17 August 2011


from LIGHTHOUSEKEEPING by Jeanette Winterson

My mother called me Silver. I was born part precious metal, part Pirate.

I have no father. There's nothing unusual about that — even children who do have fathers are often surprised to see them. My own father came out of the sea and went back that way. He was crew on a fishing boat that harboured with us one night when the waves were crashing like dark glass. His splintered hull shored him for long enough to drop anchor inside my mother.

Shoals of babies vied for life.

I won.

I lived in a house cut steep into the bank. The chairs had to be nailed to the floor, and we were never allowed to eat spaghetti. We ate food that stuck to the plate — shepherd's pie, goulash, risotto, scrambled egg. We tried peas once — what a disaster — and sometime we still find them, dusty and green in the corners of the room.

Some people are raised on a hill, others in the valley. Most of us are brought up on the flat. I came at life at an angle, and that's how I've lived every since.

At night my mother tucked me into a hammack slung cross-wise against the slope. In the gentle sway of the night, I dreamed of a place where I wouldn't be fighting gravity with my own body weight. My mother and I had to rope us together like a pair of climbers, just to achieve our own front door. One slip, and we'd be on the railway line with the rabbits.

"You're not an outgoing type," she said to me, though this may have had much to do with the fact that going out was such a struggle. While other children were bid farefull with a casual, "Have you remembered your gloves?" I got, "Did you do up all the buckles on your safety harness?"

Why didn't we move?

My mother was a single parent and she had conceived out of wedlock. There had been no lock on her door that night when my father came to call. So she was sent up the hill, away from the town, with the curious result that she looked down on it.

Salts. My home town. A sea-flung, rock-bitten, sand-edged shell of a town. Oh, and a lighthouse.

I. Love. This. Book.  

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