Thursday, December 31, 2009

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

I met her at a conference. You might recognise her easily because she sits in the front row and asks questions. She has a tinny voice and asks questions that have the ring of the non-sequitor about them. She is of average height, with curly fair hair that must be coloured given her age. Mid fifties you would say, thin and pale skinned. She is friendly in a sometimes over the top way that can be off putting especially for others who might be shy. She thrusts herself forward to introduce herself to complete strangers. Bold, I say.

She is a note taker, the whole way through every talk you see her taking notes as if her life depends upon it. I look over her shoulder from my position in the second row and I see that her handwriting is virtually illegible. I could never read it. I ask her about it at morning tea.
‘I’m a compulsive note taker,’ she says. ‘I have to take everything down; otherwise I fear I will miss out on something. I never know when I might need it.’

She has the feel of someone who is hungry for more. She moves through a room at a fast pace. You do not often see her dawdle. Always in a hurry. Again you wonder what is she running from, or where is she running.

She is good enough with her words but she seems to lack confidence in herself sometimes, at surprising times when you least expect it. She is forever qualifying the things she says, as if she is fearful of offending people.
‘At the risk of generalising,’ she will say. Or, ‘I don’t want to polarise positions,’ or, ‘I know, it’s not exactly like this…’

She turns around from her place in the front row to introduce herself to me. She is the only one in the front row. I could never do that it would bother me too much, stick out like a sore thumb.
‘I sit here so I can hear better,’ she says. ‘But people don’t seem to like the front row. I wonder why?’ she says.
‘Perhaps it’s too close to the speaker,’ I say. ‘Perhaps they like to have some distance between themselves and the other person.’

That is the strange thing about her. She gives the impression of being open, open like a book, and yet I get the sense sometimes that she is a dark horse. She keeps stuff to herself. She will tell you her story all right. She will tell you all these things about her life and her family. But I am not sure I can trust her. There is something about her. Something underhand. Is it dishonest perhaps? I often get the sense that she is sizing me up, sizing the situation up and if I am not careful she will use it somewhere else.

Writers do this all the time I know, but she has the look of a writer who will plunder another person’s deepest secrets, the ones she does not even know herself and put them in a book somewhere. This is scary. It is scary to be with such a person. Nothing you say can be taken for granted. Nothing she says can be said without feeling that you are skating on thin earth. Yet she is okay to be with.

She has blue eyes and she looks at you intently while you speak. She looks at you meaningfully as if she is taking in your words, as if what you say matters to her, though there are times when I see her eyes close over as if she has had enough of me and there are other times, like when I talk about my interest in spirituality, when I sense a shift in her focus as if she does not want to talk about it with me, or she does not take me seriously anymore.

She likes to come across as someone without prejudice, but she is prejudiced all right. You can feel it. The way her shoulders stiffen when someone talks about god and religion, the way her lips come together as if she is trying to press them shut in order to not let anything out, for fear of what she might say. You can feel it in the tension that rises up out of her that she is intolerant here.

Sometimes I imagine she is just bursting with the wish to tell someone else to shut up. Shut up, she would like to say to someone else who has taken the floor for too long. Shut up, give someone else a turn. She is like that. She is into turn taking in a big way. If someone has gone on for a while, she will try to shift the focus onto someone else. She says she hates groups. She tells me as much during our lunchtime break.
‘I’m sixth in line, she says, 'an ignominious position,' as if this accounts for everything about her.
‘Groups are dangerous things,’ she tells me. 'Things happen in groups and sometimes it’s hard to know what’s going on. All these people talking together going in different directions and all these undercurrents that people can’t or won’t talk about it.’

I have noticed this in her. The way she sometimes wants to bring these undercurrents to the surface and sometimes her words come out with a jolt as if she has come from some unexpected tangent of her own, as if she has followed a long windy chain of thought to get to where she is at and suddenly she lets it all out bang plop into the middle of the conversation and it is disturbing like a big wind that picks up suddenly and knocks over chairs and tables in your outside garden, a wind that knocks over anything that is not fixed to the ground.

She seems to know a lot and when she does not know she will ask questions so that she can at least have something to say. If she is not interested, and it happens, her eyes glaze over for a while. Then I catch her casting glances around the room as if she is looking for better company. She is ruthless like that. She does not like to be bored. She does not like to sit with people who do not interest her. She will take herself away rather than sit with people with whom she cannot connect.

