Below is an extract from an extensive interview I carried out with my father. The interviews spanned three trips to A Coruña, were recorded on microcassette and later transcribed. They were carried out in various states – some words are sober, some seriously inebriated… Beneath the interview are four double-page spreads from the book…
CB: Talk to me about your father, Pooch.
TB: Pooch is very important in my story, obviously. One thing he said was, “Show me a conservative aged twenty, and you show me a man without a soul. Show me a socialist at fifty, and you show me a man without a head.” Cunt.
I’m frequently thinking that Pooch really showed me my road in life, because all I had to do was the opposite of everything he thought. Anything he thought… [Giggles]… or said… or did. It was very useful. He was a big presence in my head; I was always thinking, “fuck you, you bastard,” and I used to dream that I was going to kill him that day.
CB: Daydreaming or sleep-dreaming?
TB: I used to go and have breakfast with him, and he would be reading The Times and I would be reading nothing. I’d be eating breakfast and I’d think, “I could do it now, I could do it now, I could go up with my little knife and give him such a fucking slam on the jaw.” In the real dreams though, when I did do that, my hand would turn into a daffodil.
CB: God! How old were you when you were having these dreams?
TB: Eighteen to twenty I should think.
CB: What about childhood, I mean was he a good father before you developed the will to be an artist?
TB: He was an absent father in the war until I was about nine I suppose, then I was at boarding school and I only saw them in the holidays, but because he lived in London and we lived at Culham I only saw him at weekends even then. He only really became a real major presence in my life later when… You’re absolutely right, Charlie, one needs to have more drinks.
CB: [pouring wine] No, it was good, Dad, it was getting going.
TB: Yeah, well it’s not going to stop. He was always trying to make me forget about being a painter, but by that time I’d already realised that all I had to do was the opposite of what he wanted.
CB: I suppose that although it didn’t feel like it at the time, it made things easy in a way. You didn’t have to dilly-dally around wondering what to do; it was instinctive.
TB: Yes, but it didn’t feel like that, actually. I hadn’t really learnt that lesson deeply enough, but I sort of knew it subconsciously. I mean, I thought he was a cunt, you know. I knew he was, amongst other things, an incredibly stupid man and now I know it more. He was a snob and a bigot. He used to say absolutely Hitlerian things.
CB: Hitlerian things from a Jew.
TB: Exactly, he was an anti-Semitic Jew!
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