Liz tells a family story

I was born in the early 1950s in Kettering. My Dad was a radio op in bomber command, my Mum a very beautiful lady who was in a reserve occupation in the tax office during WW2. They were a very attractive couple. They bought a new house in Windmill Avenue in 1948, and my Mother embraced (of course people didn’t always ‘embrace’ then) being a housewife, my Dad a gardener. My Mother loved homemaking, something I have (rather unfashionably) inherited from her. My Dad worked in Northampton for Courts the furnishers collecting cash on delivery money, but loved the garden.

Kettering, Single Decker Bus 1950'sA Kettering single decker bus in the 1950s

Sadly in 1949, my Mother’s Father passed away quite young. My Grandparents lived in an off-licence in Kettering and Gran was unable to carry on the business as it involved heavy lifting, so she had to move out the house. Society was different then, also just after the war there was an acute housing shortage. Long story short Gran (Edith) moved in with my parents. It was something that I always took for granted as a child and was reasonably normal at that time. Also, she had suffered from agoraphobia when younger so possibly wasn’t the strongest person. Mum and Gran did everything together, housework, shopping, and later childcare. Gran had been a children’s nanny prior to her marriage so had very set ideas on bringing up children. Born in 1899 she was one of the last Victorians!
I think Mum found it very helpful and comforting to have another pair of hands around at a time when housework took 60 hours per week plus. However it was difficult for Dad, though I did not really understand this fully till I was an adult.
My brother was born 3 years after me, and Gran almost became Mum to me as Mum looked after the baby. Gran and I would occasionally go shopping in Northampton or Leicester and we would visit my many great Aunts together. Gran often cooked as well, she was a dab hand at chopping home grown parsley or mint, made fab pancakes and chips as well as mutton stew.
I guess we always had a bit of a love/hate relationship. Gran was a very generous person but could be quite judgemental. To be honest she said some quite nasty things to me that I still remember. As an adult I can see maybe she was jealous of sharing Mum’s love and felt insecure after her husband died.
When I was 5 my Dad’s job moved us to Wales. It was a huge upheaval for Mum who had a lot of friends and relatives locally. We lived on the Gower, beautiful, but to be honest in the 50s a bit anti-English. I think Mum was very pleased that Gran moved too, otherwise she would have been isolated.

Gower 1950s                 A Gower postcard from the 1950s

From there we moved to Swindon 2 years later, then 4 years after that to Cranleigh in Surrey. It must have been difficult for Mum. Dad was ambitious and earned good money. He worked his way up this multi-national company to become a Director in the 70s, and although the moving must have been unsettling, I think the money was appreciated.
So when I was a child, Gran was always there. She taught me a lot of things, probably more than my Mum at the time. How to knit (though I still can’t cast on!), crochet (I was no hoper), a lot about nature, which like me she especially loved wild flowers. When we were in Swindon, we would often picnic and walk on the Wiltshire downs in summer. Gran and I would pick wild flowers and press them. She walked with me after school to my ballet and tap class. She made my costume for the Brownie’s nativity play when I was cast as an angel. Just before Christmas, Gran and I would go to buy Mum’s Christmas present from me in the local (very upmarket) department store, always a special treat as it looked beautiful with decorations and we would go for a cup of tea and sometimes a cake too. Gran was quite religious and liked to attend church especially in Swindon. Sometimes she and I would attend the local church. It was very ‘high’ church, a beautiful Victorian building with lots of incense and ritual at services. I particularly remember going to an Epiphany service there one early January, singing “Brightest and Best” and how it was snowing when we came out. Like in Finding Nana, Gran and I usually shared a hotel room on holiday in Eastbourne, Devon or Bournemouth. She bought me a lot of dolls for Christmas and birthdays, which I loved and she made clothes for them too.
WWII_Food_RationingGran would sometimes talk about life in the off-licence and shop during the war years especially. Screws of butter, broken biscuits, loose tea etc and sometimes saving a few things for families who were hard up or had a lot of young children. She would talk about playing cards at my Aunt’s houses, and indeed she used to play Rummy, Newmarket, Sevens and Beggar My Neighbour with my brother and I as kids too.
When I became a teenager Gran would make clothes for me. She was a very keen and competent needlewoman. She made clothes for Mum also.
At this stage, she did become very judgemental about my boyfriend who I started seeing when I was only 15.
In later life Gran had hearing problems which she found isolating. A couple of times I visited her as an adult when my parents were away and it was nice to talk just to her and for her to be able to hear me better.
It wasn’t really until my Dad was in hospital following a heart attack and I talked to him on my own that he said, and I realised, what a problem this had been for him. He had so little time alone with my Mum, her Mum was always there! Neither were bad people, but it was such a difficult and stressful situation. They both spent several years at the end hardly speaking to each other.
Gran passed away aged nearly 94. To sum her up she was: generous, kind, quite judgemental, a product of her late Victorian upbringing, a lover of nature especially springtime, a keen needlewoman, a religious lady. She was also dependant on Mum and Mum on her. There was a co-dependency that I only recognise in retrospect. Neither even walked into the village in Cranleigh on their own for example.
I still miss her now though. Especially looking at primroses (one of her favourites), or sewing, especially the blanket stitch which she taught me. At Christmas (which again she loved), and on hearing Elizabethan Serenade on Classic FM, a favourite of hers.