I do not know how she sees me. She puts up with me I suppose. She must. I am her mirror image.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Write about your obsessions

In her book, READING, WRITING AND LEAVING HOME, Lynn Freed tells a story of how at one time while she struggled to find something on which to write, a friend said,
'Write about your obsessions’.

Our obsessions lie deep within, Freed suggests. They are so familiar and non-obvious to us that we almost do not recognise them.

Freed is obsessed with her theatrical and moody mother, she writes. My obsession would have to be with my father. I write this with certainty, but can I be so sure? If I ask myself then what else obsesses me I might start a list.

I have said it already, first on my list: I am obsessed with my father, the sheer size of him. The way he would take over a room the minute he entered it. The way his voice boomed above all others, the way he needed to place himself at the centre, the way he seemed unable to share. His will was all, his militant will, his will that ruled like a sergeant major, that crossed over any preconceived ideas about what we might do or how we might do it.

And yet brooding underneath his militancy, I sensed my father’s dissatisfaction. He never believed his will had been followed. He felt cheated by life, by the very existence of the children that he had helped to bring into the world because the only way he could marry my mother was to convert to Catholicism and in converting he had agreed to obey the church’s rules about the non-use of contraception. Given that he had struggled to practise abstinence or so it would seem in view of the number of pregnancies throughout my parents' fertile years - twelve in all, and at least five of those each a year apart - my father failed to practise abstinence. And yet, ‘He loved it when I was pregnant,’ my mother has told me. 'He was always gentle then.’

My father was not a gentle man. There was a cruel streak in him that I fear I have inherited though I try to keep mine in check. I try not to let mine slip out. But it does. The other night, a woman in our small writing group who chattered on endlessly and would not be silenced, told yet another story from her extraordinary childhood, one for which she provided thorough and well rehearsed details, as a statement of fact, and all from her memories and experience as a child.

In response, instead of applauding, I could not resist the comment:
‘Have you heard of the notion of the unreliability of memory?’
'Yes,' she said, 'but all this is true.'
She was silent after that and went to bed early. Since then she has not dominated conversations with her endless detail. The conversation has become more inclusive.

This brings me to my second obsession: the stuff of fairness; my belief that everyone must get a go and that hopefully everyone’s go is proportionate to everyone else’s. Though I know I fail at this too. I know it rarely ever happens.

Perhaps the wish that everyone should get a fair go, and here I speak about fairness in conversation when together in a group. Turn taking, it is called. If the person in charge of a group in situations where there is such a person, does not take his/her responsibilities seriously and fails to move around the room and give each person approximately equal amounts of air time, then I become incensed. However, if by chance, I get more than my share - if I am one of the lucky ones - then I feel guilty.

I derive the greatest satisfaction from the illusion that a group is in harmony, that we all agree with one another; that we are having a wonderful time; that whatever experience we are enduring is equally wonderful to all. Even as I know that all of this is impossible, an approximation only and one that does not preclude the possibility of world wars.

This brings me to my third obsession, my family, not so much my present family as the one from my past. My preoccupation with my children and husband is more a constant force in my life, something I imagine I will never lose. I do not consider this to be a true obsession, more an ongoing love, but my preoccupation with my family of origin borders on obsession.

Just as my father held the size, my family holds the numbers. There are so many of us and I have never known a life without at least one or two or three of my siblings in the picture. My dreams are still haunted by my siblings, they feature nightly whether in direct form or even in the form of the people with whom I work, or my friends. I can always tell when a character in my dream has taken the place of a sibling. There is a particular feel, a peculiar mix of love and hate.

In her book, Lynn Freed quotes Marguerite Duras’s consideration of her childhood:

'In books I’ve written about my childhood, I can’t remember, suddenly, what I left out, what I said. I think I wrote about our love for our mother, but I don’t know if I wrote about how we hated her too, or about our love for one another, and our terrible hatred too, in that common family history of ruin and death which was ours whatever happened, in love or in hate, and which I still can’t understand however hard I try, which is still beyond my reach, hidden in the very depths of my flesh, blind as a new born child. It’s the area on whose brink silence begins.'

