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Right in my ear

by M Farquharson 

Posted: 16 July 2010
Word Count: 3137

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Right in my ear

Mary Farquharson

It was already dark when we turned off the main road and into a driveway with a large house at the end. As I got out of the car, little stones crunched under my feet. “Helen,” my mother was pointing towards the metal trunk that was lying in the back of the car like a coffin. We struggled to lift it onto the gravel where I'd hoped it would stay. “Come on,” said my father, “you two at the front, I’ll take the back.” My mother and I held the leather handle between us and the trunk rocked towards an open door and a bright light that reminded me of a hospital.

Inside, there were girls dressed exactly like me: grey tweed coats and boaters with a red ribbon; grey flannel gloves and polished black shoes. They were small -- some of them looked about nine or ten – and most of them were smiling. The group didn’t excite me, as my mother had promised it would; in fact I felt like a package that had been wrapped up carefully and then delivered to the wrong address.

The house was cold and there were no pictures or anything bright, except for the strip lighting that made the girls’ faces look as grey as their coats. In the hallway were the trunks, each one inscribed with a very English name: Rose Simons; Sally Roberts; Charlotte Evans. By placing my trunk alongside theirs, my parents were confirming I belonged here. But I didn’t. This place wasn’t my style at all. I was tall, skinny and precocious, with a sunburned face and pierced ears. I loved American music and Chinese food and I’d thought that Britain meant Carnaby Street and driving around in a Mini.

I sat on my trunk and stared at a small room under the stairs, with a sign outside that said ‘Telephone’. I could call the police and tell them I’d been kidnapped by a couple dressed up as my parents who were holding me here against my will. I could announce a fire or a hurricane like the one that bent the palm trees and smashed through our windows when I was six. That was bravery: my father pushing his body against a wooden door to protect us from drowning; this was not bravery, it was just the dull pain that comes when something’s wrong and no-one’s doing anything about it.

Boarding school in England had been sold to me as something exciting, but I didn’t need anything more exciting than taking the waves just at the point when they broke and zooming forward on their inexplicable energy, churning round in salty water, crashing against the sand and grazing my hip until it bled, then running out of the water towards a picnic and sitting on the beach contemplating the majesty of the sea.

It was down at the beach that my mother had said to me: “Helen, you can’t stay here forever,” but I wasn’t convinced. I had my friends and my dog, the waves and my small collection of records borrowed from my father. I loved his music but, more than anything, the way he responded to it: he would croon to Nat King Cole and then, when only I was looking, he’d dance around to Elvis Presley, lifting one leg-- a bit like a dog-- and shaking.

When the move to England had become inevitable, I started to change things around in my mind, to create a space that would allow me to leave what I had and face what was coming. It wasn’t easy but I would try. In England I would become sophisticated and grown up. With that promise to myself, I left behind my father’s musical heroes and looked for some bright young British singer with a style that would speak about me. Everyone would love me if I looked like Lulu, that was my plan, but now, sitting here in knee-length socks and this stupid straw hat, I realised I was entering a world that wasn’t geared up for my kind of pleasure.

I stared at the floor because I couldn’t look at anybody, not even at my parents. I felt confused and very weak. After a few minutes, a woman in lace-up shoes approached us and asked my name. She found me on a list and gave it a tick, telling me the number of a dormitory. “Second floor,” she said, leaning over to check my trunk. She smelled of hospitals and had a moustache. A badge on her breast said: ‘house parent’; My mother saw me looking at it and smiled weakly. “Come on,” she said, “let’s go and find the room.”

We dragged the trunk up two flights of stairs and then along a narrow corridor. I don’t know why it was so heavy; all I had inside was the regulation clothing: the exact number of grey socks, bloomers, shirts, ties and everything else the school list had required. There were just a few ‘home clothes’ including my favourite red, wet look boots that I now planned to hide somewhere or disown.

The corridor was covered in linoleum so there was a gentle squeak as we carried the trunk towards the room. I thought about the hundreds of tiny dents in the parquet floor at home and pictured my mother and her friends in their stiletto heels and beehive hairdos. I tried to remember the smell of my parents’ parties and the sound of everyone speaking at once, but the memories crashed against the real smell of industrial cleaner and the creepy silence of our steps.

We opened the door of number eleven. Inside there were six metal beds in a row and, in front, a straight line of cupboards, followed by three stained washbasins and a small mirror. The walls were bare and shiny, painted in the same thick beige colour as the pipes that ran round the room and which came together in a large ribbed radiator under the window. There were heavy brown curtains, nearly as dark as the night. My mother began fussing with the sheet on the bed nearest the door.

