proves to be functionally useful to us.

In North Kensington, other people’s junk salvaged from bins, skips, or left out in the street, found a new lease of life under the monolithic shadow of Trellick Tower.

*

I imagined the giant rectangular shape of Trellick Tower as a reprocessing plant for junk, its critical mass generating a powerful magnetic field over the area, pulling junk to itself like a swirling black hole on the skyline of the Golborne Road. Discarded objects I happened to see on my travels around North Kensington – a dilapidated fridge in Ladbroke Grove, a rusty old bike in Powis Square, a burnt out television set in St Mark’s Road, all mysteriously clunked and clattered their way up the Golborne Road in the direction of Trellick Tower. Me too! Dressed in a trilby hat, blue crombie coat, a tripod in my hand, and a camera strapped round my neck, I ventured out early on Friday and Saturday mornings, market days, to hunt down and capture from all this junk images which provided (metaphorical) clues about the nature of my identity. The problem with identity, at least for me, was not primarily about knowing who I was, but of discovering that elusive essence of self which could not be defined in a name. I caught a rare glimpse of this other self during moments of activity, and in altered states of consciousness, such as in daydreams, which revealed the possibility of the existence of another me I had yet to meet. The problem was, that whenever we encountered each other, I was always (out) self-absorbed and pre-occupied, so that by the time I happened to notice his presence, he vanished before I had a chance to introduce myself. Making a determined effort to track him down, or conjure him up from the depths of my imagination, only served to block his pathway from emerging into my field of awareness. It was only when I was sufficiently distracted from myself that he slipped in and out of consciousness, leaving a residual trace of himself which had me calling out ‘Who’s that?’

Unable to pin him down inside myself, I projected him out into the external world, into the environment of the Portobello and Golborne Road, where I attempted to materialize him out of the objects I saw and photographed. Once made visible, I might have the opportunity to retain him long enough to take his picture. Possibly, we could stand together, arm in arm, set the camera to self-timer, and hey presto! A photograph of myself with my inner self. A fantastic, crazy idea, and what I ended up with were hundreds of photographs of junk, piles of them, and of shop fronts and window displays, the glass darkly reflecting back my ghostly image, and just beyond the glass itself, the merchandise on sale.

*

In one shop window, Thabani’s pharmacy in the Golborne Road, a plaster bust of Marilyn Monroe stared vacantly out at me, her chemistry reduced to a mixture of water and gypsum.

All I knew of Marilyn was from her films, the projection of her image on a cinema or television screen. Yet I felt as if I knew her intimately for during adolescence I had a poster of her on my bedroom wall, next to one of Bridget Bardot. Marilyn, like Bridget, acted as a focus for my emerging sexuality, a phantom lover created out of particles of light, condensed, beamed and flickering into life before my very eyes through the magic of a cinema projection lens or cathode-mag television tube. The teenage fantasies I spun and wove together about Marilyn were not purely related to her films, but by the silky sound of her voice, her curvy shapes, and the erotically charged movements she made, which sometimes triggered a direct biological response.

Now, a number of years on, Marilyn’s image is fixed. Mention her name, and I can instantly conjure her up, recreate her vision, turn on the brain’s projector and re-run sequences from her films, and even films I made up about her myself. Finding her again, in a cheap, rather vulgar representation, mass-produced in plaster, I was still receptive to her charms, still aroused.

This was a revelation, for I became aware that what I saw and photographed in the market not only held the power to activate memories, and the accompanying emotions related to them, but caused an instant physiological response. Marilyn Monroe, an erection, the carcasses of plucked chickens, vulnerability. What about junk? What memories and emotions did junk evoke? What was my physiological response to junk? Feelings of worthlessness? Impoverishment? What about abandonment? There appeared to be an underlying theme in my response to junk, a certain psychical energy which transcended junk as a metaphor into a dynamic process of activity I seemed to have been involved with all my life.

