“DOGGERLAND” A novella by Jack Thomas
I can still hear the cries of my mother, wailing as she gave birth to me all those years ago. The bedroom was upstairs in a small three-bedroom house with a thatched roof and amber stones in the driveway. There was a garden, but not one large enough to host Sunday refreshments or build a swimming pool in. I rarely remember us doing either: socialising, at which we were to be considered the social class,or swimming, in which none of us were very good. We spent those days furnishing the cottage, adding an extension to make it appear larger, putting in glass to capture the light, all of it dim in Great Britain except for the summer months. Clear skies rarely form, and clouds pass over the earth as if wishing to be embedded within it. Occasionally, if I stayed up late, long into the night, I might find the stars shining bright. But never any warmth from them did I feel, rather the moon I considered to be a salient item of the night, my beacon of light, hot and sometimes cold.
I probably wailed too. In fact, I came out of my mother’s womb so ill-prepared for life that I spent the first six months in sheer refusal of everything. This is common behaviour for babies. Except I was grumpy. I had no interest in the miraculous nature of life on the outside. Life beyond the sanctity of fertility rapidly felt meaningless to me. Everything inevitably becomes an obstruction: I need to be fed, which makes me angry, I need to sleep, which I want to do all the time, and I need my mother, who I don’t care to look at, and as little as I care to be looked upon, I would rather be tenderly stroked or cradled. I wanted to be held, wrapped up in a warm basket, swinging back and forth, without any awareness of my surroundings barring time and motion. What I really wanted was a permanent shelter from the physical world I had been born into. I wanted to return to what came known to me as Being Divine.
The bedroom was barely furnished. A double-bed in the corner, two windows, wooden, an oak chest of drawers, and some kind of pine table-top with a skinny facial mirror for my mother’s hair and make-up. The en-suite bathroom was raised slightly, by three steps, and the bath steaming away with hot bubbles, prepared mother’s lining for my due arrival. But I was not born in the bathtub, it felt wrong, perhaps mother already knew about my fear of water, of being submerged in it, or of being confined to tight breathing spaces. Perhaps that was indeed her greatest fear before it became mind. She spread out across the bed and heaved great sighs whilst gripping the bedpost and banging her shoulders against the wall. Soon we would be wailing together.
It was a cold night in Winter, the last day of January, and the radiators weren’t working. The only heat flowed out of the steamy bathwater, it drifted across the room, wafting up cracks in the white paintwork, and ran along the wrinkled veins of mother, ever so gently easing her muscles into and out of relaxation. Yet her expression of tight focus and her plea for calm, for an end to this pain, did soon give way to the monster within I had abruptly given up holding on, and one monstrous cry later, my father plucked me out from head to toe. A miraculous baby was born; frivolous and inextricably bound to a life of good fortune.