“This is your bed.” My mother meant well but it was the worst thing she could have said. Why couldn’t she say that it was ‘the’ bed or ‘a’ bed? I didn’t want to claim it, lie on it, get inside the crisp white sheets and make it mine. My bed was on the other side of the world, on the eighth floor of a building that looked out over a harbour full of Chinese junks with salmon pink sails.



“Is it true that the families who live on the boats – back home I mean – drown their daughters because they’re not boys?”


My father looked uncomfortable. He was usually so good at cheering me up but tonight his eyes were sad and his mouth twitched when he tried to smile.

My mother changed the subject: “That’s nice, Helen! You’re in a room with five other girls. You must write and tell me all about them. I wonder who’ll be your special friend.”

Friends? Would there be anyone else here like me? What would I say to all these girls? I caught my image briefly in the mirror above the basin: my hair was too short and my ears stuck out from under the boater. My Buddy Holly glasses – the ones I loved because they reminded me of him – looked too heavy and stupid. Suddenly I hated them.

What if no one invited me home on a Saturday? I’d be stuck here alone while the English girls rode their horses and ate chocolate cake at tea time. I wanted chow fan and slices of apple boiled in toffee. I wanted my bike and my dog; to be outside in the sunlight, as far away as possible from these muck brown pipes that rattled along cold, shiny walls.

Two girls had come into the room and were sitting on the bed by the window, with their backs to me. They hadn’t said ‘hello’. My father put his hand on my shoulder. It felt nice but when I looked into his face I saw that he was begging me not to cry. I was much too tall to cry so I put my hand in the pocket of my coat and pinched my thigh till it hurt.

“Oh, look at this, Helen,” my father had picked up an envelope on the table by my bed. It was addressed to me. “What is it?” he asked me. I took it quickly from him. I wanted to put it in my pocket for later but he was watching me, so I couldn’t.

“Love letters already?” my father had found his usual voice again, thank God for that.

“Shhhh, dad, someone will hear you.” My father loved to tease me and I liked it; as long as we were on our own.
“Open it,” he said, “I want to see.”

He leaned over to have a better look at the envelope. My mother began to quietly unpack my trunk and store away my uniform in the cupboard. “You two!” she said, relieved that we both seemed happier.

The letter was addressed in my writing and I knew what it was. I took out five sheets of paper and a photograph.

Dear Helen,
it said. Congratulations! You’ve been accepted as a member of Lulu’s fan club! Here’s your membership card, this month’s fan letter and … wait for it … a signed photo of Lulu herself. Welcome to the club!

I was delighted although at the same time embarrassed to reveal my survival strategy, even to my father. I was terrified that he’d ask me: ‘why Lulu?’ and I wouldn’t be able to answer him.

I fingered the photograph and carefully touched her signature to check it was real. She had a huge smile and was looking straight at me with an expression that said it didn’t matter where you come from or if your glasses are too big.

My father was saying something to my mother and I looked up from the photo, curious to hear their conversation. His words were blocked by a bell that rang ferociously through the house. The other girls rushed past my bed and out of the door. “They look very nice,” my mother said.

I searched around helplessly. Did the bell mean suppertime or was it the order for my parents to leave? Was I supposed to keep this stupid hat on all night? Would the girls see me in my underpants and would they laugh because I hardly had any breasts?

“Do I have to stay?” It was a pathetic question and I only asked it to myself. I wouldn’t let my parents hear me. They were sacrificing so much to send me to this school: I knew it was expensive, although looking around at the chipped basin and the hairy blankets, I wasn’t sure why it cost a lot of money.

They wanted to give me a chance in life, “so you can hold your head up high,” my mother had said the day we’d bought my uniform. But I was already taller and ganglier than anyone else my age, so I didn’t understand what she meant. “So you can get somewhere,” she’d explained, but I was already somewhere: sitting on the eighth floor of an apartment block with my friends, spinning bottles to the sound of my father’s rock and roll.

“Only three weeks and I’ll come and take you out,” my mother was saying to me now. “We’ll go to that smart hotel that we passed tonight and you can ask for roast beef served by a waiter in white gloves.”


It would be just my mother and me. My father would have returned to the island but I’d see him next summer and, “hey, what’s a year between friends?” Forever, I thought, but I smiled because he needed me to be strong.

