Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

Lucie D.
Wales, UK



Began 12.15 GMT
Finished 14.30
I was born beneath the cloud swathed behemoth, Mount Snowdon, in Wales on January 3 1972.
'The Fastest Milkman in the West' by Benny Hill was number one in the UK charts. My mother had been playing Monopoly with my dad Mike and some friends when she went into labour. I was born at twelve minutes past twelve on that grey winter's day . All I have to remind me of this beginning are some blurry photographs and the collective memories of my family. My great grandmother secretly anointed me with Holy Water in lieu of a Christening. Early words - first just the onomatopoeia of the electric knitting machine that my mother used, 'seeeeha!' and then full sentences. I never crawled and started walking when I was two. That has pretty much summed up my attitude to exercise ever since.
I don't remember when my mother left my father for his best friend but my earliest memories have only the best friend in it and the warm sounds of his guitar and the smell of his paints. I loved him totally and it seemed an embarrassment of riches to have two fathers, even if one was slightly redundant; an ornamental dad. My real dad Mike was a small figure in the landscape. A treasured, distant form - made greater in my mind by his intangibility and the almost transparency of him in my memory.
My new family had a girl in it who visited every weekend. The daughter of my mum's new boyfriend. An older sister! At first there was trouble - she cut off the hair of all my dolls and broke my Tiny Tears. Later, we became friends. Bonding over mutually infecting each other with chickenpox and mumps.
We lived in rambling houses that were never quite finished. My step dad was an artist and my mum knitted dresses. I loved school and got 96 per cent in my cycling proficiency. I won prizes for poems and decorating eggs. I had an imaginary friend called Jane who had a lazy eye and a doomed quality in her that meant she always lost at card games.
By 8 we lived in the countryside on a small Welsh island. I looked after ponies, bossed around a group of children and made myself president of the Freetime Fun Club. Then my mum and my step dad split up when I was 11 and we left the island. We lived with another woman and her daughter. It was a difficult time. I still saw both my dads, loving them both and got to be an expert at packing a weekend bag.
In July 1985 I went on a great holiday with my real dad Mike. We went to stay with a friend of his who was building a boat. We stayed in a wooden hut which nestled under the great bulk of this washed up dream. We played cards and ate marmalade and cheese sandwiches by candlelight. I told dad I was worried about going to secondary school. It had been hard leaving the island and making new friends and my mum had a new boyfriend who I didn't like. He told me not to worry and that it didn't matter how I did at school. He said dreams were more important. Sitting under the great bulk of this boat, with a poet, I could see what he meant.
He died in a car crash 3 weeks later. I'm so glad we had that last holiday.
Things were a bit tricky then for a while. It was then I decided that I wanted to change my life totally and go to boarding school. At thirteen this seemed like a great idea. I took a scholarship and got a place to start when I was 16 for the last two years of school. In the meantime I smoked cigarettes with my friend Rachel amongst standing stones in a field. I fell in love with a boy Tristan and admired him from afar. School became an irritating relative who I begrudgingly visited every once in a while.
Boarding school lasted six, tortuous, memory-searing weeks. The pervading atmosphere was one of female misery. I seemed to invite its outpouring because I was so unashamed about my own unhappiness; wallowing in it! The widowed housemistress who would often minister tissues and tea broke down in front of me, telling me how unhappy she was after the death of her husband. I remember a six year old girl have a nosebleed. Scarlet on the white. A muffled misery absolutely repressed and buried under the grim battlements of a ruined castle - honestly!
I left and went back to my old school. That was ok because I never spent much time there. Then I went to an all-female college at Oxford University to read law - what miracle the molecules performed there! I can't afford to look too hard at how that happened because of the hair's width tightrope I walked to get there.
It was a culture shock. I was confronted by the weight of tradition, by a punishing academic regime and by my own mediocrity. I learned lots of things at Oxford but nothing about the law. Me and Josie went to gigs and a few of us tried to invent what we imagined to be a normal student existence amidst the cloistered towers of that ancient city. I seem to like putting myself in extreme and difficult locations. I put it down to being born in the shadow of that treacherous mountain.
Since then it's less easy to document. There are fewer milestones and rites of passage. Life as a series of occasions is tricky when you keep absenting yourself from the table. I left Oxford and didn't go to London or follow the stream of leaping fish into a career. I went home. Somehow I got into television and began making arts documentaries for the BBC. I bought a house, fell in love, fell out of love. I divide my time between London and Wales, still packing little bags, using novels as mental continuity for a life of flux. Books bridge spaces with their imaginary worlds. They are necessary little footbridges. I wanted to stop working and be still on the twentieth anniversary of my father's death and think about what he said about dreams being important. This is what I've done. Yesterday, I went to a friend's house to edit a little film I made and I ended up making badges with her eight year old daughter. Today I'm at home and I'm about to bake a cake. In a day, a life.