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My secret romance

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Canoodling among the carpets in my grandfather’s shop
Brian Aldiss Writer
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As far as I know, I was born in Norfolk, in the town of East Dereham. And my father was a gent's outfitter and had an extensive store. That was part of a much more extensive area, owned entirely by my grandfather, HH Aldiss. And it was the great playground for children, that is to say, for me and for my cousins, Tony and Derek. And there we could play and in that area there were various bits of the whole function as a shop. For instance, there was the way into the furniture shop, there was a vast factory, so-called, that stored the goods, although at the top of it there were mysterious tailors who would run you up a suit in a couple of days. And then there was a place where some rather hostile women lived, two storeys up, and made hats.

What else was there? Well, down the garden, or further down, there was… there were the stables, and connected with the stables was a little hut where a man whose bad temper had earned him the name of 'Rero'. Rero lived in this hut and dried off the harness for the horses that not only acted as delivery horses, but also, if there was a funeral, HH Aldiss could do a funeral for you, and then the horses would be dressed in black plumes and would go out the back door with great solemnity.

So the whole thing was extremely complex. Not that I saw it as that as a kid, but certainly it was a kind of paradise for a child and we were often getting into trouble. And at one time I had a girlfriend called Margaret Tout, and she and I could hide in the factory in among rolls of carpet, and… some kind of a carpet that was not cloth, and we would get down there and cuddle each other and people would go by and they would never see us. And I was determined that I would marry Margaret Tout. Except that one day at school, I saw her being sick, being like, violently sick, with a great projectile of vomit, and I knew I didn't want to be married to anyone who threw up in that way.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: playground, furniture store, horses, girlfriend, vomit

Duration: 3 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015