Saturday, 20 November 2010


I suffer from a kind of geographical dyslexia, as a consequence of which I have terrible problems visualising space. To give one small example, I own a flat which I rent out. One day I got a phone call from the man who lived in the flat below the one I own to say that water was coming through his ceiling. I immediately rushed round to the flat but I couldn’t establish where the water was coming from. The man downstairs took me into his flat which was identical in layout to mine. He showed me where water was dripping steadily through the ceiling. Aha, I said. Now I understand. I went back upstairs into my flat but immediately found myself disoriented again. I had no idea where the leak could be. I had to get the tenant of the flat downstairs to come upstairs and locate the leak for me.

Recently someone I went to school and university with but with whom I subsequently lost contact for many years contacted me through Facebook. It was a very joyful reunion. We instantly re-established the kind of communication we had known as children and young men. We talked a lot about our childhoods and in particular about the point at which we began to understand that our actions had consequences. To my amazement my friend was able to point to the exact year this occurred for him. Nineteen eighty-six. By which time he was thirty-two. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I have never really understood that my actions had consequences. I just act and react to what I see before me. Is this a terrible confession for a writer to make? I asked.

Maybe, my friend suggested, it’s merely an extension of this geographical dyslexia you talk about. Perhaps, just as you cannot visualise the space in which you move and have your existence, you also cannot grasp the shape of your own life.

Either it's true or it's a terrific excuse.

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