This would have to be true of all my obsessions: they signify the tension between love and hate, between the desire to be at one with and the desire to get away from, the desire to caress and the desire to kill.

‘Kill ’im off,’ my father said repeatedly to my mother during his nightly drunken rambles. I did not understand his meaning at the time, but now I wonder whether he too felt as I sometimes do, shut out, unwanted, a wound to be excised.

This brings me to my fourth obsession: the desire to belong. I love nothing more than to walk into a building, a house, and to sense the familiarity of location – this is where I belong. I have sensed it after years of working in the one place. I sense it whenever I walk through my own front door. I know it is illusory - most things are - but it is a comfort to me and one that contrasts with the sense of alienation I feel when a place no longer feels welcoming. A place ceases to be welcoming when there is conflict, or when there are things going on behind the scenes that cannot be addressed.

This then brings me to my fifth obsession: the sense of wanting to get below the surface to what is really going on. To deal with the version of whatever elephant is in the room at any given time. There is always an elephant in the room. There are always in any situation subterranean rumbles that people work hard to skirt around and ignore. Most of the time I do likewise, especially when it does not matter - to me at least - in superficial situations when it is okay to float on the surface.

But when it matters, when we are meant to be having a meaningful conversation but we are not because we have been given the message that we cannot speak the obvious, the obvious to me at least, then I am like a restless ant, scurrying from one thought to another. I find it hard to settle in the room. I hunger for some sense of anchoring and it will only come when someone has said something about what appears to be going on underneath. Often, more often than not, this does not happen and once again I am left dissatisfied.

This brings me to my sixth obsession: connection. I long for connection, a sense of getting through to another person however momentarily, a sense of sharing, a glimmer of intimacy where we can share an affinity and a sense of at oneness, again however illusory.

Connection is illusory. It is like the truth, it is something we can only sense, we can only glimpse, we can only hold close to us in our minds, but it can never be grasped firmly. As soon as we try to get too firm a grasp on it we lose it.

Connection turns to possession, possessiveness; and truth turns to doctrine. Doctrine is dangerous, as is possessiveness. We must hold loose to our loves. I suspect it is our hates that enable us to do this.

Have I run out of obsessions? Perhaps the list should end here.

And you? Do you, too, write into your obsessions? Can you share yours?

For me this list becomes a deep and endlessly fascinating source of ideas and I thank Lynn Freed for sharing her friend's suggestion.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Travel without a ticket

During my seven days at The Writer's House, Varuna, in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, I felt at times overwhelmed by a sense of my inability as a writer, by my fraudulence. The experience led me into memories.

I travel without a ticket. My concession card has long expired but I keep it tucked inside my blazer pocket in the hope that every time I flash it past the stationmaster at the gate, he will not notice and will wave me through.

For a year we travel like this, my sister and I. From Parkdale railway station beside the sea to Richmond and its factories in the middle of which, in a green oasis of garden and trees, sits our school.

It has become something of an art this business of concealment, with many different strands and possibilities. Every day as we stand on the platform waiting for the train we look to the ground for cast off tickets. There are some, which are useless. They have a pink stripe or a bold print declaration that marks them as tickets once used by someone in a special category, different from ours. We need tickets that belong to concession-eligible students and there are plenty of these around if only we are lucky.

I also have a store of these tickets in my blazer pocket. I use them at the other end of my journey. I have become adept at walking past the station man with a cool air. I toss the ticket into his open hand along side all the other people who do likewise. It is important to get into the middle of a large bunch of people. This way the station man does not have time to look too closely at out tickets, my sister and I, when they fall into his hand. Concealment comes in numbers.

Anxiety is at its height at these times. That climactic moment, as if in a movie when the ticket man looks down at your ticket, drags it out from the pile in his hand and looks at its past-its-use-by date and sees that it is a ticket for a journey that stopped four stations before in Malvern, or sees that it is a ticket that should have been used last year, and recognises that you are a fraud. He calls for you to stop within the crowd of strangers, selects you out as a non person, a person who is not worthy of such travel. It gets worse.

In my imagination my sister and I are held hostage in the station master’s office until the police arrive. I am not so young and foolish these days as to imagine that we will be sent to prison for our crime, nor am I worried about what our mother will say. She does not have money to give us to buy our tickets. She must know that we travel on imaginary ones. She never says a word about this to us and we know not to tell. She has worries enough about finding money for food.