Recycled and up for sale in the Portobello Market, junk is reborn, given a second chance, like my decorative clock figure, condemned to the rubbish bin when his clock stopped working, only to be retrieved when he showed signs of mechanically functioning again. His second chance! And mine? To answer this question, I need to turn the clock back to the moment of my conception.

Object Relationships
Myth is the path to the conscious, its conveyer belt. Louis Aragon, Le Paysan de Paris. (Peasant Paris).

When I was conceived, my embryonic life took root in the fallopian tube, a medical condition known as ectopic pregnancy. Instead of aborting me ( foetal junk), in a rare and life saving operation, I was surgically removed and attached inside the womb. My second chance!

Now, and in memory, I have been treading a fine line between life and death ever since, for the whole drama of my unusual origins, my spectacular survival, were replayed to me by my mother from a very early age. “You’re dead lucky to be alive, lucky to be here,” she would tell me, pointing to the large ugly scar encircling her entire stomach. I do not believe my mother was being unkind in recounting the extraordinary events surrounding my birth, only retelling the story because it happened to be so extraordinary. What she did not know, did not perceive, was that in the imagination of a small boy, a seed of an idea took root, nurtured by his mother’s words and germinating into a fantasy about himself, that he existed on two levels, and in two separate parts. If I was “Dead lucky to be here,” as my mother kept on telling me, then where else should I be? If not here, then where? Dead? I could not imagine being dead, so I imagined all sorts of other things instead. I imagined that deep inside the living me, there co-existed a dead me yet to be born, like a shadow figure or a ghost.

At the age of seven or eight, I was regularly haunted by the ghost of myself, who put in a nightly appearance at bedtime after the lights went out. He would manifest himself in the dark shape of my dressing gown hanging on the back of the bedroom door, hide in the cupboards, in the wardrobe, or lurk under the bed,gently tugging at my bed sheets. More alarmingly, he would synchronise his heartbeat with the tick-tock of my bedside clock, until I was convinced that the beat of my own heart faded away and stopped. One night, believing the dead me was getting the upper hand, I leapt out of bed and ran downstairs to my parents crying, “There’s a ghost in my room!” Shocked by my sudden apparition, my mother turned pale and trembled, while my father carried on reading his newspaper. “You better go and have a look,” my mother implored my father. He remained detached, irritated at being disturbed. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he slammed down his paper, “of course there’s no ghost in his room!” But knowing he would not get a minute’s peace until he checked, he reluctantly lead me back upstairs and turned on the light. “See! There’s no one here,” and enquiring where I believed the ghost to be, he searched all the cupboards; the wardrobe, bent down and peered under the bed, and even opened the window to scan the front garden and street below. “See! What did I tell you? Now back to bed!” After he turned out the light and shut the bedroom door, I had a lingering doubt that my father was not being entirely honest with me. If there was no ghost in my room, as he so dramatically demonstrated, then who was he searching for? Who did he expect to find in the cupboards, the wardrobe, under the bed, out the window?

Over the next few months, my ghost stories became part of my bedtime ritual. Half an hour after being put to bed, I would materialize in front of my parents, complaining that there was a ghost in my room. Alarmed, my mother, pale and trembling, would press my father into searching my bedroom. My father, barely concealing his rage, would storm up the stairs, me traipsing behind him, snap on the light, open and slam shut the cupboards; the wardrobe, throw a glance under the bed, out the window, and repeat in despair, “For the last time, there’s no one here!”

And so it spiralled, until one night, when he got to the window part of his search, he looked out onto the street and suddenly leapt back into the room exclaiming, “Good God!” Then, running to the top of the stairs, he called down to my mother, “Call the police, the ambulance, and the fire brigade. They’ll need a ladder!”