My parents were having a quiet disagreement; I wished they’d shout and my father would grab me by the arm and we’d storm out of this house together. But it wasn’t their style. My mother was shaking her head quietly and my father kept on trying to convince her about something. I read Lulu’s letter for the tenth time. She was telling me what it had felt like to act in a film with Sidney Poitier and how she’d recorded ‘To Sir With Love’ in a studio in North London. She had a new release and she was taking it to the Eurovision Song Contest. She asked me to wish her luck. I did.

My father seemed to have won the debate with my mother. He came over to me with a guilty smile on his face. “Helen, this is for you. But don’t let anyone find it; keep it hidden under your pillow, will you?”

I took the small transistor radio from his hand and nodded. I didn’t want to look at his face. From the end of the bed I could hear my mother say: “it’s not allowed, Helen, remember that.” I nodded again, without looking at her either. I fingered the wire attached to the radio; it had an earphone on the other end.

Without looking up, I said: “You can go now if you want to.”

My father was trying to make a joke about being pushed out by Lulu, but my mother took his arm. When she kissed me goodbye, I smelled the French perfume she always used. My father gave me a hug and then held me at arm’s length so he could look into my face.

“Friends?” he asked. I nodded but it was very difficult. I wanted to ask him if he loved me but we didn’t use that word so the question stayed in my stomach and wouldn’t come out.

“I’ll call you on Saturday,” my mother said.

I swallowed. “Yes.”

“Between six and seven.”


There was silence. They were moving very slowly towards the door.

“I think that bell meant supper,” my mother was saying.

“I’m not really very hungry.”

My father looked old for the first time. It was strange seeing him in all these winter clothes. I liked him better in swimming trunks, dive-bombing off the top of a fishing boat or drinking beer and laughing with his friends. He wasn’t suited to this climate but he’d be better once he got home.

“Helen, I think, maybe, it’d be a good idea to go down … with the others...” he sounded nervous; like the day he heard his father was dead.

“O.k., in just a minute.”

They left quietly and I was alone in the room. It was very cold. I looked under the bed, hoping to find a corpse or anything that might replace this wretched melancholy. But there was only dust and a broken spring.

As I was about to get to my feet, a large splinter entered my knee from a wooden floor board. It really hurt when I pulled it out and that made me feel a little better. I squeezed my knee but it didn’t bleed.

I walked over to the window and pulled back one of the heavy brown curtains. The garden was dark and silent. I took off my hat and rested my forehead against the cold window. It was freezing, like the ice-stick that a doctor uses to burn off a wart. I banged my head several times, trying to slow down the rhythm that was beating in my chest. It didn’t work so I moved away from the window.

It was only September and I’d never felt so cold.

I walked down the central staircase, following the sound of people banging plates and laughing. The woman with the moustache was sitting at one end of the table and thirty girls looked up as I walked in. “This is Helen,” she said above the noise, “She comes from Hong Kong.”

Why did she have to say that? I was English, that’s why I was here, wasn’t it? I sat down in the only space left and then the woman said Grace.

“Helen,” it was the woman again: “you take your gloves off when you eat.” There was laughter around the table and I heard one girl whisper: Chinky Chonky China girl.”

The sausages were brown and thick on the outside and white on the inside. I put a piece of sausage in my mouth so I wouldn’t have to speak to anyone or tell them why I’d kept my gloves on.

I changed in the bathroom along the corridor and walked quickly back to the dormitory in my pyjamas. I heard a girl sniggering but didn’t know why. It would be better once the lights were out and I could pretend I was alone. “Go to sleep now girls,” it was the voice of the house parent, who stuck her head round the door and, without smiling, turned off the light. I lay in the bed trying to think of anything except what was happening.

Once the other girls started chatting, I felt under the pillow for my transistor radio. I fitted the tiny speaker into my ear and looked for Radio One. After about twenty minutes I heard what I’d been waiting for: Lulu’s voice – throaty and fun. She was shorter than me but her voice was deep and strong. She always sounded so up-beat, like she knew that everything would turn out fine and that there’s no point in crying over something you can’t change. I wanted to have red cheeks like her and a big smile and strawberry blonde hair, puffed up at the back. I wanted to know how to wink and to wear high heels.

My heart goes boom bang a bang...

It was her new release; the one she hoped would take her to the top of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Boom bang a bang, boom bang a bang
Right in my ear
It’s such a lovely feeling
When you are near
Boom bang a bang bang in my ear.

