<DIV>Foreword</DIV><DIV><BR>This book is not a memoir, although parts of it may look like<BR>a memoir. Nor is it a history of the jigsaw puzzle, although<BR>that is what it was once meant to be. It is a hybrid. I have always<BR>been more interested in content than in form, and I have never<BR>been a tidy writer. My short stories would sprawl into novels, and<BR>one of my novels spread into a trilogy. This book started off as a<BR>small history of the jigsaw, but it has spiralled off in other directions,<BR>and now I am not sure what it is.<BR>     I first thought of writing about jigsaws in the autumn of ????,<BR>when my young friend Danny Hahn asked me to nominate an<BR>icon for a website. This government-sponsored project was collecting<BR>English icons to compose a ‘Portrait of England’, at a time<BR>when Englishness was the subject of much discussion. At random<BR>I chose the jigsaw, and if you click on ‘Drabble’ and ‘jigsaw’ and<BR>‘icon’ you can find what I said. I knew little about jigsaws at this<BR>point, but soon discovered that they were indeed an English invention<BR>as well as a peculiarly English pastime. I then conceived the<BR>idea of writing a longer article on the subject, perhaps even a short<BR>book. This, I thought, would keep me busy for a while.<BR>     I had recently finished a novel, which I intended to be my last,<BR>in which I believed myself to have achieved a state of calm and<BR>equilibrium. I was pleased with The Sea Lady and at peace with the<BR>world. It had been well understood by those whose judgement I<BR>most value, and I had said what I wanted to say. I liked the idea of<BR>writing something that would take me away from fiction into a<BR>primary world of facts and pictures, and I envisaged a brightly<BR>coloured illustrated book, glinting temptingly from the shelves of<BR>gallery and museum shops amongst the greetings cards, mugs and<BR>calendars portraying images from Van Gogh and Monet. It would<BR>make a pleasing Christmas present, packed with gems of esoteric<BR>information that I would gather, magpie-like, from libraries and<BR>toy museums and conversations with strangers. I would become<BR>a jigsaw expert. It would fill my time pleasantly, inoffensively. I<BR>didn’t think anyone had done it before. I would write a harmless<BR>little book that, unlike two of my later novels, would not upset or<BR>annoy anybody.<BR>     It didn’t work out like that.<BR>     Not long after I conceived of this project, my husband Michael<BR>Holroyd was diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer and we<BR>entered a regime of radiotherapy and chemotherapy all too familiar </DIV><DIV>to many of our age. He endured two major operations of<BR>hitherto unimagined horror, and our way of life changed. He dealt<BR>with this with his usual appearance of detachment and stoicism,<BR>but as the months went by I felt myself sinking deep into the paranoia<BR>and depression from which I thought I had at last, with the<BR>help of the sea lady, emerged. I was at the mercy of ill thoughts.<BR>     Some of my usual resources for outwitting them, such as taking<BR>long solitary walks in the country, were not easily available. I<BR>couldn’t concentrate much on reading, and television bored me,<BR>though DVDs, rented from a film club recommended by my sister<BR>Helen, were a help. We were more or less housebound, as we were<BR>told to avoid public places because Michael’s immune system was<BR>weak, and I was afraid of poisoning him, for he was restricted to an<BR>unlikely diet consisting largely of white fish, white bread and<BR>mashed potato. I have always been a nervous cook, unduly conscious<BR>of dietary prohibitions and the plain dislikes of others, and the<BR>responsibility of providing food for someone in such a delicate<BR>state was a torment.<BR>     The jigsaw project came to my rescue. I bought myself a black<BR>lacquer table for my study, where I could pass a painless hour or<BR>two, assembling little pieces of cardboard into a preordained<BR>pattern, and thus regain an illusion of control. But as I sat there, in<BR>the large, dark, high-ceilinged London room, in the pool of lamplight,<BR>I found my thoughts returning to the evenings I used to<BR>spend with my aunt when I was a child. Then I started to think of<BR>her old age, and the jigsaws we did together when she was in her<BR>eighties. Conscious of my own ageing, I began to wonder whether<BR>I might weave these memories into a book, as I explored the<BR>nature of childhood.