My disbelief grows weary of suspending itself…

I’m onto a sticky wicket with suspenders, I know. American suspenders are as illustrated below:


British suspenders are things that hold up stockings, supposedly wicked, lacy and black (or red) but as I recall them from my uncomfortable schooldays, more often medical, pinkish and rubbery, and held together with sixpenny pieces when they broke. They always broke. The rubber perished. The little suspend-things cracked and disintegrated…

So what do Americans call suspenders-suspenders if what we call braces are there known as suspenders? But what holds up American stockings? If that’s suspenders too, how do they know what they are holding up? Is it just a matter of deduction from the context?

But this post is not about that.

When I was at school, struggling with the uncomfortable suspenders and the 60-denier sun-mist-stockings-with-seams – surely the ugliest stocking ever invented (not about that, remember!) it was explained to me that when we get completely lost in a book, or a film, or a story told by some grey-haired hippie-type lady whilst sitting cross-legged on a cushion in the library (pre-suspenders) was called ‘suspension of disbelief’.

I did not used to find this difficult, except in the case of plays. Plays have never done it for me. I’ve never been able to get past the reality of a lot of foreshortened real human beings prancing about on a stage and acting at one another. I can tell it’s acting. I can always tell it’s acting, even if it’s good acting, and it annoys me. People are pretending and I can see them doing it.

A posh lady I went to a play with once advised me that this was probably because I hadn’t grown up in a theatre-going household. She didn’t mean to be patronising, and she was right, partially – we didn’t go to plays, or the ballet or opera, come to that.

My parents were working class and, even if they could have afforded to go, would have been terrified to pass through the doors of a theatre. They wouldn’t have known what to wear or how to behave. They would have felt they stuck out like a sore thumb.

An all-encompassing self-consciousness is one of the things which go with being not-posh. Only when you are middle class can you raise your voice above a low murmur, not minding if others hear. Only when you are middle class can you walk about with your shoulders back and your snoot in the air, flinging your purple pashmina dramatically over your right shoulder, and not even know you are doing it. That’s confidence. Read Alan Bennett’s loving tales of his Mum and Dad if you don’t believe me. He knows. Alan Bennett is the greatest.

But I could get lost in a book. So could my mother, but my father appeared not to possess the suspension of disbelief gene. Maybe he lost it, as he lost so much, as a young conscript in the second world war. The war really did for him in a lot of ways, I think. He could never leave me alone when I was reading. He used to wave his hands in front of my face and think it was funny. ‘Look at her – she’s miles away. Away with the fairies.’ He never did understand why this was annoying.

Same with films, although mercifully my father wasn’t usually with me when I went to the pictures: I could be immersed in the story, living inside even the most far-fetched sci-fi blockbuster. I would be one or all of the characters, fleeing in terror from the scary monsters, falling in love, falling off a high building… The film’s ‘afterglow’ would stay with me for days afterwards, the story re-running itself in my head, scenes acting themselves out before my inner eye. And maybe it would still be the same, if I could afford to go.

Instead of fiction-reading, my father used to read out columns from newspapers – anything he found to be of interest. He was interested in politics and the financial markets, the way they worked, even though these things had little effect on his everyday life. We used to sit there bored, and the read-out paragraphs seemed to get longer and longer. When he grew ancient, however, propped up in a chair with a cushion behind his neck and the walker by his side, he lapsed into depression and scarcely spoke.  My mother used to gauge how happy, or not, he was by whether he read out any paragraphs. Eventually, he read out no paragraphs. He read nothing. He told my sister he had forgotten everything he had ever been or ever done. God save us.

As I have grown older I have become more interested in politics and found it more and more difficult – not to read – the words still make perfect sense – but to get lost in reading. My suspension of disbelief seems to have suspended operations. I am turning into my father, and this saddens me. Reading was all I had. I got through a tedious and difficult life mostly by daydreaming. I could lose myself in stories, and in plans I would never carry out, journeys I would never, practically, be able to make. Now, although I am still doing my best to get it back I feel – now here’s a simile for you, or maybe a metaphor – like a hunted rabbit, all exits sealed by the men with the dogs – or is it ferrets? – just an airless darkness and waiting for Whatever-it-is to be sent down after me.

13 thoughts on “My disbelief grows weary of suspending itself…

  1. We called them garter belts/garters but most women here wear pantyhose or go bare-legged and if there are men who wear garters for their stockings, I’d be surprised. (And chilled.) You’re neither your mother nor your father. You are uniquely you in all the world for all time. I only know you from your writing, but you make a real difference in my day — a pleasant one, and sometimes even more — a real one. You’ve even drawn me into your sci-fi fiction posts, and I NEVER do that! Very few have ever easily gotten me to suspended my disbelief, there; you are one of the one to whom I’ll always grant that, as I know it will be worth it. Overall, I would prescribe more chocolate for you, and a box in which to store all your writings — with your niece’s name on it (for Someday). And then, scratch out the parts mentioning deep talents, here, and send this back to me sometime for my own reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you – mystery solved! Stockings a thing of the past here too. Funny how words are shared, often, but their definition different. I wore home made elastic ‘garters’ at Junior School to keep up my knee-socks, and a bride is supposed to wear a discreet garter, often blue to fulfil the Something Blue bit of the rhyme. Stocking worn saggy and wrinkling by an old woman often used to be referred to as ” Norah Battys” after a character in a TV comedy series, Last of the Summer Wine.

      Thank you for your other kind comments. Chocolate can never be wrong, though I ate a whole Mars Bar yesterday and still wrote that post! Doubt if niece would be interested in the box of writings, even if she remembers who I am. Suspect they are safer, posterity-wise, online, which is one reason why I started this blog by fishing all those damp, spider-infested boxes out of the garage before the family got the chance make a soggy bonfire of them in the back garden. My first few months of blogging were mostly spent editing and posting years of past ‘scribbles, both published and ‘un’.

      Aha, this blog is like Silas Mariner’s pot of gold under the floorboards, to be brought out and gleefully counted from time to time… :;

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL! Well, I hear that. And if you need a reviewer blurb on some upcoming book-to-be, I’ve got one already half-written. (Hopefully, my email shows up in comments beginning with “Momminator”?) At the least, promise me in blood, spit, or catnip toys that you’ll never lose your internet connection!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t think I have seen any Momminator comments. I’m sure you always appear as Relax? I must investigate.

        Well, fingers fervently crossed, if only because I’d be lost without internet grocery shopping!.

        We have only one shop, aimed at caravan holidaymakers. It doesn’t believe in the existence of cats so if I did lose the internet I would be reduced to catching the rattletrap bus into town every day with Mum’s old shopping trolley to buy tins in bulk. Alternatively there is the 5 to 6 mile trek on foot via the back roads to the next decent-sized village (3 hours, I reckon) then the same back, pushing heavy trolley. Oh yes, I have even worked out my ‘fire, flood or other disaster’ escape/re-supply route on the Ordnance Survey map, and done the timings. 🙂

        Am I beginning to sound just a little like Sheldon Cooper?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Just to add a note about garter belts: They weren’t quite as rubbery as you describe (at least as I remember them) but they did make you feel–just a bit–as if you were a puppet and someone was pulling the strings up on your legs with each step.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I could never get immersed in plays, either, even the ones I really like. I’m always aware that I’m watching people acting. The older I get, the harder I find it to become immersed in movies as well, although reading still does it for me. As long as the writing is good, that is.
    And yes, your writing is good enough that I can get lost in your stories…even when you are describing real things, such as your visits to your mother. You have both the talent and love of writing that makes for a really good read.

    Liked by 1 person

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