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No Tears

Stephanie, Jane, Nana & Charlotte Scarborough for 90th croppedfrom left to right – Stephanie, Jane, Nana and Charlotte at Scarborough for Nana’s 90th birthday

Stephanie (Granddaughter) and I (Jane, Daughter) left the hospital that night thinking of the words “No tears. I don’t want any tears. I love you, and you”. Nana pointed her finger at us each in turn. That day she tried to get out of her bed.

“Where are you going Nana?”

“I’m going shopping.”

“What do you need to buy?”

“Stephanie needs more clothes, I’m taking her shopping.”

“But the shops close in ten minutes.”

“Well I need strawberries”, she pointed to Jane saying “You can run to the shops, go on run and get me some strawberries.”

Stephanie and I both smiled at each other as the medication took over and Nana drifted off to sleep again and we left the hospital.

We both went to our own houses and got into bed, but our instincts kicked in and I was wide awake when the phone rang. Nana’s breathing had changed. We had to get back to the hospital.

“Stephanie it’s time. We have to go back now.”

“I’m awake Mum. I’ll pick you up, I had a feeling so I went to bed in my clothes to wait.”

“No tears. I don’t want tears” rang through my head as Stephanie held Nana’s hand and I held her other hand waiting, watching every breath Nana took, each breath was taking longer and longer but when the next one came, we both gave a sigh of relief, but then it happened, the next breath never came, Nana had gone. “No tears. I don’t want tears.”

There wasn’t time for tears. Doctor’s certificate to collect, coroner to sign it off, registration of death, funeral to arrange, wake to arrange, must let friends and family know, need to contact the vicar.

“I have no time for tears. She didn’t want tears.”

The funeral was over but still “No time for tears. Nana didn’t want tears.”.

Need to sort Nana’s personal things out at the bungalow, need to get the estate agent to value, need to contact solicitor, need to find Nana’s will.

“No time for tears.”

I go round to Nana’s everyday to draw the curtains or leave a light on. I see her sitting in her chair, I see Grandpa tending to his fuchsias in the garden, they are both still here but something isn’t right, it’s too quiet.

“No time for tears.”

I have to sort Nana’s clothes out. I have to go through her private things. We had never had secrets but it didn’t feel right, they were Nana’s personal things, it felt wrong, but “No tears. I don’t want tears.”.

So I began to sort through Nana’s clothes, I smell them. Nana’s smell is still on them, the sweet perfume she wore that Stephanie used to buy her still lingered. I check her pockets, there was a silver coin or two in every coat pocket so I put them all in a little pot at the side of Nana’s bed.

“No tears. I don’t want tears.” kept going through my head as I put the clothes into black bin liners ready to take to the charity shop. Hanging in the wardrobe were two of Grandpa’s suits still. Nana had never been able to get rid of all Grandpa’s things, she did her best but it was too painful for her. Stephanie and I couldn’t do it either, so the suits now hang in Stephanie’s wardrobe as they held so many memories for her.

The little knick-knacks were boxed up ready once again for the charity shop. We kept what had been so very precious to Nana and those items are now on display in our own homes, each one having some meaning or memory.