Nor do I worry about what the nuns might say. The nuns are more tolerant of poverty than many, and since we have started to travel to school from Parkdale, since our parents have separated and the nuns know the story from my older sister - who once planned to be a nun herself but they would not take her on the grounds of insanity - since then, the nuns have been kind.

They turn a blind eye to my partial uniform, to the fact that my indoor shoes are worn out and should be replaced, to the fact that I hold my pinafore together with a safety pin. They turn a blind eye. But I wear these things badly in my mind and it is my fellow students who torment me with their stares, like the anonymous throng of people scurrying from the train. I see them in my mind’s eye when the ticket man calls to us to stop – ‘that’s not a proper ticket’ – when he grabs me by the wrist as if he imagines I will attempt a quick get away. Then it becomes the single eye of the anonymous crowd like a giant eye blinking down from the sky that stares with accusation and criticism. It is a look I have seen in my mother’s eyes when she disapproves. It is a deadly look, the look of the curse - the curser looks upon the cursed, and the cursed one is damned forever.

Can you imagine? A year of this? A year of traveling on trains twice a day, of sitting in the middle carriage, hands on our laps, our bags at our feet, sharing the bag of lollies a school friend and her sister who live in Bentleigh buy at the shop in the tunnel of the Richmond railway station on our way home.

I wonder that they do not resent us. We do not reciprocate. We do not buy lollies. We do not have money to share. We sit together in a huddle, white gloves in summer, brown in winter, demure schoolgirls chattering about the day’s events. Four of us travel together but two of us are frauds. Two of us do not have a ticket.

I watch the doors at every platform when the train comes to a halt. I watch for the men in grey – the ticket inspectors. I have a plan laid out in my mind. The ticket men will prepare to walk into our carriage. We will see them as the train pulls into the station. As soon as we see them we will stand up, make a sudden excuse to our friends, grab our school bags and leave. Then we will take ourselves to the toilets in the middle of the platform, well away from the exit gate and the stationmaster and wait for the next train, but we will not take the next train or the train after that. We know that ticket inspectors get on and off from one station to the next. It will take at least five or six more trains before the ticket inspectors have exhausted the stations and we will be able to complete our journey without detection.

After a year of traveling in this way I have an entrenched sense of guilt, the danger of being caught.

I struggled with this throughout my seven days of writing at Varuna, the writer's lament. In time I shook the monkey from my shoulder and wrote like a train, but it only came after the pain of remembering.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The mid point of the wheel

Tomorrow I leave for the Blue Mountains. For five days solid I hope to write. I hope to lose myself so deeply in my writing that for this short time I will transcend the usual humdrum of my daily writing and get to somewhere I have not been before, ‘wheeled and soared and swung through footless halls air’. These words come to me from a poem I met as a child , ‘High Flying’ by Walter Magee. It begins, ‘Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter silvered wings, Sunwards I’ve climbed and chased the sunless mirth of sun split clouds and done a thousand things you have not dreamed of, wheeled and soared and swung my eager craft through footless falls of air...
and while with silent trembling heart, I've trod...put out my hand and touched the face of God’. (I have muddled these words. If I were a worthy soul I would Google them for you and correct them, but it's late and I must be away early, so if you are interested, you will need to search for yourself, or accept them as they are here, a muddle from my memory.)

I have started to pack, at least in my mind. It’s an easy thing to pack for one. After all the years when the girls were little and I needed to pack for them as well. I need also to put out five shirts for Bill who is colour blind and cannot select his own shirts and ties without disastrous consequences, at least he will worry that the consequences will be disastrous. He lacks confidence in his own taste, at least in colour. For the rest he is artistic, with excellent sense of shape and texture. Sometimes he gets to work in non-matching socks.

Tomorrow morning I will get up at 4 am and leave the house fifteen minutes later. I will drive my own car and leave it in long-term car parking to the airport. The cost of a weeks parking is the equivalent of one taxi fare, so I save money this way. Although I have discussed the matter of my getting to the airport with various members of my family and all express the wish to drive me to the airport, it seems to me, it’s too ridiculous a time, Monday morning at 4.15 am to inflict on any of them. Therefore I should be the only one inconvenienced by this trip – I should drive myself there and back seven days later.

