The Diary (2nd edition) of a 360 year old Vampire
I was born in 1645, in a barn. My parents, or rather my mother, lived in a tiny caravan that was pulled by a horse. I can't remember the horses name, but, knowing my mother, it would have had one.
Mother made all manner of useful things from wood. She knew every type of tree native to England, and of every land between France and Albania, where she came from. I remember her weaving young pliable shoots of willow, and making handles from ash, but her top 'earner', was pegs for hanging the washing. I say 'earner' because very often money didn't change hands and she bartered for food. She was also an expert at preserving herbs, and knew what each was good for. I can't recall their uses as I was more interested in plants that were solid food. A trait I developed from the early experience of hunger, I expect.
During the summer and early autumn mother sometimes worked at fruit picking on large farms. My father was a labourer on such a farm, until mother passed by and he persuaded her to let him stay with her and 'help'. That's all she ever told me about him, and clearly didn't want to reminisce.
In subsequent centuries , particularly the 20th, when I read Freud, I wondered who my paternal 'role model' could have been. I guess it was Boots, our dog, which explains rather a lot.
Having acquired several thousand reasons (and counting) to not trust the human race, I suppose it was obvious that I'd relate better to animals. Sadly they let me down too, but only through cross breeding with humans (more anon). At least that's the way I look at it. I mean, seriously, where did vampires come from? Transylvania? Hollywood?
About 300 years after it happened to me, genetic science was in its infancy, and I reasoned that some vampire bat DNA got into the peasants in Tibesti (Northern Algeria), when the bats had a quick drink from the comatose labourers of a Saturday night. Why Tibesti? Because that's where the gypsies came from, the ones that turned up in leafy Albania looking for harvesting work, wenches, free beer, and young necks to bite ...
When I was very young, I was pleased that they hadn't bit my mother, but when she was dying (at the un-ripe not-old age of 38) I wished they had. Life was hard circa 1640, as you can probably imagine.
I vowed that I would never bite anyone, and I haven't. I'd like to think it was because I'm a fairly decent tri-centenarian bloke, but the instinct was so strong at first that the only reason I didn't bite anyone was because I was a child. The most appealing necks to my naive mind were generally on young women. about 4 feet above ground, and I was about two foot eleven (on tiptoes). By the time I was eight I'd just about tamed the craving, or maybe I'd just formed the habit of feeding elsewhere ...
For decades I bled squirrels and rabbits to keep my strength up, and I began to ponder the obvious question. What is this unnatural strength for? What use is it? As a child I imagined being able to work at two jobs and buy lots of appealing goods. Little did I realise it would decades to answer the question. About three decades more than my mother lived ...
I remember when I caught a debilitating virus and spent two days lying in the caravan and fasting. Afterwards I felt stronger than ever. This didn't make sense to my naive mind. 'Have exercise and eat lots' seemed to be the accepted way of keeping fit. Then in the early years of this century scientists discovered the 'repair mode' that mammalian cells enter when they aren't too busy duplicating, and it sort of makes sense. I learned the lesson that a days fast (or thereabouts) and resting did as beneficial to my health as blood ...
From about 1920 onwards the serious illness of obesity (and its offspring, such as diabetes) began to decimate human health, and for sedentary workers surrounded by aisles of food it also became necessary to do the world's most healthy exercise ... walking. A few people have to find substitutes due to worn out knees or similar, but for most people just walking would work wonders.
What's it like, being ancient? I'll be four hundred years old in 2043! If I'm still alive, if civilisation survives that long ...
There are perks, experience wise. The bad news is pensions. I can't claim an age-related pension because, according to the government, I don't exist. I don't really care, because most of the things people spend money on don't feel important to me. So what would lots of money be good for? For making the world a better place. This might sound easy to the naive mind, but I've lost count of the number of times grand, expensive schemes have created more problems than they solve.
I was very young when I realised that most people are slaves. Now I realise it is most people in the western world. Anyway, taking a leaf out of my mother's book, I lived in a caravan. No rent, no tiny cottage tied to the landowner, poor but relatively free.
Many times since I moved to Britain, particularly in winter, I've fancied returning across the channel to a warmer climate and much more space, but I can't get a passport because I don't exist.
The most difficult thing about posing as a gypsy was hiding the increasing number of books that I owned. I don't recall the first time I owned a small cottage, but until then I had to hide my books under the false floorboards of the caravan. Over the centuries it has been dangerous to own certain books – usually the ones that become required reading in subsequent generations. You'd think people would learn something from this wouldn't you? What is currently regarded as fact is likely to prove to be opinion. Some opinions are most trustworthy than others, simply because they can be tested, but the power drives of the least conscious and the most self-serving get in the way of objectivity.
A library hidden under the floorboards was one thing, choosing to fast and read books for two days each week (well, most weeks) was another. Avoiding the inquisition was easy enough, but if you've seen the rage engendered in the Loudest, Dimmest Drunk in the village pub on learning that you read a book; nay OWN a book, you'd probably opt for the rack. Funny things, people ... ha, ha.
I would have been bored without my books, but now, after 360 years, I still re-read every one (those that paled with age have been given away) and find that every page of several thousand books rings bells. It is in my memory – not as quotable passages, but the gist of it. It's message.
Nowadays many people have given up reading. They'd rather sit in front of the TV and complain about rubbish, repeats and advertsing. Sounds like a good reason to turn it off, but off it ain't. They don't realise that a good book is like a two day vacation every week. A vacation to wherever you like, with no passport, no luggage, no bills, no queues, nobody snoring (or worse) in the next seat!
If you can't afford one day a week, you're either a slave, or you are throwing your money away on junk. The most laughable junk (if it wasn't so tragic) nowadays is canned water. Coloured, sweetened water for £1 a tin!! Which has the most power, I wonder, Advertising or denial.
Back in the seventeenth century hardly anyone had a book, so I used to try to remember the stories. The gypsies were a gold mine of stories, so were the travellers who came to work on the farms. Some things recur through the centuries, and it makes me think of a variant of William Blakes' Poems of Innocence and Experience.
Poems of Ignorance and Exasperation!!
I think I might be in a bit of a mood! Possibly due a vacation. Which book will I take? I'll rephrase that – Which book will take me?
Tibestian Book of the Undead
Albania, fiction, France, Freud, more Freud psychology, satire, vampires