Seeing furniture being taken to the homeless, the bungalow was now looking empty and finally her bed went. I stand in the living room just looking around, I walk through the bungalow visiting each room in turn, all so empty and then it happens, I can’t hold back the tears any longer.

“I’m sorry Nana, I know you are still here and Grandpa too. I can feel your presence. Why have you left us? You should be here for us always, a mum should be here for her daughter always, and my girls need you. Oh Nana.”

The sold sign goes up and suddenly it all seems to be final, one last thing we have to do is say goodbye to the place we had once loved so very much.

The kettle is boiling, there are little sandwiches and cakes on plates and we sit on the floor of the now empty living room and say a final goodbye to what was once our loving home.

“If Nana and Grandpa are watching us, they would be laughing and smiling at us” I say to my girls.

Charlotte, Stephanie’s sister has travelled from Newcastle to join us in our little tea party farewell. We pack up our belongings, take one more look around, I put the key in the door and as I turn it in the lock, knowing we would never be going back again, the tears flowed freely down our faces as we walked away. We still pass Nana’s bungalow and as we do so, point to it and say “That’s where our Nana and Grandpa used to live.”

Stephanie & Charlotte run

 

 

 

 

Stephanie and Charlotte ready for the Great North Run raising money for Hayward House who looked after Nana

Louise shares her memories of Grandad Roy

Notts pubsI don’t know why but quality time with me grandad always seemed to be in the pub. To this day I think about the Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham and the Bell in the Old Market Square as our family fun locations. It wasn’t very often that the Wildish’ would get together, but when we did it was usually daytime drinks in these pubs.

 

So me Grandad, Roy, was hardcore. A really lovely great good morals kind of man. Like most grandads he fought in WWII and like most he refused to talk about it even when asked. He was the first non-medical personnel in the liberation of Belsen.  He drove a tank, and out of his whole battalion – Churchill’s Butchers, he was one of only a few to come back. That never left him, he had guilt and only now in adulthood having googled Belsen concentration camp, can I ever come remotely close to know how he got through the rest of his life being a father and a grandad and functioning normally, although I saw snippets of how he didn’t at times throughout his life… Anyway, Roy was amazing to me.

Liberation of BelsenThe liberation of Belsen

So this snippet, was the family get together on a few days before Xmas, I don’t even know what year… I think I was about 24ish and he was in his 70’s (sadly Roy is no longer with us). For some reason it ended up being me, me dad and me grandad (forgive the grammar, I’m speaking Nottingham!) It was usually more of us, but this time just us three.

For some reason I remember me dad had to go early after a few pints – we were all having a good old time drinking a couple of pints and chatting away. Me dad and grandad always covered Forest in conversation, that’s Notts Forest and their progress or lack of, and we always talked about who was doing what in the family and giving our opinions.

So me dad had about 3 pints as did we and then had to leave, thinking back now, I don’t know why, perhaps a hot date, but he left.

Normally I was only ever in the company of me grandad with me dad so there was this moment where we both thought: ah that’s it then I guess that’s the day over and we will say our goodbyes. So I think I just said, have you gotta go or do you fancy another?

Needless to say we both had about 8-10 pints each that afternoon/night. I remember thinking, how much can grandad drink, and then remembered some of his old stories, but what if he has a heart attack (again) and it’s my fault…

But do you know what… I had the best time. The best and not because of the 8 pints, although it played a part. You see, we talked and talked. He told me how great he thought me partner was (and glad he wasn’t anything like my dad or brother – that’s his own son btw) and he talked about his life, and most importantly he talked about the war and the times that were hard in his life. Man he had some amazing stories, some horrifying life and death stories, stuff I will hopefully never ever see, or situations I will never ever be in, for the first time he opened up about Belsen and how it affected him, not because of the drink, but probably because for the first time ever, he and I had hours together. He didn’t go into massive detail, but he told me enough to bring tears, build my respect for him tenfold, and get to know me grandad for the great, utterly great man that he was.

Some was emotional, others hilarious and I learnt about his jobs, his loves and his life.

We connected.

So he opened up, and I respect that, I really to this day respect that. And I’ve never forgot that day.

So 8-10 pints later, we were both drunk, we covered life, love, wars and hopes for the future.

