SURVIVAL -The beginning -Waiting for the Pub



What do you do when, in the afternoon, you are in the upstairs sitting room of a snug end-terrace cottage in the small Devon town of Bovey Tracey? You look out over the winter sodden landscape of Dartmoor with its endlessly changing colours. But as the afternoon wears on the landscape fades and darkens. What then – it is too early to go to the musical pub, the King of Prussia? You write a book or, at least, start writing a book. The adventure story revolves round the wheel of fortune – how it turns so the up goes down and the down, unexpectedly, sometimes starts to come up. This idea features often elsewhere, famously as the enigmatic annotation of  Beethoven’s Op135 Quartet (muss es sein? es muss sein! {Must it be? It must be.}),which has never been convincingly explained, but perhaps refers to his fatalistic approach to his increasing deafness. Fortune also occurs in Hamlet, King Lear, Boethius and many other works across the globe. This was the inspiration for the book. Not so much the old classics but the challenge of the horrors of 20th century history and how many died, some lived damaged and some miraculously managed to defeat the horrors and live on again fully. The first meaning of Survivor (from the Latin super vivere) is to live above, only later did it become modified to to live beyond.  My own psychotherapist colleagues often rather glibly refer to a group of clients as ‘survivors’ when they have lived through but certainly not lived above the horrors, personal, domestic, political and global that they have faced. They are the ones that need help from us. But there is another group who have managed truly to live above their terrible trials. What do they use to achieve this? What are their weapons? In all the copious literature on trauma and stress and its management these factors have been little studied. Yet concealed amongst them must be some of the secrets of how to find reserves of strength. The story that I started on that winter afternoon in Bovey is a tentative allegory on the weapons that some might use and might have used outside the scope of the therapist of any orientation. Perhaps the fundamentals include resourcefulness (respectable), revenge (disreputable), violence (very disreputable), displacement (sometimes respectable, sometimes disreputable), luck (imponderable) and faith (problematic). These present a difficult tangle.  The adventure story of SURVIVAL, however, explores them whilst it develops its own life and characters. It poses questions rather than providing answers. It also introduces readers to the European places and ways of life, the activities and the people who have meant so much to me. I dream of sharing all of these and their jokes, interests, talents and enthusiasms with others. The story also features music, sometimes from the King of Prussia[1] sometimes from all over the old continent. It is now opening time – we can go up there to meet our friends who play and sing.



Even later in life publishing a book helps to meet new people and get new ideas as well as old friends. I was a family doctor in a growing community in Yateley for over 30 years. I still live here but the publication of Survival cgave me chance to meet friends and ex patients (hopefully most were both!) who I hadn’t seen for years. I gave a talk at a meeting of The Yateley Society just before Christmas which gave me a chance to remember


[1] The name of the pub, which really exists, is taken  from the pirate of the Cornish Prussia Cove not the German monarch.