I am a nervous traveler. Whenever I rehearse the experience in my mind I panic a little. I can see myself getting lost, or misreading signs and missing my plane or in this instance my train, first from Sydney airport where I will arrive at 7.00am during peak hour and then on to Central station. From Central station I need to make a three-hour train trip to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. I look forward to this leg of the journey. Three hours on a rocking train, three hours where I will still be on land but moving swiftly through space, three hours during which I can doze, read, or look out through the window at a new landscape.

I feel the need to write a brief farewell blog, a farewell for one week only. A bit like the dinner my husband wants to share tonight to mark my absence for a week. Not too special a dinner – I’m not going away for long – but to mark the occasion nevertheless.

We mark absences and returns in our household with fervour. No one can sneak away unnoticed, not like one of my brothers did on his eighteenth birthday many years ago, or Maggie May’s sister. She writes about this in a blog that eats at you with its poignancy. No, we mark our farewells and hellos.

It’s worse when I go because I am the ‘mother’, and mothers, not always but perhaps more often than not, are the mid point of the wheel around which all the spokes circle.

I wear the weight of my responsibility seriously and I am troubled at this end by my planned absence.

Someone needs to worry incessantly about the dog, as there will be a man here to help install a new gate and the gate will inevitably be left ajar from time to time. Someone will need to keep the dog in mind for the times when the gate man is here. The under pinners are also coming on Monday to help us to rectify the enormous cracks that have erupted in the front walls of our house.

They will work outside but one day at least my husband will need to take time off work to watch as they hoist the house up on jacks before they pour concrete into the huge holes they will have dug beneath the perimeter of the house to force it back in place. Hopefully this will help to rejoin the cracks.

I can put five shirts and ties for my colour blind husband in advance, one for each working day of the week I am away. I can make sure there is enough milk in the fridge to last the week and enough toilet paper. For the rest, my children, the ones living at home are old enough by far to look after themselves, as is my husband. Still I worry about them.

I worry about all the little things that they can take for granted, though taking people for granted is a dangerous pastime and one none of us should ever indulge in for too long, myself included. When we take others for granted, as Art Durkee has written elsewhere in relation to the business of expectation, we will inevitably trip up, not to mention the pain we cause the other person who is taken for granted.

So my absence shall be a good thing, painful for those at home to some extent only. The days will pass quickly enough and apart from my youngest who needs me more for transport and a general holding in mind function, the others will do just fine. And so will I.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Numerology: Births Deaths and Marriages

I have always preferred even numbers to odd. This makes life difficult, this superstition, because half of our lives operate under the weight of odd numbers. Every second day is an odd day so it is not right to focus too much on this anomaly but I find whenever a number pops up for any reason whatsoever I first of all judge it by its odd or even nature.

My favourite number is two, preferably double two. Two hundred and twenty two is not so good because it is an uneven number of twos and two thousand two hundred and twenty two is too much altogether.

My analyst once suggested to me when I reported my love of the number two, that I chose this number because it is the number of coupledom, mother and baby, just the two of us. It’s an interesting observation. I had thought it might have more to do with the shape of the number, very much like the letter ‘s’ and also that the first house whose address I was able to learn as a child was that of 2 Wentworth Avenue where we then lived.

My address became a vital part of my internal world. I would explore its details regularly and roll the words over my tongue: Number 2 Wentworth Avenue Canterbury, East 7, Melbourne, Victoria Australia, the Pacific Ocean, the world, the universe.

Similarly I played with the multiple dimensions of time, the time of the day, the time of the day in relation to the time of my birth, the hours I had lived, the hours I might continue to live. But I was never good at sums. I failed mental arithmetic in grade six, much to my teacher, Mother Mary John’s expressed horror,
'I knew you were bad, but not that bad.' So I did not linger long over numbers except visually.

Numbers developed personalities in my mind and I had my favourites. I hated the numbers seven and nine and could only just tolerate the fives.

I loved the letter ‘s’, smooth, round and to my mind shiny. It was also the letter that distinguished my first name Elisabeth from all the other Elizabeth’s I encountered in my life, the ones at school who sported an ugly ‘z’ in the middle of their names. S was definitely the more beautiful and friendly letter, as well it was the first letter of my second name, ES.

