Good things come to those who wait, so the saying goes and, in many ways, this idea informed a lot of my thinking growing up in England. I went to a Church of England school, which didn’t exactly push Christianity to the forefront of our minds, but influenced our behaviour nonetheless. The meek will inherit the earth. Always be quiet and respectful in class. Reward will come in heaven. Avoid tension and conflict with teachers. These ideas seemed to speak of a life which, if lived correctly, would bring reward and fulfilment in this existence, and the next.
This for me has meant the subsequent understanding that life is messy and painful and lacking in a coherent narrative all the harder to reach. I did my best at school, so why do I struggle to pay my mortgage? I always did my homework, so how come the talents I think I have are not recognised?
I think of these things when I remember the television I used to watch as a child. Our choices were limited to four channels, which only showed the kind of programmes we might have wanted to watch for limited time periods. Consequently, we all watched the same things, and often saw the personalities who populated television as extensions of our lives. Do your homework. Watch Rolf. Eat your tea. Life will be good. Play sport. Watch Jimmy. Get plenty of sleep. The future awaits you.
Setting my camera to slow shutter speeds of one or two seconds, my own history and the shared, terrible cultural understandings of the harm Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris caused are sucked from the screen and smeared on my sensor, creating images where their masks have slipped. I wonder on the influence of these people. Would I be less resentful of what I don’t have, and more grateful for the joys I do have, if I hadn’t have grown up expecting more? Would friends now passed on still be alive if they had understood that measuring life success against constructions of a good life could never be met?