Alarmed, I imagined the police, followed by the ambulance men, aided by fireman holding the ladder steady, all climbing up and piling through my window to rescue me from the impending possession of my ghost. In blind panic, I spun out of control and ran screaming round my bed, “ But I don’t want to die!” My father looked at me in total bewilderment, “What are you going on about? Of course you’re not going to die! Whoever gave you that daft idea?” “But you called the police, the ambulance, and the fire brigade,” I sobbed. He burst out laughing, “They’re not coming for you! It’s for that mad old alcoholic woman down the road. She’s only gone and climbed up on top of the lamppost, stark naked, with a bottle of scotch for company. If they don’t get her down soon, she’ll fall off and break her neck. In minutes, jangling bells filled the night air, and my bedroom lit up with flashing blue lights. “They’re here!” my father announced, appearing relieved to have a real life crisis to deal with, and not what he took to be a child’s irrational fear of the dark.

Running headlong down the stairs, me close on his heels, my father shot out the front door and vanished into the middle of the gathering police cars, ambulances and fire engines. My mother had to restrain me from chasing after him, but she allowed me to watch the drama unfold with her from the doorstep.

The fire brigade winched up a ladder to the top of the lamppost, ambulance men standing around in attendance, while a policeman attempted to talk the mad old woman down. “Now come on love, don’t be silly,” he reasoned with her. She drowned him out with a drunken rendition of Vera Lynn’s We’ll meet again, starting up a chorus of barking and howling from the neighbourhood dogs.

In a decisive moment, a fireman on top of the ladder positioned himself to reach out and grab the mad old woman should she slip or fall, while the policeman moved closer to the base of the lamppost and pleaded again for her to come down. She remained defiant, singing, swearing, swigging from her bottle, barking and howling along with the dogs, and then, to my horror and delight, she cocked her leg and urinated over him. “Did the mad old woman pee on the policeman, Mummy?” I giggled. Ignoring my question, my mother  stuck her hand out beyond the cover of the porch and said, I think it’s starting to rain,” and with that, she
took me inside and closed the front door.

Over breakfast the next morning, my father vividly described how a fireman strapped a harness around the mad old woman and safely lowered her to the ground. “Of course, I went to the hospital with her, but she’ll never come out,” he said, and visibly upset, he poured himself another cup of tea and chipped in, “If I ever get like that, take me out and shoot me!” From then on, I kept my father under close observation, cap gun at the ready.

That night, half an hour after being put to bed, I searched in the darkness to illuminate my ghost. Nothing appeared, and there was no inner signal alerting me to the sensation that I was not alone in my room. The imagined presence out to possess me, take over my body in order to give birth to itself and take my place (so the fantasy grew), had vanished. Unsettled, I tried to conjure up my ghost in the dark shape of the dressing gown hanging on the back of the bedroom door. When he failed to materialize, I climbed out of bed, turned on the light, searched all the cupboards, the wardrobe, looked under the bed, out the window, turned off the light, climbed back into bed and lay there motionless, physically straining to make my heart stop with the tick-tock of the bedside clock. After my third attempt at self-induced cardiac arrest, I leapt out of bed and stormed downstairs, angrily complaining to my startled parents, “There’s no ghost in my room!” My father threw his newspaper up in the air for joy, “Thank God! At last the boy’s seen sense!”

*

What did my father mean, “At last the boy’s seen sense?” Back in bed, I tried to make sense of sense, from my father’s perspective and concluded that if I thought and felt like my father, believed whatever he told me, agreed with him that there was no one in my room, no ghost haunting me, then I would be grown up and sensible just like him. Yet to be like my father, to give up the ghost for him, meant that I had to give up an integral part of myself, abandon my belief that my whole existence, indeed survival, depended on living in two parts, on two separate levels of perception, where the intricate balance between life and death rested precariously on the edge of reality and imagination. After all, “you’re imagining things” and “it’s all in your head” were the carpet statements my father rolled out about my ghost stories, and the only path open to me, or so I believed, was to give up imagination altogether, and accept my father’s reality as being my own. So, laying there in the dark, I closed my eyes and attempted to create an inner darkness. Now that my ghost had disappeared and there was no one haunting me in my room, there would, I determined, be no one in my head to make it reappear again.