I think around 8pm (we’d been out since 1) and when I realised I was at the chips and mushy peas stage, and of course the realisation that not only I was drunk but I was with my 86 year old grandad who was totally plastered too, albeit nowhere near as drunk as me, I thought I really had better get him home.

So we gave each other massive hugs, we were laughing loads and I put him on the bus (he was conscious) and off he went home, waving as he went, and so did I. I was sick. When I got home.

The next time I saw him, we laughed about our adventure, he kept saying how much he  enjoyed the day, and we both had a new found respect, me for just who he was, and he, I for downing 8 pints and keeping up with him! He was ok that night and said he felt a bit rough the next day, but I mean the man drove tanks… That day was nothing. He lived for a good few years after that. I’m proud to be his granddaughter.

So whilst this isn’t an amazing story about anything in particular. It was the afternoon that me and grandad really connected, the time I found out about him for the whole man he was, not just me grandad. I think I loved him more after that day, and I miss him still a lot. It really is my fondest memory, which is probably wrong on some levels… But I don’t care and neither will he.

For Roy x  Granddad Roy

A Fortunate Man – In The Darkroom

Tuesday 20 June 2017 | Author: Michael Pinchbeck| Featured image: Julian Hughes

Last week we spent time in the rehearsal room at New Perspectives devising Fortunate Man. It is a tribute to the book of the same name 50 years on from its publication. It is a tribute to its author John Berger who passed away in January. It is a tribute to Dr John Sassall, its central protagonist, who is torn between being an ‘old, traditional country doctor and a doctor of the future’. Our show starts with some archive footage from 1967 showing an old traditional country doctor doing his rounds in by horse and carriage. He says in his clipped, upper class accent that he can see up to 12 patients a day by travelling this way. It soon reveals itself to be a study of the NHS in 2017 when doctors are under pressure to see up to 36 patients a day.

Image By JoImage by Jo Ferenczi

In total, there are 12 people involved in the project so far. Six writers/performers and six artists/photographers. Different people have been joining us on different days and at the same time pairs of writers and artists are visiting surgeries and health centres to gather research for the project. Taking pictures. Conducting interviews. Writing in waiting rooms. This has been a really interesting collaboration so far, working with artists from different art forms to respond to the book. As Jean Mohr said of his work with John Berger, ‘That spirit of collaboration is rare between a photographer and a writer.’ I have been collaborating with Julian Hughes, our photography mentor, to find the scaffolding for the show. We decided to use photographic terminology to structure the scenes we want to make. Contact is Berger and Mohr discussing the birth of their project. Focus is a series of audio interviews about what it is like to be a doctor today. Negative is the story of how Dr Sassall, a man who set out to help others, is unable to help himself. Development shows him catching water in buckets.

IMG_1838editb&w.jpgImage by Julian Hughes

In the spirit of the book, we want the images the photographers have taken to be in conversation with words the writers have written during their visits to the surgeries. One of my favourite scenes so far features an acoustic piece of guitar music composed by Ryan (one of our writers) that soundtracks the text written by four of the team alongside a projection of images taken by our photographers. The images have been monochromed and formatted to look like the photographs in the book. Mohr and Berger ‘retained the right to the minutiae of the book’s layout. The position of the text on the page. The position of the pictures within the book. The combination of text, page turn, and picture.’ We want to be faithful to this relationship between the paragraph and the photograph. In a 21st century twist, we read these texts live on our mobile phones, ubiquitous in surgery waiting rooms, despite all the laminated signage informing us to switch our phones off. So, what have we learned so far?

Image By MiraImage by Mira Ho

We have learned that doctors don’t take lunch breaks. We have learned that they aim to see every patient within 10 minutes. We have learned that patients don’t always go in to see them with the condition that they really want to talk about so much of that 10 minutes is spent guessing what the real reason for their visit might be. We have learned that it takes the same time to process a film as it does to give a pint of blood. We have learned that the conversation is still the cure in a lot of cases and some patients just want someone to talk to, someone to listen. As John Berger said, ‘If I am a storyteller, it is because I listen.’ We have learned that when you project images onto the folding screens you find in surgeries it looks like pages in a book. We have learned that a photograph of unwashed cups in a kitchen sink tells us more about the NHS than anything we could write. As Jean Mohr said ‘… it became apparent that I could say with one picture what he could articulate only in pages and pages of words.’ We have learned that doctors don’t really want to talk about politics today but we can’t avoid our show being political. We have learned that to understand a context we have to situate ourselves in it. We have learned that doctors love what they do. When asked to name the best thing about their job many of them tell us it is the people or the patients or the place. We have learned that they want to make a difference to peoples’ lives. And they do. We have learned to listen.

