INTIMATE DISTANCEOur home is one that is quiet. Even on Christmas Day there are times when the only sound to be heard is the occasional crackle of wood from the fireplace. The four of us - mum, dad, my brother and I - can spend hours at a time absorbed in our own activities. This is the story of my family at Christmas, with all of its absurdities, solitude and dissension.
Mum sits in her favourite chair and reads whilst it snows outside.
Dad’s keys and map just before we go on a family walk.
Outside the house a plant has blown over.
The bathroom after my brother has taken a shower. Despite mum and dad’s several requests, he neglects to wipe down the shower door leaving the bathroom in a drenched mess.
Mum does one of her eye exercises. She holds up a stick to her nose, both eyes focused on it. She then outstretches her arm, eyes still locked on the stick. She then brings it slowly back to her nose, going cross eyed. This is one of her many daily rituals to keep her eyes healthy.
Mum sits in the kitchen and covers her eyes with a flannel bathed in cold water. She then dips the flannel in a second bucket of warm water and covers her eyes again. Another one of her daily eye exercises.
Mum reads her bible.
At breakfast time mum sits down with her crossword book and a dictionary. She is more interested in keeping her mind active with crosswords than making conversation. My dad and I discuss the route for today’s walk, before he looks something up on his laptop. It’s 9:26am and my brother is still in bed. He never joins us for breakfast. My brother is 25 years old and still lives at home. He doesn’t normally get up until 11am.
Dad goes out in the snow to collect wood for the fireplace. Growing up, we’ve always had an open fire. Dad seems to be always chopping wood. Now that he has retired, Dad spends two days a week volunteering for the National Trust, maintaining local woodlands and felling trees. Every day in the winter, he takes his wheelbarrow up to the top of the garden to collect logs from his wood stack to make a fire.
Dad reads his book in the kitchen.
My brother is playing computer games in the living room on Christmas Day. Dad asks him to turn off the game, but my brother deliberately ignores him, causing my dad to become more and more incensed. They often clash with other.
My brother’s phone, a Nokia 6310i, appropriated from my dad’s collection of old work phones.
My brother inspects a pair of lungs he is making from plastic sheets for his next exhibition. He is going to build a room full of breathing lungs. His tools, including a soldering iron are scattered across the house. The house has become a makeshift workshop for his art. My dad and brother regularly come to blows over the mess he leaves behind.
After a row with dad, my brother walks out of the house, not telling anyone where he is going or what time he’ll be back. Dad rants to me about my brother’s ‘couldn’t care less attitude’. I have my head- phones on, trying not to engage. My brother often walks out of the house without a word. Later I ask my brother if he wants to move out of home one day soon and he says, ‘yes of course’.
A family walk. Everyone walks at their own pace. Dad is always in the lead. A couple of times we lose sight of him and have to shout out at him to wait for us. It’s as though he’s always got somewhere to be.
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