Mens Temporum . UK

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An Inspiring Birth

Can a character in a novel be inspired by the birth of a child to a family while the story is being written if the writer knows nothing about either the family or birth at that time? I found this difficult to believe but felt obliged to accept it when faced with the facts below, but each reader must judge for themselves.

I felt that the story in my novel required an autistic savant so I conceived a young man with those characteristics named George. When not using his savant abilities in the Pumpkin he often played platform games on one of the computers there. Platform games are the older style of computer games such as Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros. I was concerned about my choices as I could see a similarity to the character Raymond in the film Rain Man, who maybe wasn’t entirely a plausible autistic person anyway, but nevertheless I kept the character as he was for some reason. I also described George as seeing everything in his life as a jigsaw puzzle where he needed to fit the pieces together but only saw the shapes that they made without the pictures. Provided that the shapes pleased him and had no missing pieces then that was enough. In one scene it was mentioned that a former member of staff had unkindly called him “goldfish George” because he floated around the place not really understanding the things around him like a goldfish looking out of its bowl at the alien human world outside. Despite all this he was an essential member of the staff and his colleague Yvonne ensured that he could cope with the situations that he encountered. I also used the name George in other ways as I will explain later.

In early 2015, three years after I had finished writing the first full draft of the novel, a long lost relative of my wife contacted her. This was important to us as we knew nothing of any of her few if any living relatives in Britain since a second cousin had emigrated to Australia several decades ago and not kept in touch. This lady was married and had children including a four year old daughter born early in 2011 while I was writing the novel. Later in 2015 we visited the family for the first time ever and afterwards I considered the coincidences between my experiences during that visit and my novel and they surprised me greatly.

The daughter’s name was Georgia as she was named after her grandfather, who was no doubt named George, but she was neither autistic nor a young man, so not the inspiration for my character George in those respects. Her teenage brother was autistic though and spent much of his time playing platform games on the TV in his bedroom. With Georgia’s birth taking place while I was writing the novel it was hardly an issue that I had apparently amalgamated characteristics of these siblings to create my character George.

To say that her brother played platform games is actually a gross understatement. He took me to see his bedroom and it was packed with shelves full of every kind of gaming console and drawers full of games cartridges. He was actually an avid collector of these things with a desktop filled with adapters to connect any of them to his TV. He even uploaded to YouTube a video of himself and Mario in conversation by playing both parts and dressing up in a complete Mario costume. Of course he wasn’t a savant but autistic people rarely are and in a draft chapter written long before 2015 for a planned later novel, set in an alternative reality much closer to real life, I had described that George as being autistic but not a savant. Consequently it appeared that I had found the real inspiration for my character.

As though to reinforce my perception Georgia also invited me into her bedroom and her brother came too. She chose a Peppa Pig jigsaw puzzle for us to do on the floor while she bounced on her bed and chattered on. There was a slight problem with the jigsaw as it had stand-up figures to attach to the flat puzzle and the only picture of the completed puzzle on the box included these, so they obscured much of the picture below them. The result of this was that we had to fit the pieces more by looking at their shapes than by trying to build up the picture. This was an unlikely but therefore striking coincidence with the way that I had portrayed George in the novel.

The family’s surname began with a “G” so Georgia had the initials “GG” like other people that I have previously mentioned. In fact her mother called her “Miss G” most of the time. I had included in the novel a couple of scenes involving a Lancaster bomber with the call sign G-George about which Graham fantasised, so this appeared to relate directly to the real Miss G, Georgia. The second scene appeared very near the end of the story when Graham, as he is dying, finds himself apparently on a deserted airfield with his former girlfriend C-C naked beside him. After they have had sex they both board the Lancaster bomber G-George from his past fantasies and while he takes the controls C-C stretches out on the bomb aimer’s position below him still naked. The bomber starts its long spiral climb to gain altitude and heads towards the full moon on its long journey to deliver its solitary payload. This scene had many interpretations at the time but one was definitely that of pregnancy and delivery of a baby, the moon symbolising the idea that the intervening journey would take several months with the naked C-C ultimately completing the delivery as the prone bomb aimer. As the scene came at the end of the novel I probably wrote it at most only a few months after Georgia’s birth, a remarkable coincidence given how important this then unknown family became in our lives subsequently. Additionally in the plot of a planned subsequent novel in an alternative reality Graham married C-C and they had a daughter but she wasn’t named Georgia after that plane of course.

Georgia’s father also featured in the coincidences. His job was delivering and installing mobile power generators wherever they were needed including powering buildings when they were disconnected from the mains supply and the houses of vulnerable people while work was carried out on the local supplies. Also he supplied them to a circus, the military during their activities on temporary sites and other outdoor functions from wedding receptions to large town carnivals. In the novel Graham was equally responsible for the power supplies that the building used while detached from reality and the mains supply that it normally provided. In this case the power source inside the building consisted of an enormous bank of batteries much as in a submarine along with superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES) devices.

Apart from the reference to “goldfish George”, yet another “GG”, that I previously mentioned Graham also referred to the “goldfish club” in his thoughts while imagining flying the bomber G-George earlier in the story. This was a genuine club formed during WWII for aircrew who had to ditch their aircraft or themselves in the sea during a mission and survived. Despite this I found the term a little too inaccurate for my taste as so far as I know goldfish are freshwater fish. However, Georgia’s father had a large seawater aquarium in their living room and while I was looking at the wide variety of sea creatures in it a small fish came up to the glass and apparently stared at me although it was probably just looking at its own reflection in the glass. On reflection myself later it occurred to me that this event corresponded to the “goldfish George” reference that I had included in the novel and that seawater aquarium also dispelled my original doubts about using the term “goldfish club”. In that same scene Graham also thought about the plane’s autopilot as “reliable but unimaginative George again”, autopilots invariably being called George and the words “autopilot” and “autism” becoming connected in his mind. All in all the number of times that the name George appeared in the story in various guises implied that my thoughts had fixated on it for some unknown reason.

A simple coincidence can easily be eliminated as merely just that but a cluster of so many like this is much harder to explain away, especially when taken alongside all the other peculiar coincidences surrounding my novel.

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