EP 2017 – The Barefoot Doctor

Tuesday 30 May 2017 | Author: Ed Roberts | Images: Susana de Dios

You ever trod on a plug or stepped on a piece of lego? It hurts more than you’d imagine in truth, don’t you think? Well, imagine doing that over and over again. Every step having that level of pain and discomfort. In those circumstances every step an individual takes must be laden with purpose and conviction. You’re either walking towards something or hoping that every time you put one foot in front of the other that the pain you experience is taken away.

4_Sasall_bend

 

Away from the past. Away from what you know. Away from those who understand why you continue to walk. But for Sassall, this wasn’t the playground. He wasn’t walking away from the bully who stole his marbles or taunted his youthful longing for the sea. In that moment walking away would be wise, commendable and mature. But Sassall’s issues are not so simple and infantile.

Yet, the way he addresses the situation is to not address it at all. To pretend the trauma just isn’t there and simply “walk away”. The man a community turned to in their hours of need was incapable of coming to his own aid. This is a wound he can not cauterize, stitch or plaster up. And so, he walks. And so the pain festers. The squalor of the mind under lock and key.

The grief that becomes pain, that becomes depression, that becomes a numbness to life, that becomes…

1_Sassall_man I loved

Dr John Sassall died in china in 1982. He’s been learning the ways of the traditional barefoot doctor. Although the details of his last moments and hours are lost, this is where his mortal story ends, his legacy as the every man’s Faust of the 20th century lives on in the words and images of Berger and Mohr. The paradox of A Fortunate Man is how Sassall acts as an example to be lauded and a warning to be met with caution. The General Practitioner whose search for the universal helped all those around him, but whose existentialism made the final chapter of his story one of isolation, loss and heartbreak. Learn from Sassall, accept yourself. Accept who you are, what being you means and go out there… and be happy.

3_Sassall _overworked

EP 2017 – Blood – Gallery

On 11 March, EP members Suzanne Reynolds and Susana de Dios to a trip with Julian Hughes to a Nottingham Blood Centre to document Julian’s blood donation. Susana de Dios took the photos in this gallery, and the group then wrote responses to the images based on parallels found in John Berger’s 1967 novel A Fortunate Man. You can find a blog post about this experience written by Suzanne Reynolds here.

blood 3

“I’ll have your hand” AFM: ‘We give the doctor access to our bodies. Apart from the doctor, we only grant such access voluntarily to lovers – and many are frightened to do even this. Yet the doctor is a comparative stranger… what can such intimacy mean?’

blood 4

AFM: ‘It is as though when he talks or listens to a patient, he is also touching them with his hand so as to be less likely to misunderstand: and it is as though, when he is physically examining a patient, they were also conversing.’

blood 5

AFM: ‘The function of fraternity is recognition. This individual and closely intimate recognition is required on both a physical and psychological level. On the former it constitutes the art of diagnosis.[…] On the psychological level recognition means support.’

blood 2

“Keep your arm warm. The warmer you are, the better it will flow!” AFM: ‘The air is cold. The floorboards are cold. It is perhaps this coldness which sharpens the tang of the hot cup of tea.’

blood 1

“Are you alright? Just pop your head back for me” AFM: ‘That’s where I live, where you are putting the needle in.’ ‘I know,’ Sassall said, ‘I know what it feels like.’

EP 2017 – Blood

Thursday 11 May | Author: Suzanne Reynolds | Featured Image: Susana de Dios

Blood. We all have it; I guess it is one of those commonalities that we take for granted – well, at least until we need a blood transfusion. There we are, in an emergency situation, haemorrhaging following childbirth, as I did, or through loss of blood caused by a road collision; whatever the reason is for your need, you can be sure that someone here, in a Blood Centre such as this on North Church Street right in the centre of Nottingham, will have enabled that to happen – simply by voluntarily donating one pint of their blood.

