Ghost Writers: N M Browne

Photo: bye bye balloon: Daniel Novta
Today, the day of this post, is my father’s birthday. He would have been eighty three but unfortunately died at fifty seven, not much older than me. I mention it, because his birthday is an annual reminder of what I’ve lost but also how lucky I was to have him at all. Along with my mother, he made me feel that I could do anything I wanted to, long before the idea of following your dream became a staple of Saturday night TV. He died before I’d published anything, but without him I would never have written a word of fiction. He was a painter and so I grew up in a house in which the importance of creativity was a given; the arts were important and to participate in them a privilege. I think that concept is rarer now than it was.
Our dead are always with us. I see his echo in my children, a look in the eye, a tilt of the head, the way they, like him, drink from a beer glass tucked against their chests. Years on, I still glimpse him occasionally out of the corner of my eye walking along the High St  and my heart lifts for a moment until I remember that he’s gone.
I mention this not to be mawkish, but to remind myself of the ghosts that haunt us all, the ones that inspire and those that hold us back. If we had the special insight  we sometimes grant our characters, we could see the ghosts clustering around our friends and acquaintances  vying for attention, prodding and poking at their vulnerabilities, whispering in their ears and clouding their vision: the ghost of an overcritical father, the spectre of an underachieving mother, the ex that said we had fat legs, the teacher who thought we were thick. These wraiths need not even be dead, just lost to us, preserved as they were when last we saw them, bobbing after us wherever we go like a bunch of helium balloons.
If I were writing a self help book, I would probably encourage you to cut their threads. I would perhaps emphasise the need for self improvement, for reinvention. I would encourage you to follow your star,  exorcise everything  in your life that holds you back, let go of the past,  liberate your ghosts and watch them fly heavenward like seasonal spectral balloons in time for the New Year. 

 However, I’m not a therapist or a self help guru I’m merely a writer and I know in the marrow of my bones that to be human is to be haunted. If we free ourselves of our past, we free ourselves of ourselves. Our past, with all its phantoms is the taproot of our creativity. So instead I wish you a Happy New Year and hope that this year you will find a  constructive and fruitful accommodation with your personal spectres. Here’s to the ghosts of New Year’s Past!


JO said…
I love the way reminders of my wonderul grandmother reappear in my grandchildren - I've a granddaughter who has her laugh, more of a cackle really, which is such a lovely reminder of a lovely woman.
Bill Kirton said…
This stirred memories of many of my own ghosts but, almost without exception, I don't want any of them to be cut free. Their combined effect is to remind me of who I've been, the different people I was at various points, the strangeness of some of my attitudes and experiences viewed from my present perspective. I think my ghosts are necessary, thanks for waking them up.
Wendy H. Jones said…
What a fabulous reminder that the ghosts from those we meet are apart of s and part of our personality. Thank you
Lovely post! Needs no comment, really, because it's just so true, and so beautifully written. Thanks.
Mari Biella said…
A beautiful post that rang very true. Like Bill, though, I wouldn't cut those ghosts free even if I could. Even the more unpleasant ones help to remind me who I am and what I think it's all about.
Lydia Bennet said…
Yes a beautiful post, so true and so insightful. Sometimes, with the more harmful balloons, just realising they are still tied to you can free you from them. And the good ones, we want to keep.

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