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The Scrivener: They Don't Marry

...'They're all perverts, you know,' she observed.

'Who do you mean?' I asked.

'The priests, all those people in the church. They've all got kinky ways.' ...

Brian Barratt recalls a lady who was a jolly good conversationalists - a lady who will now be remembered by Open Writing readers.

Such an amicable lady, a lover of books and films, and a jolly good conversationalist. Several years ago, she worked in a book and stationery shop not too far from here. Her face was neither enhanced nor disguised by creams, colours and lotions and her dress tended towards conservative browns and greens. Her honestly greying hair was swept up into what might have been a re-creation of an Edwardian bun, but its amply straggling ends seemed unwilling to maintain authentic formality.

Between serving customers she discussed a Brazilian film that we had seen earlier that week on the multicultural television channel. Censors had attempted to ban the harrowing film 'Pixote' when it first appeared at the Sydney Film Festival in 1982. It was released later. I commented that it certainly exposed the corrupt authorities, the prisons, remand homes, legal system and police, but seemed to spare the church from criticism.

'They're all perverts, you know,' she observed.

'Who do you mean?' I asked.

'The priests, all those people in the church. They've all got kinky ways.'

I declared disagreement with this sweeping generalisation but accepted that maybe a few of 'them' were not 'straight'.

'All the great writers are homosexuals, too, you know,' she went on. 'We didn't know until recent years but now it's all coming into the open.' She instanced some of the more well-known names, and traced homosexual creative geniuses back to Leonardo and Michelangelo. We laughed about Queen Victoria's difficulty in accepting that women also could 'do it' together. However, that is merely an unfounded tale, not an historical fact.

I broke away from this engaging conversation to browse around the shelves while she sought out a small boy who persisted in whistling loudly from some hidden corner, propelling himself to the front of the shop, whistling loudly whilst reading a book, and returning to the back to whistle loudly, and tunelessly, yet again. Nothing wrong in a small boy whistling loudly, but one began to wonder if he was a serious customer or a potential shoplifter using some peculiar ploy to distract(?) attention. When I returned to the counter, she announced that she had solved the problem... she knew why all writers were homosexual.

'You see, they don't marry. They don't have to divert their energy into building up a home, raising children, caring for other people. So they put all their energy and creativity into their writing.' I felt tempted to ask which came first, the choice of a singular life or the literary creativity, but I could sense the chicken-and-egg question moving into obscure byways, so I made my purchase, bid her a jovial farewell, and went off to do some more shopping.

In the years between, at least four bookshops in this suburban area have closed down. It's sad that if and when we order books on line, via our electronic gadgets, there isn't anyone with whom we can have such friendly, personal and fascinating conversations... or any conversation at all.

Copyright Brian Barratt 2013


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