How can you know someone?
How do our stories define us?
I grew up with tales of my grandad, running away to sea, aged 14, barefoot and penniless, walking 200 miles to Liverpool and returning to London after a career at sea, becoming mayor of Wandsworth, AKA Dick Wittington. In fact when I was about seven years old I thought he was Lord Mayor of London, the photos in his hallway of him in his mayoral splendour were so majestic. He was a storyteller, and his grandchildren got different stories to his children.
My grandad was reluctant to talk about the details of his walk, and I didn’t push it, not wishing to stir up potentially painful memories. He was an emotional man, and like all his generation who had survived the war, had suffered immeasurably; bereft of faith, home, friends, family. He left a memoir, to be read after his death, with the details of his life and his walk. The journey was revealed to be less of a walk and more of a hitch hiking adventure: He was offered three rides, and arrived in Liverpool in three days.
This didn’t shock me, nor particularly surprise me. It is still a good story, and I don’t blame him for embellishing it- it is strange he had to keep the truth a secret until he was gone. But we all have secrets. My mum brought it up and read it in Liverpool. I wanted to have a mother’s voice in the film, which then would encompass four generations, with the death of my grandad’s mother (my great grandmother) starting the film. I didn’t want to draw too much attention to this, as for me it’s interesting, but not the most interesting element. It’s there if you notice it, flagged up during the film with parallel places I have stayed, and defined towards the end.