I did not go in so much for the harsh letters of ‘H’ and ‘E’ especially in their capitalised forms, though in lower case ‘e’ could pass, ‘e’ for egg. Even now to me ‘e’ looks like an egg. But the letter ‘h’ could not redeem itself so readily, nor ‘f ‘even with the rounded dome of the top of their shape in lower case.

I am back to letters I see. It is easy to slip by numbers. My relationship to numbers was never so good. Numbers always frightened me. Multiplication, addition, subtraction and division.

My parents were always doing it. Adding babies and sometimes losing them. For the first ten years of my life, my mother was either pregnant or carrying a newborn.
‘What a woman,’ people said, ‘nine children.’ I soaked up the compliments as if they were directed at me.

There should have been eleven but two died, the first, my mother’s second daughter at five months, the second her last child, another daughter this time still born. There was a miscarriage as well, between the seventh and the eighth. In the end my mother was left with five sons and four daughters.

Some weeks after the death of her last leven los, my mother stood with me in the front garden of our house in Camberwell talking to a neighbour who was muttering condolences for her recent loss.
‘It must be very hard but you do have your other children to comfort you.’
My mother nodded and sniffled onto the back of her hand.

Mrs Bos had no children of her own. At ten years of age I was puzzled that any married couple could remain childless. My mother and I watched Mrs Bos, retreating up the street, click-clack on her stilettos, a string shopping bag bulging at her side.
‘Poor Mrs Bos’, my mother said, wiping her nose again on her hand, ‘she can never have children of her own.’

My mother offered no explanation and I was left bewildered about this sad Dutch woman who lived at the top of our street, barren and empty, unable to add, divide or even subtract.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


All afternoon I couldn’t get the images from the film of Atonement out of my head, the war and the death and the significance of a child’s lie.

The man beside me in the picture theatre belched three times, not once and seemingly not accidentally. I did not like to sit directly beside him but our seats were numbered 12 and 13. When I looked at the tickets as we walked to our seats, I thought we had an unlucky number , but I dismissed it. Besides, as luck would have it, my sister sat in seat 13, I would have had it but moved to fill the gap between myself and this chap in seat 12. I led the way into the theatre with my sister close behind.

I was conscious of this man from the start. He was alone. He sat arms folded over his huge belly. He seemed an unlikely man to see at a film like this - rough looking, but it was dark by the time we arrived and I couldn’t get a close look.

While the credits were rolling I remembered the story a friend once told me about her experience as a small child. She had gone to the movies with several of her siblings who sat in a row in the picture theatre. She was on the end. When the lights went out and the film began a man, a stranger sitting beside her put his hands into her pants and started to masturbate her. She was struck dumb with terror, unable to speak or move.

What would I have done, I wondered? Would I scream, make a fuss? Tell my sister we’re leaving.

I thought what a good thing it was that I was sitting beside this man, and not my sister, that I could manage this ordeal better than she. This might be more traumatic for her.

My sister might be like the little girl I have just described, paralyzed, unable to say no. Not me, I thought. I would put a stop to it.

Or would I? Helen Garner describes it in her book, The First Stone, her own paralysis in the face of sexual assault, unwanted sexual advances, from a masseur in one instance, from another person in authority in the other.

This memory rose out of the film based on Ian McEwan's book Atonement.

Why wouldn’t it, sitting behind that old man in the picture theatre? He was not old. He was more or less my age, but in my little girl’s mind he was a ‘dirty old man’, given the belching burping noises he made, seemingly oblivious to them. I didn’t even sense him wince by way of apology.

What was an man like him doing in a movie like this? He may have appreciated it. When the end of the film arrived with my sister sniffling beside me and the names of celebrities and workers running down the screen and the beautiful background music fanning the sadness, this man could not wait to get out of the theatre.

And Briony Tallis’s words from Atonement ring in my ears still.

‘How can a novelist achieve atonement when, with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also God? There is no one, no entity or higher form that she can appeal to, or be reconciled with, or that can forgive her. There is nothing outside her. In her imagination she has set the limits and the terms. No atonement for God, or novelists, even if they atheists. It was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point. The attempt was all.’ (371)