All families have their stories. 

Ben Graff

Ben Graff

Some are handed down orally through the generations, others survive on fragments of paper. Letters, diaries, journals perhaps. There are few questions more powerful than “do you remember?” I wrote Find Another Place, as a reflection on some of the happenings within my own family that might otherwise have been forgotten. My parents both died at relatively young ages. During the space of a decade I become a parent (a number of times over) and lost my parents. My Grandparents were gone too. Yet so much remained, both in my memory and on paper. I wanted to re-remember and to give others a chance to share in some of these moments for the first time.

My grandfather had always wanted to be a writer, but was forced into the family business, where he spent his life selling clothes, then shoes, finally musical instruments. The more speculative business ventures he undertook that were meant to provide a way out were described by him in the journal he wrote toward the end of his life as “disastrous and best forgotten.” His journal, given to me in 2001 had lain dormant in a desk draw for many years, but on re-reading it after the death of my father in 2014 a half formed idea began to take more shape. My grandfather had written: “I tried to write stories about spies and criminals, a world of which I had no experience. Little did I realise that the family I have just described provided the material for any number of novels. By the time I did realise it, it was too late.” This was my wake up call. His final gift to me a message to tell the stories that were all around me, while I still could.

The more I looked, the more I uncovered. Letters my parents had written to each other before they were married, extracts from their own diaries; poems and drawings my mother had created. Work documents. My grandfather’s journal with its tales of the shop, his school days, the Isle of Wight in both war and peace time. Originally, I planned simply to structure this material, but finally realised I needed to tell my own story (which was another part of their stories) too. I wrote about the time of my father’s illness; our experience as a family as we faced his terminal cancer together. Childhood. Being a parent and what I learnt from that about the way I had been parented. Christmases, summer holidays, work and play. The quieter moments and those that were more dramatic. Happy times and sad - all that extraordinary range of events we call family life.

There were times when the writing would make me laugh. Typing the ending was not the only point in the process that made me cry. I remembered things I had not thought about for a long time. I saw some things from a different perspective years on from the event, through the eyes of other family members now gone. Nothing stays the same, even the past.

This is how Find Another Place came into being. We all have our stories just waiting to be told. I hope you enjoy it!

Find Another Place is published by Matador and available now from all good book stores and online retailers.