I lay under the cold white sheet, looking up at the ceiling and I mouthed the words to the song, without making a sound. When it had finished, I took out the earplug and turned over onto my side. Then I heard a muffled sound coming from the bed next door. A girl was crying but she didn’t want anyone to know. I touched the blanket above her shoulder, feeling for her hand. I passed her my transistor radio. “Here,” I said, “listen to this; it’s really wild.”

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Comments by other Members

Cornelia at 09:01 on 17 July 2010  Report this post
I thought this was well-written and engaging because of the subject matter - a young girl sent to boarding school in England. I've recently reread Antonia White's 'Frost in May', with a similar episode -only the mc is sent to a Catholic boarding school in Ireland. So I inevitably made comparisons.

What struck me first was the matter-of-fact objectivity of the 'voice'. I wondered how old the narrator was. On the other hand, having read many novels about upper class parents sending their children off to boarding schools at an early age, I can see how it would breed an emotional numbness and I wondered if you were aiming for that effect. The parents are seen as the stiff-upper-lip type in the bit that begins 'I wish they would shout'.

This was easy to read, but the lack of emotion and drama is a drawback, so it seems more than the first chapter of a novel than a short story. There's no initial disruption because the girl accepts that her parents are making sacrifices -presumaby she means financial ones, there's no heightening or development of tension -she's not too bothered by the single hostile remark made by one of the girls and there's no real conclusion -she settles down comfortably to listen to the tape of Lulu.

Two queries: a) I can't quite place this in time, and b) I don't understand why, if the mother is staying in England, the girl has to be at a boarding school. I also didn't understand why they came with her instead of dispatching her from Hong Kong. The expense of the journey alone would be a deterrent if they are supposed to have struggled to send Helen to the school.

The father's taste for pop music also threw me because it seemed a bizarre choice for someone of his background. I don't mean any disparagement of Nat King Cole, but that people who send their children off to boarding school usually cultivate the classics and encourage their offspring to play the violin.This, however, led me to consider again the background and that the girl had been in Hong Kong as a child.

They wanted to give me a chance in life, “so you can hold your head up high,” my mother had said the day we’d bought my uniform.

This isn't what an English mother would say. This and the use of the word 'underpants' for 'knickers' makes me conclude the girl is Chinese and learned American English. It's not just the Hong Kong reference that inspires the classmate's remark - they can see she is Chinese. In a way, having read quite a few Chinese writers, I can recognise the slightly distanced aspect of the point of view- it's more Chinese than British, although I see parallels with the controlled emotions of the English upper-class.

So I think the girls Chinese identity should be made clearer, as readers might not pick up on it. or are you intending this to be an enigma for the reader to unravel?

I enjoyed all the mysterious aspects of this because of my interest in the Chinese diaspora experience. I think it needs more structure, for the girl and the reader to have more stake in the outcome, for it to read like a short story.


M Farquharson at 15:14 on 17 July 2010  Report this post
Thanks for your comments which help me to see where the story falls flat. I think I need to 'situate' the story better; the idea is to set the story in an English colony in which identity is lost (she's born in Hong Kong, does that mean she's Chinese? she thinks she's English because of the sort of apartheid system that worked in the British colonies at that time but when she gets to England she realises she isn't English.) An English boarding school is a long way from Carnaby Street. She is an outsider by birth as her father is also in a different way (expressed through his taste in music which I need to make more plausible) I want to get away from stereotypes about upper class families and boarding schools, it's a very difficult subject, a bit like dirty washing, but it might be worth writing about, I'm not sure. The inability of families to use the 'l' word interests me and is very much of that time. The parents were the war generation and the girl is caught between their puritanical upbringing and what is happening in England and elsewhere at the end of the 60s.

I have never written about this subject before; there is alot of taboo but I want to see if I can make it work. Your comments are very useful. Thanks!


Cornelia at 15:46 on 17 July 2010  Report this post
I was three years in Singapore and one in China. I learned ethnic Chinese are easily distinguished and, unless adopted into western families, always imbued with a strong sense of cultural identity.It didn't occur to me that Helen might have been been adopted by an English couple.That makes the mother's remark seem even stranger. However, I did know an English couple in Singapore who adopted a Malaysian Chinese baby. Perhaps all the unanswered questions are why I think this reads like the start of a novel - there'd need to be a backstory to explain the anomalies.

It will be interesting to see how it develops.