This simple childlike attempt at resolution, of banishing my ghost into the abyss of an imagined darkness, had profound consequences, for as I imagined how to stop imagining, of switching off the brain like switching off a television set, where the image fades into a continuous white dot in the middle of the screen (a characteristic of early valve televisions), the more vivid and Technicolor my thoughts became.

Out of the inner darkness, fluorescent patterns flickered and danced before my eyes, spiralling into a vortex tunnelling down to the centre of my body, where consciousness, my whole physical being, time and space itself, were suspended in an iridescent white light. From within this light, grew a small, blurred image of myself, slowly rotating in and out of focus, as if my brain had become a condensing lens, and I was adjusting its focal length to achieve clarity of vision. Yet the harder I attempted to focus in on my image, the more diffuse it became, and when I zoomed in on it to catch myself by surprise, it zoomed out with an equal velocity, appearing as a heavy black dot in the centre of the iridescent white light, held in position by a magnetic gravity I seemed to be generating for it. To see myself in this reduced form would have taken an internal telescope, or microscope, for I had no idea where in space I was located, or whether the depth of space where I observed myself to be was an inch away from the surface of my eye, or at the outer edge of my inner universe. Cosmic or molecular, whatever imaginary optical devices I used to enlarge and pull my image into focus ( my father had a box containing a variety of lenses I played with ) I lacked the power to draw it into the orbit of my control. Instead, I was forced to widen the beam of my concentration, open the aperture on my image, and gaze blankly into the whiteness surrounding it. In this state, the black dot of myself slowly disappeared within the light, reappearing again, close-up as a blurred mirror image of my face.

At the point of being mesmerised by the reflection of my image, the vision of myself suddenly stretched into a vast black hole, the expanding vacuum sucking me helplessly into its void. Once consumed, I imagined the particles of my critical mass being spontaneously absorbed into an infinite time and space of nothingness, the only residual trace of my existence becoming a memory circulating round in my parents heads.

Gripping the bed sheets, I held on and resisted my imminent dfematerialisation by erecting imaginary mirrors and crystal prisms, to deflect my image, refract and bend its light outside of my head, outside into the darkness of the bedroom, where I could rematerialize it back into the haunting presence of my ghost.

Opening my eyes to see if these inner defences had worked, I saw nothing but darkness, an outer darkness of such density, it completely absorbed the projection of my inner light. So, laying there in the dark, eyes wide open and blind to myself, I felt an idea grow from within the blackness, a small, vague idea which grew into an overwhelming and paralysing anxiety that my ghost had escaped from inside of me and was out there on the loose, not as a haunting presence, but as a transference of energy seeking a point of conduction to earth itself, to materialize and give birth to itself in the material world.

*

What did my material world consist of? My conception of the material world consisted of what my parents (materially) provided for me. What I provided for myself were a whole spectrum of feelings, thoughts and ideas, and for me, these existed in the same dimension as my material world. Inner reality, at least my emerging perception of inner reality, was interchangeable with outer reality. The idea that my ghost had escaped from inside of me in order to physically materialize itself meant that I actually thought and felt an idea could transfer itself across the boundary of imagination into a solid, concrete form. It happened all the time! It happened in play, in moments of creativity, and in my relationship to everyday objects. If I had the idea of making a car out of cardboard boxes, I gathered together as many cardboard boxes as I could find, and I made a car. Once the idea of a car had materialized, another idea would spring to mind, and my car became a boat, a plane, a rocket, an intergalactic spaceship propelling me out into a universe of unending imagination. This process of materializing ideas, of constructing ideas out of the resources available to me – cardboard boxes, paint, household objects – not only gave me a sense of containment over my ideas, it also provided me with a level of control over my material world.

Yet the idea of my ghost refused to materialize, and unable to construct or contain him outside of myself, the idea of him spun out of control, and out of my head. But where? I searched my mind for clues, retraced my ghost in memory, but on replaying the events leading up to his departure, I found they were synonymous to those of his arrival – the idea of my ghost remained an idea whichever way round I looked at it – except now his haunting presence manifested itself as a haunting absence.

