The Dead Famous
house to one side had been burned out in a mystery fire and the owners had never been
successfully traced so it stood and remained a sorry looking scorched husk, unsold and unloved.
The house to the other side was owned by a local businessman who had made good with his life
and moved to sunnier climes, apparently in such haste that he had quite forgotten to sell or even
board up his property and so that also was left abandoned. Thankfully it never caught the eyes of
opportunistic squatters and after a while even the postman stopped making deliveries there, so
we appreciated the relative peace this lack of neighbours brought us.
I wanted for nothing as a child. My mother, Katherine, was doting and my father supportive. I
can’t say if being an only child affected the way that they treated me, nor if there would have
been more or even less love had been more children in the family, as I had no way of comparing
my situation I had no point of reference and therefore never missed any alternative life. You
can’t miss what you don’t know.
Life passed me by uneventfully, there are no Tom Brown style stories from my time at school,
there were no eccentric aunts constantly visiting us and there were no local children for me to go
off on wild boyhood adventures with. I enjoyed playing with my Cowboys and Indian toys as I
watched the television serials and, every month or so as a treat, my parents would take me to the
local Odeon cinema to watch a film, a time I always looked forward to and later treasured. The
films were always full of glamour and, when filmed in Technicolor, revealed the world they
moved in all the more to me. It was as far from our north London home as you could get.
Nothing really happened until perhaps my seventh year when my Mother, who had enjoyed
apparently good health until then, became suddenly ill and died, all w ithin a matter of a few
A problem exists when you’re young, it seems that there are so many things to learn around and
about you of a physical nature, that you tend to have the more emotional or intangible parts of
life just pass you by. It’s possible to arrive at a workplace when in your adult life, and notice that
a colleague is having what is often described as a bad day, or that your lover or partner is “under
the weather”, but this does not apply to children, they only know that they are being ignored and
so are unintentionally selfish. So, even though I state that my Mother had died within a matter of
weeks, what I should say is that within these few weeks I felt my life disrupted and my Mother
was present in my life a lot less.
My Father would often be running around with bags packed for overnight hospital stays and our
previously quiet household now became thrown into a comparative chaos. I did not know why,
or how it had happened. There was no time for explanation and, in the days after her death, very
few words came from my father who quietly dressed me and sent me off to school, or simply
disappeared to cry behind closed doors while I tried my best to continue playing in the hallway
As time passed by, I spent more and more time alone with the television and all the stars on it’s
warm, glowing screen as my babysitter while my father made all the necessary arrangements for
A week went by and what I could only view as chaos once again entered our home. My Mother’s
family had been Irish Catholic and insisted on all the traditions of a funeral as they saw it. O ur
sitting room was turned into an exhibition area for my Mother and her coffin, the family milling
around pretending to pay what they thought were respects as my father rushed from person to
person filling glasses while they commented on our house although they had never, as far as I
could recall, visited before.
At one point my father lifted me up to see my Mother lying in state, naturally quite still and