M Farquharson at 16:07 on 17 July 2010  Report this post
Shiela: the girl is also supposed to be English,too, whatever that means! I get the message and can see where alot of work needs to be done. Thanks! Mary

Becca at 12:26 on 18 July 2010  Report this post
Hi Mary,
welcome to the short story group. There are a lot of well observed images in the story, and some phrases that I really liked such as '...I felt like a package that had been wrapped up carefully and then delivered to the wrong address.' Also, the passage that starts 'The corridor was covered...', there are some very vivid images here.

I think that structurally you could make some improvements. At the moment it's chronological. One thing I thought you could try was to start at 'This is your bed.' Then weave the rest of the story around that point - the characters are already in the room, you could edit out quite a lot about how they got there.
And I'd re-consider these three passages:-
Boarding school in England..., It was down at the beach...'
When the move to England... Then decide what is essential in them to create the mood you want. You see, these are bits of back story that seem to want to take on a life of their own, if they were slipped into the narrative in a different way, or edited to something briefer, the reader would note but not get distracted by them, and the story wouldn't suggest itself as part of a novel so much.
About the sentence 'Boarding school in England had been sold to me as something exciting...' it feels slightly contrived for the purpose of coming to the body surfing section. I liked the body surfing section a lot, but it jumps right out here, and I wondered if you could meld it in somewhere. Also you've already said 'The group didn't excite me as my mother promised it would.'
I found the dialogue convincing and what the mother says and how she says it feels very authentic. Also you've observed a particular kind of 'Englishness' in the story very accurately, [I can relate to it anyway as a 12 year old Aussie kid coming over here and experiencing the same coldness.]

I wondered though, if Helen would know about the English girls who ride horses and eat cake? And in connection with this as well, it could suggest to the reader that Helen is not a colonial English girl herself. A lot of the story is about identity and who you identify with, [Lulu]. Identity is the strong theme in the story, as well as abandonment. The powerful relationship is that between Helen and her father, I wonder if you can deepen that a bit? Helen might adore her Dad, but would she really latch onto his kind of music?

I thought about the Lulu section and how maybe you could use it differently. I'm not sure what it is about it that doesn't 'do it' for me. Dad loses Helen to Lulu, and that's a way of saying Dad is losing his little girl because she's growing up. Like a metaphor. But then of course the Lulu component has other functions as well - at the end, Helen comforts another girl with it. Maybe the ending is a bit abrupt? Or, if Lulu is to be Helen's 'identity' would she give it up so quickly to someone else she didn't yet know?

I think this could be a good story, it's quite long, you could edit out a lot of it, for example, I don't think you need such a detailed description of the room and the splinter section doesn't add to the story for me. So, I'd look at the descriptions and be quite ruthless with them, you can conjure up the awful institutional feel of the place just a line or two.
I didn't understand about Helen's gloves.....

I hope some of my thoughts are useful. I think this is quite tricky subject matter. How do you convey the experience of a young teenager [?] who had a free life suddenly being transported to a place of gloom?

Desormais at 12:59 on 18 July 2010  Report this post
I enjoyed this, it made me feel a little sad and left me wanting to read more. Two or three points that leapt out at me.

I wasn't exactly sure why she was wearing gloves at dinner and didn't see a link between a waiter in white gloves serving roast beef. Is there one? Or have I missed something.

I felt a bit odd about the phrase "smell of my parents' parties". I'm not sure parties smell, unless it's a cannabis party , and if you had something more in mind, like the smell of food, maybe you could expand on it.

And at the end where she's lying under the cold sheet and touches the shoulder of the person in the next bed, I thought for a moment maybe they were sharing a bed. Or the beds were very close. Maybe something about reaching out, or getting out of bed, feet on the cold floor as she goes across to the bed.

Just a few thoughts. I'd say it's definitely worth working on a bit more. I liked it very much.

M Farquharson at 16:44 on 18 July 2010  Report this post
Thank you both for your comments. I now have a better idea of how to rewrite it. Yes, it is a difficult subject in many ways (it touches quite alot of taboos, I suppose) but I do think that the pov of a young girl arriving in England at that time could end up being interesting. I have read so many great stories about people arriving in England from different cultures and how they do or don't adapt but the idea of this one is the English/not English aspect which I realise I have to work on to make more interesting.

Katerina at 08:52 on 21 July 2010  Report this post

I found this way too long to hold my attention - it felt more like reading an extract from a book - and there was a lot of unnecessary description in here.

You could shorten it quite a bit, which I feel, will make it a nicer story.

The subject matter is a bit touchy, but I like what you're trying to do, it's a different story.

