Tuesday, September 15, 2009

on siblings

This article in the Guardian today is really really fascinating; after a shared childhood which was both mutually-supportive and unsettling, the Kaczynski brothers became estranged. And one, David, gradually realised that the other, Ted, was the Unabomber, the American murderer who carried out a campaign of mail bombings over almost two decades in protest at the encroaching influence of technology on society. His victims – thankfully only three were killed – ranged from University Professors to airline passengers, from lobbyists in the Timber Industry to a computer rental shop owner. Most suffered because of a sometimes only minor connection with technology. David, noticing similarities between the Unabomber’s manifesto and the furious letters he sometimes received (a key recurring phrase was ‘cool-headed logicians’), notified the FBI.

I’m always powerfully attracted to stories about siblings, and intrigued by the relationship between them. It’s common I think for only children to be interested in this concept – and people often ask me if, when I was young, I wanted a brother or a sister. The answer is that I never, even for one moment, considered it a possibility. I never imagined having a sibling, never felt that my position as an only child was under threat – which is testament I suppose to how loved my parents made me feel. It’s only since I’ve been an adult that sibling relationships have started to interest me – not in such a way as to induce any feelings of envy or regret; but as a powerful spur to my imagination. I often find myself, when I write, returning to the idea of siblings, which is probably a bad idea as I’m not in a position to write with any authority on the subject.

The other day, working on a new song, I was struggling with finding lyrics for the vocal harmony I had in mind. Just as I was at the point of giving up, I invented a completely different melody and grabbed a piece of paper, and wrote a very quick, almost stream-of-consciousness lyric about waiting to be collected from some kind of meeting or event in a village hall. Without thinking, I included the verse:

"I collect up the bodies,
I fold down the chairs,
I wait for my brother.
I whistle a tune,
And our mother – she gave us new clothes to wear".

Flicking through song lyrics I’ve written, I often write as if I’m one of a pair of siblings. How strange. Another song opens with the line,

"Oh Catherine… I know you’re not my sister".

Dr Freud? Any thoughts?


A startled Laura said...

"I collect up the bodies"????

I think you're the unabomber.

Jonathan said...

Erk, rumbled.

paola said...

Thanks for mentioning on my blog that your mother did the fashion illustrations for Jackie magazine! Please tell her that her images were the best in the magazine and bring back so many memories of my teenage years. In fact if she's still got any around I'd love to buy some...

Thanks also for the above post - I'm in the process of raising an only child and it's very heartening to know that you didn't miss having siblings.

(Sorry to put all this in a comment, but I couldn't find an email address for you)

Ben said...

Yep, fascinating article - how the two brothers could be so alike in some ways, but so dramatically different in others.