One of the side-effects of moving house is that you come across all sorts of… stuff. In my case, all sorts of old writing stuff. I’ve found boxes of what used to be known as Little Magazines. There were a lot of them before the internet really took hold – before publishing software, even. They were short-lived publications, usually A5, on cheap paper and were put together by dedicated people – or one solitary dedicated person – in back bedrooms or student common-rooms using nothing more sophisticated than a typewriter, glue, a bit of arty cut-and-paste, a photocopier and a long-arm stapler.
My parents did something similar for years. They weren’t arty or literary in any way, but they were the joint Secretary of a cycling club. In the suburban bungalow they had built themselves (my Mum eight months pregnant with my sister, clambering up ladders with hods full of roofing tiles, apparently – no wonder my sister turned out so strapping) what had once been my bedroom became home to a ghastly second-hand photocopier, which my mother spent more time trying to repair than actually using – and a very small desk with her manual typewriter on it. The Silverette it was called. It was a bright, eggy yellow so maybe it would have been better named The Goldette. Or even The Buttercup. I have the small desk now – it’s right here beside me. Unfortunately Buttercup has gone to the big scrapheap in the sky.
In the cupboard under the welsh-dresser were reams and reams of cheap photocopier paper – precisely stacked – my mother wasn’t one for ragged edges. My deliberately-engineered Hobbit-ish toppling towers of dusty paperbacks were anathema to her.
There were industrial-sized boxes of staples. There were bottles of Gloy paper glue – the gloopy, white sort. The thinner, brown sort of Gloy was, for some reason, reserved for postage – sticking on stamps that had lost their sticky, attaching little Snowmen and Father Christmases to brown paper parcels, that kind of thing. For most of the week, it seemed, at one point, Mum was immured in her “office” with this… commotion going on as the photocopier attempted to shake itself to bits. (Even that wasn’t as bad as one of her previous obsessions – the knitting machine which used to destroy everyone’s television watching concentration as she slammed the handle-thing back and forth over the rows of hooks.)
It was a good magazine, if you were a cyclist. When Mum and Dad finally got forced off the cycling club committee by the Evil one known as Fat Pat – who was later to accidentally drive her car into a pond, much to my mother’s delight – and her lily-livered but equally Evil husband Eric – Fat Pat lost no time in commandeering the club magazine. It shrank to about a quarter of its size and everyone stopped subscribing to it – no doubt because Dad had been writing a good eighty percent of the content (“yarns” he called them) under one fanciful pseudonym or another, and editing the remaining twenty percent of rambling and incoherent submissions from other club members into readable shape. He must have discovered something I later rediscovered through audio typing legal dictation: people with no ‘ear’ for words rarely if ever notice that you have subtly amended their stuff. They simply assume they were cleverer than they thought.
So, amongst a cardboard boxful of such Little Magazines in which I Got Something Published – in the early days when I naïvely imagined them to be the route to literary fame and fortune – I discovered one called Buddhism Now, June 1991. In it is an article I had called ‘Landscape’. Not terribly imaginative. This was when I was going through my Reincarnation and Zen phase. My soon-to-be-ex-husband described this phase as When She Got Religion. I’ve scanned the first few paragraphs and yes – it’s making me cringe already.
However, no doubt I will type it out and post it in due course. As Ella Wheeler Wilcox would have written, had she been perusing Buddhism Now:
Post and the world cringes with you;
Don’t, and you cringe alone.