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Mad with love

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Love is not a straightforward business
Brian Aldiss Writer
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And love itself, it has to be generated by... does it have to be generated by both sides? I don't know. I loved my father, although I've mentioned times when my father fell a long way short of the caring father. Let me give you another example.

That the time came when my first book, The Brightfount Diaries, had been published, and I went to see my parents. They were then living opposite the cemetery at the top of the Brockley Road [sic – should be Banbury], and I said to him, 'Dad, I've decided I'm going to be a writer'. And he said to me, 'Why don't you become a postman? Just think, you'll get fresh air all the time and a pension at the end of it'. Come on, this is not the sort of thing you say to a guy who's maybe 24. Who cares about a pension when you're 24? But that was his way. He had to cross me... he had to cross me. Dear, dear.

Still, I loved him and I would go and see him, and he would be pottering around after yet another heart attack... he'd be pottering round his little garden, pruning a little bit of rose tree. And he'd kept a little bonfire going – you could have put the bonfire on that cushion – and he said to me, proudly, 'Do you know, that's been going for a fortnight. I've kept it going'. As though it were his own life, a metaphor for his own life. And I said, 'Well, Dad, what do you do when it rains?' 'Ah', he said, going to bewilder me by his cleverness, 'I've got this'. And what he'd got was a big metal tin... what's that metal called? Kind of not polished, or anything...

[Q] Aluminium?

Not quite aluminium, but something rather like that. Anyhow, anyhow it was a large tin tank, and he said, 'I put it over the bonfire, so that it doesn't get wet', looking at me as though saying: There, what do you think of that? And so we stood there, watching the smoke going up into the sky.

And then, he slept in a little room on the ground floor with a small window, little stained-glass window, that looked out across the road to the cemetery where soon he would be at rest. And he was lying in bed, and I was sitting by him, and he muttered something about being tired, and then no more. And so then I got up and spoke to him and touched him, and I realised he'd died very, very quietly, without any fuss. And so I called to my mother, who was in the next room, and said, 'Mum, I'm afraid Dad's died'. And so she came to see him, and apparently it often happens although we didn't know that at the time, he slowly changed... his features changed, and he looked again like the handsome young man he must have been when soldiering in World War I. So it was quite a peaceful ending, for what had been, I think, a very uncomfortable life. The failure of the business in Dereham, etc.

But, I did love him, although I had many reasons to dislike him, I think.

So that love can be a very... well it's a bit like playing cricket, you know, where you have to guard your middle wicket. You've got to guard your feelings. I think it's very important that you should love someone.

You see, this phone just rang because she loves me. It's marvellous, isn't it? It's marvellous.

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: love, father, garden, bonfire, death

Duration: 5 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015