I remember when I first heard the song in the 70’s. Like many others I was mesmerised by the swirling, velvety instrumentation and backing vocals. Back then was impossibly new. But for me there was something else even. I once heard the song playing on the radio and as it started to fade the DJ came in with the words, “That’s 10cc with ‘I’m not in Love’ – A love song if ever I heard one”. The words seemed to crash the moment and break the secret. Yes, it was true, but it felt like it should not have been spoken. I had recognised that the genius of that song was that the listener saw, more clearly, the heart and desire of the singer than he did himself. So, as odd as it seems, it felt to me that this DJ was being insensitive. I don’t think I consciously recognised all this at the time but, as a writer of children’s stories, it’s an approach that I have instinctively taken up myself, where the reader understands what is going on before the central character does himself.
Sometimes I see things before they arrive but other times it can take a while before the important point dawns on me. To make the point another, more recent, memory comes to mind…
There was a time that my wife and I took delivery of a new pine bed. Within the week I notice a scar on the clean new wood of the curved foot-board. It was a carved letter ‘d’ with traces of blue ink, the kind of mark that is made when you try to write on wood with a biro and go over it, pressing harder each time trying to get the pen to work. There was only one person who could have done it; my small daughter. I confronted her. I hadn’t seen her do it but I was sure I could bluff her into confessing. She denied it. So I pressed her harder. She cried and said she couldn’t remember. I continued with the bluff. She cried more and apologised for if she had done it, but she couldn’t remember.
I think there was a punishment but I felt really bad that I had put her under so much pressure and blown the thing out of proportion. I did believe that she couldn’t remember the incident. One day shortly afterwards I was gazing at the scar on the foot-board. I remembered that when the bed had arrived I’d commented that we’d never had a foot-board before and how it made the bed look a little like one the seven dwarf’s beds. My daughter had heard that: It dawned on me what the ‘d’ had been about – because in the movie of Snow White each Dwarf has his name carved into the foot-board. The ‘d’ was to have been ‘Daddy’ at the foot of my bed. I sighed; if I’d only seen that earlier I would have been so much softer on her – it was such a charming transgression.
It seems, in life, that we often can’t tell if we’re going to cotton-on to things early or late.