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Barkis is willin’

Snow! Not much, but there it is. The trees are still covered with leaves, which are now covered with snow. Very pretty out there. And there goes a black squirrel clutching a peanut – where did he get that?

A thrill this morning – yesterday I wrote to the information officer at Bletchley Park, asking for information on Mum’s 2 or 3 years there, and immediately he wrote back, telling me what he knew. I’m sending more questions. Busy day today – teaching at U of T, a CNFC meeting on Zoom, a class here tonight. But right now, have to go find the snow shovels and salt and fill the bird feeder. I can hear the blue jay complaining and see the flash of cardinal red, waiting. Sorry, guys.

Finished a marvellous book, Unquiet, by Linn Ullman, daughter of Liv and of Ingmar Bergman.  It’s annoying that she calls it a novel when it’s obviously, in every line, a memoir of her upbringing with two fascinating eccentric parents. However, she writes, “In order to write
about real people — parents, children, lovers, friends, enemies, brothers,
uncles, or the occasional passerby — it is necessary to make them fictional. I
believe this is the only way of breathing life into them.
To remember is to look around, again and again, equally astonished
every time.”

An interesting notion – I guess especially if your parents are as famous as hers’.

And good TV – the end of “The Durrells in Corfu,” delicious, and “His Dark Materials” on HBO – as in the Harry Potter films, nice try, but the books are SO MUCH BETTER!

More transcribing of my parents’ letters yesterday. I knew, but was reminded, that they had a pet name for my father’s penis: Barkis, as in the David Copperfield character looking for a wife who repeatedly says, “Barkis is willin’.” And I gather our family Barkis always was. There’s a letter written to the boat bringing my mother, brother and me back from England to Halifax after months of separation, when Dad gives Mum instructions on how to lie to customs officials – an effective lesson he taught me too, later – and tells her how much she is missed. At the end of the letter, he writes, “An old friend wanted to add a few lines.” What follows is written in messy, child-like handwriting:

I too have missed you terribly and am quivering with excited
anticipation of our renewed connection.

There are repeated allusions to their sex life. When he was looking for a new bed for them, she wrote, “Try it out well first—if it creaks, don’t buy!
(Bearing in mind our favourite winter sport next to skiing)…. 
It makes me happy that despite years of unhappiness together, this part of their lives always worked, until the end.

I know, not all of you are acquainted with your parents’ affectionate name for your father’s penis. My family believed in sharing, for better and for worse. Perhaps if I pretend the two of them are fictional characters, it’ll be easier to do this work.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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