“To venture to the road meant entering a dangerous world in which high-handed and overbearing vans and hard uncompromising lorries thundered past the narrow pavement that we had to walk on. The road, though our neighbour, was not a being we felt kin to. A short way from our gate, it had the rumble of artillery.”
In August 1947, on the author’s sixth birthday, he and his mother arrived from England in Tobruk, Libya. Waiting on the quay to meet them was a stranger, an officer in the British Army. This officer was his father, from whom he would acquire a sense of guilt and insecurity. But in Libya first of all, and then in Egypt, he would also come across new worlds to take hold of his imagination. The family’s return to England as the 1940s ended would be followed once again by their departure and the author’s own arrival at a London boarding school.
Turning to others for mental and emotional support, he found it over time in teachers, fellow pupils, students, tutors, friends of his parents, colleagues or acquaintances. As a young graduate teaching in Nigeria he would be exposed to new, transformative perspectives. Later he would unravel hidden scandals in his family. The book’s title alludes to the various aspects – physical and social, psychological and moral – of his discontinuous and richly complex life.