F. David Peat - Biography
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I am writing this at my desk in our house in Pari, Italy. When
I glance to the right I look though the door into the bedroom
and out through the open window at the Tuscan hills. To my left
is a window open onto Via Gonfienzo. Someone passes, sticks his
head through the widow and sees me seated at the computer. "Ah,
you're studying," he says, "you like books."
Our house is not very large, two small bedrooms, a living room
and a kitchen. Below is the Cantina where we keep books, olive
oil and some wine. Walking round the village, doing the "giro"
as they say, need only take five or ten minutes but some times
it can last up to two hours as I meet people, gossip or have a
coffee at the bar.
Pari is located about 5 kilometers off the main road between
Siena and Grosseto. Being off the highway means we have few visitors,
except during the Festa in August and the Sagra of September when
tables are put out in the streets for everyone to eat. Around
two hundred and fifty people live in Pari, which means I can get
to know everyone. But in July and August there can be as many
as a thousand with aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, grand
children and cousins coming to visit.
Peat at home in Pari
So here I am in the Tuscan hills, far away from London, New York,
Ottawa or Paris. I have a CD player, a library full of books,
a fax machine, a modem and a old laptop in black and white, without
a graphics or audio card. We have little money but eat excellent
food, breathe fresh air and look out on beauty. How did I get
I was born in Waterloo, a suburb of Liverpool, on April 18, 1938.
Part of my early childhood was spent being woken in the middle
of the night and carried into a damp and smelly air raid shelter.
Two persistent dreams remained from that period, at least until
the middle of my life. One was of looking up into the night sky.
Suddenly the stars begin to move and I experience a shifting of
my axis. It was only in 1971, during a power strike in London
when the city was plunged into darkness, that I saw, within a
dark sky, the lights of aircraft bound for Heathrow or Gatwick.
It was then that I realized my dream involved an early memory
of searchlights and tracer bullets in the sky.
Another dream is about a forgotten crime revealed by the digging
up of a dead body. What Freudian meaning could this contain? In
the dream, and almost at the moment of waking, I was clothed in
the sense that I must have done something truly terrible in the
past, something so dark that it had been repressed from my consciousness.
This time the historical origins of dream revealed itself shortly
before my mother died. It dated back to the war days, a time of
heavy rationing. Somehow my father had obtained a turkey, no doubt
on the Black Market. But by Christmas Eve the bird had begun to
stink. As this incident was mentioned memories flooded back -
a whispered conversation in the kitchen. How could they dispose
of the carcass, which my grandmother jokingly referred to as "the
body"? At that time snoopers examined the contents of dustbins
and there was a heavy fine for people who threw away food, maybe
even imprisonment for those dealing in the Black Market. When
it was dark my father went into the garden, dug a hole and "buried
the body", with jokes about people digging it up in the future.
I remember my fear that somehow the crime would be revealed and
my father would be arrested and taken away.
Two dreams and two interpretations that refer to real, traumatic
events in the past. Yet these dreams are also doors into something
darker and deeper. Needless to say, after the actual historical
correspondences had been revealed the repeated occurrence of the
A happier memory of war time was the availability of live ammunition
and the magnesium casing from incendiary bombs. But this would
be a few years after the war when I was bigger. I never messed
with bullets as some boys did. Anyway my mother had hidden my
father's bullets as being too dangerous so that when, as a member
of the Home Guard, he was called on to scour some waste land in
search of a German who had supposedly landed by parachute, he
had to plead with my mother to give him back his bullets. Needless
to say he found no enemy agents, but at the end of the war he
was given a medal for his bravery in "sustaining injury while
fighting for King and Country". He fell over while climbing over
a wall with his rifle and broke his little finger.
But back to business. A chunk of magnesium could be lit by playing
the flame of a Bunsen burner on it - but once lit it burned though
the tripod and began to melt its way though the kitchen floor.
But that was really pretty mild stuff when compared to the sort
of thing I got up to in the coal shed - making gases, powerful
acids and once, convinced I had made nitroglycerin, I spent the
rest of the day lurking in my bedroom. Then there was the time
I attempted the polymerization of Bakelite and filled the house
with dense black smoke that lingered for a couple of days and
caused us to go to my auntie's house. Or the time my electrical
experiments required me to by-pass the fuse box at the front of
the house with the result that I blacked out a small area of Waterloo.
But only part of the time was spent in the coal shed because
I was a very sickly child - there was a high degree of neurosis
in the home and my mother was a professional invalid in incredibly
frail health until her death at the age of 90. And so I was in
and out of hospital for minor operations and once for several
weeks I was kept home and out of school. This may well have been
"a touch of TB". It was only spoken of in whispers since TB was
associated with poverty. Being in bed meant being off school and
being able to read as many books as I wanted. Or, when I got bored,
traveling in my imagination, playing with soldiers, or my toy
farm. Or rigging up a pulley system in my bedroom so that I could
transport toys up to the curtain rail and back. Hour after hour,
day after day, I would lie in bed, listening to the sounds of
children playing outside, watching the shadows move across the
I was in many ways a solitary child who lived much in the imagination,
although I got on very well with adults and had a group of younger
children who I organized into playing the Olympic Games. It was
around this age I stood under a street lamp and wondered if the
light went on for ever and ever and ever. Or if it reached the
end of the universe then how would it travel? Would it simply
go on making more and more space.
I had learned about science from a book in Aunt and Uncle's home.
It was called "The Marvels and Mysteries of Science" and they
used to read it to me before I was able to read for myself, and
show me the cut-away drawings of the inside of the earth, sun
and atom. Their home in Hunts Cross was an idyl for me. This suburb,
to the south east of Liverpool, lay outside the main bomb run
for aircraft and there, as a small child, I could sleep at night
without the need to go into an air raid shelter. My aunt delighted
in self-education and possessed a set of red bound "Universal
Encyclopedias". In the afternoon, when I took my rest, we'd discuss
Plato, the notion of forms, and the running of an ideal society.
I also became interested in the problem of evil and how it originated
in the world.
If you would like to read more then why not purchase a copy of
David Peat's "Pathways of Chance". This new book contains
not only the full autobiography but an exploration of the many
ideas that David has explored during his life. For a signed copy
contact Pari Publishing at www.paripublishing.com
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