Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Griffin Replies


I am an honourable man (most of the time), and although I could spend this whole letter asking you more questions. I will hold back, do the right thing and spill my life story. But it's going to seem awfully dull compared to your colourful existence. I see what you mean about getting shy...I feel like climbing under the carpet.

My mother was Italian-Irish, my father Hungarian-Scottish I was born in Dublin and when I was one, we moved to England. As you might guess, I wouldn't know my nationality if it came up and bit me.

We lived off the Holloway Rd, in darkest London. Our small back-to-back Victorian house was as dismally predictable as the others in the row, at least from the outside. The inside was slightly different. Our house was a temple to The Book. We owned thousands, nay millions of books. They lined the walks, filled the cupboards and turned the floor into a maze far more complex than Hampton Court's. Books ruled our lives. They were our demi-gods. Occasionally I'd come home to a re-enactment of the Battle of Britain in the front room. My beloved parents would be flying around like a pair of demented fighter planes, shrieking and spitting venom at one another. My father would be wearing his traditional uniform of socks and moth-eaten dressing gown and my mother her lemon carpet slippers and housecoat. My entrance would make no difference to their dogfight, but when one of them accidentally (and inevitably) knocked over a pile of books, they'd stop instantly and unite to examine the extent of the damage.

Life continued in this pleasant vein until the day my parents got run down by a newspaper van that thoughtlessly mounted the pavement in Islington High St. It sounds heartless, but looking back, I would say that this was my great salvation, because at 15 I was whisked off to live with my mother's stepsister in Totnes, Devon. Vereker was a potter, and the kindest person I'd ever met. The first thing she asked me was whether I wanted to carry on with school or learn to pot. No one had ever asked me what I wanted to do before. I would have made her my idol if she'd let me. Instead, I became her apprentice.

Some people find it hard to move from the big city to the country, but for me it was a piece of cake. Not only did I fall for Vereker, but also for the town of Totnes. In that green and pleasant land the cider is so strong you have to hold on to the bar as you drink it. I spent 3 blissful years in Vereker's house quietly being instructed on how to use my hands and my eyes. Eventually she convinced me that I needed to broaden my skills and my horizons and packed me off to Bristol Art College to become a fine artist.

At college everyone was painting big flat canvasses and becoming wizards with masking tape. To my discredit, I joined the geometric sheep, when all I really wanted to do was become a cross between Leonardo and Rembrandt. I'm probably saw for yourself how dazzlingly dreary my stuff was. My spell at college wasn't totally wasted, because I met Sarah, my first real girlfriend, and in the six months we were together, my horizons became broader.

When I left Bristol, I returned to Totnes, even though Vereker by then had moved to the States, I'd only been back a couple of weeks when someone called to tell me that Vereker had died suddenly, of a brain tumour, in New York.I stood in that cold little hall for ages, paralysed with loneliness. Losing my parents had barely touched me (they were only cartoon characters) but Vereker was a real person. I didn't understand how she could leave me like that.

If I had grieved, I'd have probably been okay. Instead, I sunk into a dark, drowning depression and stayed there for almost three months. Remembering it now still makes me numb. It was a lawyer's letter that finally made me surface. Vereker had left me her money, and the combination to dealing with practicalities and realising how much she cared for me forced me on to dry land. I came back to the world changed. I had an inner drum and I was going to march. I decided to use my inheritance to move back to London and set up GRYPHON CARDS, which was to be dedicated to my idiosyncratic vision of the universe.

I presume you can't see my writing as well as my pictures, or posting this letter would be superfluous. Any idea why it's only my images you see? And why I can't see yours? Tell me more about your islands, and tell me what you do. Did you become your dad's official illustrator? I can't express to you how pleased I am that you're out there. Since Vereker died, I've been alone. Now that you're there and have been all along, I feel whole again.

You don't think we're twins seperated at birth, do you? Or is that too simple?



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