Monday, January 31, 2011

Flat Out Already

Uhhh, yeah. Where was I?

Okay. Trying to catch up on a few deadlines. Short stuff, mostly. Hard to get back into it when you've been writing longer work. And meanwhile, there's life.

Nat took off to collect Elder Son from the music camp on Friday night. Came back Saturday afternoon. Yeah, the boy had a good time. No surprise there. In fact, he couldn't stop talking about it.

My heart goes out to him at times like this. I remember all too well what it was like at his age. School was like - some kind of alien planet, populated by freakazoids from another dimension. I couldn't talk to most of 'em, because there was literally no common ground. And even the friends I had at school... I couldn't really unload on 'em. They weren't reading Moorcock and Robert Howard and Asimov and Heinlein and Tolkien. They were watching a lot of television, and occasionally playing sport.

So Jake -- when I took him to the WorldCon and he spent a few days surrounded by kids with similar interests (and adults who weren't immediately going to dismiss him because of his youth) it just lit up his fucking world. He talked about it for a month afterwards.

This music thing was similar. He was put in a little dorm with a half-dozen boys his age, all of whom have the kind of parents who have given their kids the chance to pursue music. It's rare to find kids who are given music and ONLY music, naturally. Unsurprisingly, he had a lot in common with them, and they ran riot.

I really feel for him. He's had that little window opened - a glimpse of a world where he can actually feel like he belongs, like he's got peers and equals and people with whom he can laugh and joke without the risk of spite and misunderstanding. And of course, he'll be back in school in a week or two.

I don't think I had that experience of 'fitting in' until I was at university. True, I had a good time in my last year or two with the Cairns Youth Orchestra, but when you're fourteen or fifteen and your 'peers' are seventeen and up... well, people change fast at that age. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have met the people I did at university, and equally fortunate to discover the community that surrounds speculative fiction in Australia, and elsewhere.

Makes me wonder whether it's fair to the little guy, sometimes. Giving him glimpses like this -- knowing all the while that the real world is completely different. It doesn't matter what he does when he's an adult. He will never be able to surround himself with a community like that. If he's lucky, he'll have a few good years around college, hanging out with smart, creative (and dirt poor; that's more important than you might think!) people. The rest of it he'll have to get in dribs and drabs - a week here, a conference there, a festival next month.

It's the same for all of us, of course. And I suppose there's no way around it. He'll get over it, the way we all do.

Meanwhile. On Sunday, we got hauled into the local fund-raising concert at Bridport. It was a variety show: lots of people singing, playing instruments. Very community-oriented, and very nice. We were second on the bill. The Mau-Mau played 'Three Kings of Orient' on the piano. Then Younger Son took on 'Ode To Joy' on his double bass. He lost his way about halfway through, but kept sawing away until he recovered, found his place, and finished. I think I'm prouder of him for that than I would have been if he'd made it through spotlessly: that ability to keep going, find your place and come back is one of the most important skills in musicianship.

Jake played a 'mysterious piece' on his cello. It's still mysterious to me. Then Natalie and I played a reel on flute and fiddle, and she played a solo reel, and I played a slow air, and finally, we got together with the kids to play a version of 'Frere Jacque'... I arranged it a little bit. Younger Son played the first bar, and repeated it for the whole piece. Jake played once through on the melody with Nat and I, but then repeated the final bar (while Younger Son kept on with the first bar) while Nat and I did the melody again, with the Mau-Mau singing. (On key, miraculously!)

Sure. It's just a chestnut. But it actually sounded pretty good. Unfortunately, the kindly lady to whom I handed the video camera had a bit of a non-technical moment, and we didn't get a record. Ah well.

And here I am. Natalie's birthday is tomorrow. It's hot outside. I've got deadlines... but I'm having trouble concentrating because Nat is in conflict with the Mau-Mau and the Younger Son just outside my door. Think I'll go shopping, maybe take a kid or two with me to give her a break.

Whups. The Mau-Mau just upped the ante. Gotta go.


  1. Yes, he'll be back in school in a week or two. Hopefully he'll be able to use his windows to reassure himself that he's not alone rather than to depress himself. I know I'd rather have occasional light than none at all.

  2. You had Cairns, I had Logan, thank God for books. We also learnt to hold on tight to those slivers of humanity that we can interact with that aren't family.

  3. Books make a big difference, don't they? And yeah: I guess it does teach you to value your friends.

    Sue... I don't know. I think that if at that age I'd ever seen how good it could be - I think the school and the rest would have been all that much more unbearable.

    I'm gonna hope that you're right, not me.

  4. He'll definitely make it but I remember feeling the same way. Shit, I still do. How lucky you are to have such an intelligent, kid that you can truly relate to.

  5. I'm hoping genetics had more to do with it than luck. Heh.

    Actually - smart kids are a pain in the arse. They ask irritating questions, need much more stimulus in their environment, and can be relied on to find far more disastrous ways of getting into trouble and causing destruction than less bright kids.

    Natalie's standard half-joking blessing to new parents is usually: "Have dumb kids."

  6. Lol! They're too smart to be content with mediocrity and normalcy.

    I have no doubt that being the son of a Doctor and man of a thousand talents has NOTHING to do with it! :)