I think you should look at it again, and only keep it what's absolutely vital to the story. Delete anything that doesn't need to be in here, then upload it again for us to read.

Hope this helps,


Cornelia at 09:51 on 21 July 2010  Report this post
I think I can locate where you're coming from, having read stories by English people born and brought up in China and then transferred to England, usually for education purposes. JG Ballard is the best known, I suppose.

I can see also see, now that I know the girl is English, the colonial attitude in the mother's remark about the girl being able to hold her head up - i.e. she needs a private education to be accepted in the right kind of English society,

For me, the end meant not that she was giving up her 'comfort blanket' identification with Lulu (a poor role model to steer her through the snobberies of English upper class society, but that's a different issue and suggests longer treatment) . It meant she was willing to share her discovery that it was possible to remove oneself from loneliness and isolation by identifying with the singer.and her upbeat approach This makes one warm to helen and makes it apparent how ignorant she is about the English class system, and how unprepared, for all she has already experienced the 'apartheid' existing in Hong Kong.

I wondered at first what was meant by 'taboos', so looking back I think it must be the remark about drowning girl babies in Hongkong.

When I first read it I just took it that Helen was trying to make her father feel guilty by implying that sending her to boarding school is a way of getting rid of her. That's understandable. Most people would consider it cruel to send a young girl to boarding school, and to do it from a completely different culture, with no sensible preparation, is horrendous. She has been taught to control her emotions, but her anger comes out at this point. In the parents' defence, they share the common prejudices of their class and think they're doing the best for her.

There have been so many accounts, fictional and non-fiction, from Jung Chang onwards, that the killing of female children is shocking but it isn't really a taboo subject. In some ways it can be regarded .something the girl will have had drummed into her as part of her training, I think.

I liked all the detail in this, but I think I'd be tempted to make more of the culture shock. At the meal -it seems she's thinking the sausage is badly cooked, but sausages itself, as well as other things about the meal, must have been a nasty surprise.


Indira at 16:34 on 21 July 2010  Report this post
Hello Mary


This is a fascinating topic. You’ve really managed to capture the strange feeling of being a misfit that a child experiences when transported from one culture to another, a feeling particularly strange, I think, when the transition is supposedly to ‘home’. As in this case, an English family in a peculiar (you bring out the fact that they are a little different very well) English sub-world, in another country sending their child to school in England.

The MC’s voice is strong and rings true. I really like her and her loyalty to her parents, her recognition of their sacrifice and her effort to find a way to keep herself sane – thru Lulu. That was a brilliant touch. The fact that the MC, who clearly has this strong connection to her father, through their shared pleasure in music, should choose a pop star who is her own and not her father’s choice. A tribute and a breaking out.

Descriptions of the boarding school are sensitive. I think some of the others may have commented on places you could show rather than tell – I am sure you’ll sort those out easily enough. It ends well and I might have normally felt it was a little bit too sentimental, her reaching out to another girl on the first night, but it seems to work alright.

Finally apropos other people’s comments – I didn’t find it too long. On the contrary it was absorbing. I think parties do have a smell - just last week I was transported to a childhood event by the combined smell of someone’s perfume and the aroma of whiskey. I think you have the right level of subtlety with it – in my opinion, trying to emphasise the inherent racism in cross cultural systems would make it all too gauche.

Look forward to reading a rework if you do rework it.


Becca at 17:50 on 21 July 2010  Report this post
I wondered, Mary, if when you said 'I have never written about this subject before; there is alot of taboo but I want to see if I can make it work' that you meant it was tricky writing about the insensitivities of a certain class of English person for fear of offending?

M Farquharson at 01:24 on 25 July 2010  Report this post
Thank you all so much for your comments. Yes, I will now rework this; it has been very useful because I was nervous about tackling such an English subject after so many years of living outside England. Anyway, enough said; for me one of the most revealing portraits of a certain sort of Englishness was written by VS Naipaul not long after arriving in England (A House for Mr Biswas) so maybe distance can be useful. I am very happy to be part of this group and look forward to reading everybody's work and adding my opinions! Best wishes from cold, wet Mexico, Mary

Indira at 06:58 on 25 July 2010  Report this post
I sometimes think A House for Mr Biswas is one of Naipaul's finest.

Re your piece - someone commented that it was unlikely the MC would relate to her father's music. I disagree. Depending on relationships of course, children often do, maybe even more so when they are a little isolated as this family is. For me, the displacedness, and the closeness of the family, both in and out of the UK are sensitive and clear in your writing.

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