Everyone should turn his or her hand at some time to writing a parental memoir. The process gives useful exercise to the mind and enlivens the soul, and the outcome, however unliterary, is sure to be of some interest to someone. Be warned, though: the task is not nearly as easy as it seems. You can spend every day of your youth close to your parents, know them intimately, love them or hate them, and still not manage more than 3,000 words. Try it – think of your parents: what does the memory yield? A few anecdotes will spring to mind, some random things they said, a couple of fleeting physical images; a few treats, a few injustices; a scene of rage, a scene of joy; a moment of coldness, a moment of warmth; general, unworded feelings and impressions of like or dislike. Got all that? Now write it down. You will not even cover three sides of paper with the material that you have collected so far.
That is the first surprise. The second comes when you realise that you cannot justify your initial thoughts and feelings. ‘What did you think of your mother?’ ‘I loved her very much.’ ‘Why?’ And then you stumble. Of course in conversation you can simply answer: ‘Because she was