<BR>     This was dangerous terrain, and I should have been more wary<BR>about entering it, but my resistance was low. I told myself that there<BR>was nothing dangerous in my relationship with my aunt, and that<BR>my thoughts about her could offend nobody, but this was stupid of<BR>me. Any small thing may cause offence. My sister Susan, more<BR>widely known as the writer A. S. Byatt, said in an interview somewhere<BR>that she was distressed when she found that I had written<BR>(many decades ago) about a particular teaset that our family<BR>possessed, because she had always wanted to use it herself. She felt<BR>I had appropriated something that was not mine. And if a teapot<BR>may offend, so may an aunt or a jigsaw. Writers are territorial, and<BR>they resent intruders.<BR>    I fictionalized my family background in a novel titled The<BR>Peppered Moth, which is in part about genetic inheritance. I scrupulously<BR>excluded any mention of my two sisters and my brother, and<BR>I suspect that, wisely, none of them read it, but I was made<BR>conscious of having trespassed. This made me very unhappy. I<BR>vowed then that I would not write about family matters again (a<BR>constraint which, for a writer of my age, constitutes a considerable<BR>loss) but as I sat at my dark table I began to think I could legitimately<BR>embark on a more limited project that would include<BR>memories of my aunt’s house. These are on the whole happy<BR>memories, much happier than the material that became The<BR>Peppered Moth. I wanted to rescue them. Thinking about them<BR>cheered me up and recovered time past.<BR>     But my new plan posed difficulties. I could not truthfully<BR>present myself as an only child (as some writers of memoirs have<BR>misleadingly done) and I have had to fall back on a communal<BR>childhood ‘we’, which in the following text usually refers to my<BR>older sister Susan and my younger sister Helen. My brother<BR>Richard is considerably younger than me, and his childhood<BR>memories of my aunt are of a later period, although he did spend<BR>many holidays with her.<BR>     This book became my occupational therapy, and helped to pass<BR>the anxious months. I enjoyed reading about card games, board<BR>games and children’s books, and all the ways in which human<BR>beings have ingeniously staved off boredom and death and despised<BR>one another for doing so. I enjoyed thinking about the nature of<BR>childhood and the history of education and play. For an hour or<BR>two a day, making a small discovery or an unexpected connection,<BR>I could escape from myself into a better place.<BR>     I don’t mean in these pages to claim a special relationship with<BR>my aunt. My father once said to me, teasingly, ‘Are you such a<BR>dutiful niece and daughter because you married into a Jewish family?’<BR>And I think that the Swifts may have played a part in my<BR>relationship with Auntie Phyl. I was captivated by the family of<BR>my first husband, Clive Swift. He was the first member of his<BR>generation to marry out, but despite this I was made welcome. I<BR>loved the Swifts’ strong sense of mutual support and their demonstrative,<BR>affectionate generosity. They were a powerful antidote to<BR>the predominantly dour and depressive Yorkshire Drabbles and<BR>Staffordshire Bloors. It was a happy day that introduced me to<BR>Clive and the Swifts.<BR>     In The Peppered Moth I wrote brutally about my mother’s<BR>depression, and I never wish to enter that terrain again. It is too<BR>near, too ready to engulf me as it engulfed her. Some readers have<BR>written to me, taking me to task for being hard on my mother,<BR>but more have written to thank me for expressing their complex<BR>feelings about their own mothers. I had hoped that writing about<BR>her would make me feel better about her. But it didn’t. It made me<BR>feel worse.<BR>     Both my parents were depressive, though they dealt with this in<BR>different ways. My father took to gardening and walking with his<BR>dog, my mother to Radio 4 and long laments. He was largely<BR>silent, though Helen reminds me that he used to hum a lot. My<BR>mother could not stop talking. Her telephone calls, during which<BR>she complained about him bitterly for hour after hour, seemed<BR>never-ending. The last decades of their marriage were not happy,<BR>but when they were on speaking terms they would do the Times<BR>crossword together.<BR>     Doing jigsaws and writing about them has been one of my<BR>strategies to defeat melancholy and avoid laments. Boswell<BR>regretted that his friend Samuel Johnson did not play draughts after<BR>leaving college, ‘for it would have afforded him an innocent soothing<BR>relief from the melancholy which distressed him so often’.<BR>Jigsaws have offered me and many others an innocent soothing<BR>relief, and this is where this book began and where it ends.<BR></DIV><DIV>     Margaret Drabble<BR></DIV> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>The Pattern in the Carpet</b> by <b>Margaret Drabble</b> Copyright © 2009 by Margaret Drabble. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. 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