To capture, or recapture the idea of my ghost, I needed to keep the idea of him alive, keep the idea circulating in memory. How?

To begin with, I created an inner narrative about my ghost, elaborated on it, and told and retold myself the story until it became fixed in my head. Then, I made drawings and paintings of my ghost to illustrate the story I was telling myself, giving him recognizable human features which, when I stood back to view them, resembled bandits and outlaws depicted in wild west wanted posters (cowboy films were a staple diet of my 1950s childhood), which curiously all looked like me. I even rounded up a pose of children from my street to hunt down ghosts in the local cemetery. Here, amongst the tombstones and ornate mausoleums strangled with creeping ivy, we spread out and hid from each other in spontaneous games of hide and seek. Imitating howling wolves and groaning spirits, in fact a medley of everything we remembered from “B” movie horror films we saw at the community threepenny cinema on Saturday mornings, we attempted to spook each other out, and the first to break cover was “It” (dead in child speak). Our favourite game however, was to play at being the “Walking Dead”, and with arms outstretched, zombie fashion, we mechanically shuffled over the graves of the departed souls we were pretending to embody, convincing each other that our robotic movements were being controlled by an unseen higher power. Once this game got underway, it was hard to switch it off. If one of us attempted to break the collective spell of the game, invariably out of a fear that our automated patterns of behaviour (blind faith) would summon up the very ghosts we were meant to be tracking down, they were singled out to play the victim, and were systematically pursued around the cemetery until they gave up and were dead again.

Telling myself ghost stories, illustrating and externalizing my ghost in pictures and games, inevitably failed to materialize or capture him, even in the fertile imaginations of other children I happened to share him with. My ghost was not their ghost, and forsaking me for a recurrent (cyclical) popularity in bicycles, and with Christmas pending, the buzz word on the street was not ghouls or ghosts, but Raleigh. The Raleigh bicycle was a chromium plated, high speed Pegasus on wheels, guaranteed to transport any child over the age of six, to the kingdom of their dreams. We all wanted one (ideal for ghost hunting), and to obtain this peddled powered mythical beast was made relatively easy, according to the catalogue distributed to every house on our estate, by simply placing an order four weeks before Christmas, and spreading the cost over the rest of the year in twelve “affordable” monthly instalments.

I casually pointed this out to my father, or rather I signalled to him what I wanted for Christmas in coded messages. Telling him a fantastic story about a boy with his Raleigh bike, I made drawings and paintings to illustrate the story I was telling him, then strategically placed them around the house for him to find. To reinforce the message, and enable him to decipher its meaning (Raleigh bicycle), just in case he failed to crack the code, I caught him when he was most vulnerable and distracted from himself, such as when he was shaving or reading the paper, and gently whispered in his ear the magic word, “Raleigh”, then scanned his face to determine the effect the word had on him. Initially, he was unresponsive, until one day when I sneaked up on him digging the garden, he stopped what he was doing, lit a cigarette and said, “Wasn’t Raleigh that chap who discovered tobacco?” Then pressing the spade into the earth, he added, “Or was it potatoes?”

*

On Christmas Eve, I went to bed and imagined my father, sellotape in one hand, wrapping paper in the other, attempting to parcel up my chromium plated Raleigh, before giving up and enlisting the help of my mother to harness the mythical beast from rearing up, while he calculated its tubular proportions. I had witnessed the combined application of my parents logic before, and drawing from memory, I pictured them wrestling the horse, I mean bicycle, to the floor, my father pining down the handlebars, rodeo style, while my mother tried to follow my father’s increasingly irate instructions, until the only thing they succeeded in wrapping-up were each other. The thought of unwrapping the present of my parents on Christmas morning, and pretending to be surprised and overjoyed at the gift of themselves, made me burst out laughing. My laughter soon rang hollow, for I became aware that just as I had been unable to materialize my ghost, my Raleigh bicycle would also fail to materialize beneath the Christmas tree, and dissolving into tears, I unravelled the immaterial nature of dreams.

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