It is to witness one of these selfless acts, by regular blood donor Julian Hughes – along with photographer Susana de Dios – that we are here, as part of our research towards an exciting theatre project with New Perspectives based on John Berger’s A Fortunate Man – The Story of a Country Doctor, first published in 1967.  This research, with a host of co-collaborators from a range of artistic disciplines, will lead to a new piece of theatre that will first be shared at Lakeside in June as part of the NRTF conference.  One of the key aims of this timely research is to consider the state of the National Health Service fifty years on.jos heartAn image from Julian’s Friends, Lovers and Strangers project

You can sense my hesitation…it’s true, both Susana and I don’t like needles, so volunteering to observe Julian donating blood at least averts both our minds from what we are about to witness; except that, just as we are ushered towards a private meeting room, we are asked, quite rightly to leave, as this part is confidential. Julian laughs later as he tells us there are many reasons why people cannot give blood on that particular day – some of which you will know, I’m sure.  He also tells us that he gets nervous, even now – even though he has been donating blood for over ten years; his first donation being given on February 14th.  He invited, as part of a photography project, people that he knew for a pint, only for them to discover that they were going to give a pint, rather than drink one; many of these are still regular blood donors.

They, like Julian, having concluded their confidential meeting, will be ushered into a bright and relatively noisy space where each donor can see each other – it is not as I expected at all – not a curtain in sight!  He is invited to sit in a chair that is capable of being tipped right back; almost like a bucket seat that was in our red Ford Escort, back in the day when hubby and I were dating (I’ve learnt, people don’t call it ‘courting’ any more – it seems people seem to assume that you are some kind of offender!).  Anyway, whilst this Blood Donor Centre is busy, I am not convinced that making yourself as vulnerable as this is a precursor to the development of romantic relationships – although Julian assures us that people do talk over their tea, coffee and nibbles that they have afterwards, but he reckons he is about twenty minutes away from that currently.

blood 1

“Are you alright? Just pop your head back for me” AFM: ‘That’s where I live, where you are putting the needle in.’ ‘I know,’ Sassall said, ‘I know what it feels like.’

Meanwhile, the needle, as it goes in, is described as somewhat “irritating” and “scratchy” – although I observe that his feet are no longer twitching quite so much with what I can only suppose to be indicative of a level of anxiety; think Jeremy Kyle on one of the many TV screens has helped to help take his mind off it. He laughs as he tells us, he once saw a snake being attacked by a mongoose as he gave blood, which had made him laugh and took his mind off the needled – he went on to state that the particular shade of blue that is in the room is comforting to him, as it reminds him of “engineering blue” (his dad worked as an engineer).

The nurse also helps to keep him chatting, as Susana moves effortlessly around the space, creating a photographic record of the event, as the nurse continues to chat, she then asks him about the project – at this, he visibly relaxes. She is very encouraging about the project, and is herself aware of the book; she goes on to say things like:

“You could do with staying a day here…see how it all works!”

“Every day is a different day; we get all walks of people here.”

With Julian’s blood flowing, she sets an alarm which beeps, slowly at first, but quite soon becomes faster and faster, until there is an audible increase in strength and volume, at which point, the nurse returns and informs him that he is all done:

“Seven minutes, that’s quick!”, she states.

Julian is astonished, as he tells us he usually finds the room quite cool, but today, as it is warmer, it seems to have “helped my blood flow quicker”.

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The needle is removed, swiftly and with precision, and soon we are all sat around in a comfy area surrounded by an array of sweet and salty snacks, and where cups of tea and coffee are drunk in a relaxed atmosphere where there must be a real sense of relief, and what I imagine to be a recognition of ‘doing good’. (Maybe I should check whether I am able to give blood myself now, having been told that because I had a blood transfusion prior to blood being tested for Variant CJD, that I would not be able to; as medicated as I am due to chronic pain and fibromyalgia, I think this sense of giving something back could only be a good thing. Those who know me will already know that I can indeed be a bit of a mad cow!)

We depart the Blood Centre once Julian feels up to it, and decamp to a local coffee shop where we continue to talk about Berger and Mohr’s legacy – their collaboration, and how we might be able to bring A Fortunate Man to the stage in a way that does this text, required reading for every would-be GP, justice; especially as we approach a General Election where the NHS could well be a key factor in how people might choose to use their vote.

After this session the EP members paired images with quotes from John Berger’s novel. Visit the full gallery here.