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Sailing to England


Pissing on the carpet in a nice pattern
Frederic Raphael Writer
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The strange thing about being an only child without any... not only without any siblings but without any cousins, although I had people that I knew and my parents' friends' children and so on, I... I was always very solitary. I suppose I was used to my mother's sympathy, but I wasn't used entirely to no company because of the maids and so on. I was very proper. And I remember when I was in St Louis when I was three, I went with my mother to visit a friend of hers who had a house, I remember it was up some steps, quite common in St Louis, the sidewalk is above the level of the road, you have to go up steps from where you've parked. We went into this house and there was her friend, blonde I think, and a little boy – the friend's little boy – ran out of the back of the house into the living room, as we used to call it, and he had nothing on his lower half, and he stood in the middle of the carpet and pissed all over it. I don't think his mother was particularly pleased, but she wasn't particularly horrified either and I... I think, I can remember thinking: I could never do that – I wish I could. If there's any truth in that memory, it's... it's a good one because I've often thought as I've gone on through life and have I not, that there were certain sorts of things which it seemed to me some people could do that I never could. The courageous things I understand very well why I wouldn't be able to do them, or might not be able to do them, probably wouldn't be able to do them, but the bold things, the challenging things in public... no, I've never been very good at that. All my challenges come covertly, later, in print or at least in handwriting. That's the kind of way I piss on the carpet: never at the time, always a little later, but hopefully, as they say, in a nice pattern. 

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

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: only child, solitude, propriety, piss, carpet, boldness, writing

Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014