Muriel Rukeyser once wrote: The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms. And I could not agree more. Our stories are our own but, in sharing them, they become universal. And timeless.
A couple of nights ago I watched the raising of the Mary Rose. Not the actual event – that happened three years before I was born – but the television footage of the salvage operation. It was one of those programmes that the BBC does so very well, digging up archive footage and showing what had gone before and what came after.
It’s a hell of a story. The Mary Rose went down with everything she had on board, and almost all hands. The mud at the bottom of the Solent preserved the wreck remarkably well. The archaeologists brought up everything that they could find. Then they brought up the hull, and they took her back into harbour in Portsmouth. I had a tear in my eye, I will admit. Mostly because of that lovely proud ship coming home (I’m horribly sentimental about ships, and not just ships – buses, cars, bicycles, too), but also for of the archaeologists who had spent their whole careers on this one magnificent project, who appeared in the early clips as tousle-haired students in the seventies, and in the later one as respectable talking heads, who had never run out of things to find out.
I told stories. I told the story of how my parents separated when I was in my mid-teens, and how it was horrible at the time but how much better it is now. I told the story of how, when I was twenty, I was genuinely shocked to see my future parents-in-law holding hands in public, because I didn’t know that other people’s parents liked each other enough to do that. I think it helped. I hope so.
I kept on telling the story that I’ve been telling for years. The end is in sight for this instalment. Speak Its Name is nearly done. I’m waiting on some feedback before I can tidy up the last little bits and send it out. Then it will be done, and off my conscience. Still, I can’t quite shake the conviction that it’s really a story about truth, and honesty, and integrity; and goodness knows there’ll always be more of that story to tell.