Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Memories are Made of This. (Dean Martin)

Some of my readers will remember that I have been involved in an autobiographical work for some considerable time. Sixty thousand words later a torrent of words have become a dribble.
Now I honestly believe everything we have ever experienced is stored in our minds, for the human brain is cleverer than any computer. The problem is how to recall a lifetime's 'happenings'.
I have lived for well over twenty five thousand days, perish the thought. But how many of those days can I honestly recall. For someone who can rarely remember what he had for breakfast, quite a thought! In life's journey what do we actually remember.
We usually remember births (our children, not our own), weddings, funerals, serious illnesses, some holidays, and very occasional special days in a lifetime in employment. Schooldays, some at least stay in the mind though actual dates are often gone forever. We often remember 'firsts'. Our first television, new furniture (when poor and first married), and as we prospered, first and subsequent cars, houses and so on.
We remember days from decades; in my case the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties. (Strangely I remember less of the nineties.) We can often recall a day or days at the age of ten, twenty, thirty, forty and so on. (I often suggest to elderly groups who 'hire' me as a speaker that they all write a day in their life and publish it as a fundraiser, the end products often dwarfs my efforts.)
We sometimes remember great moments in history and exactly what we were doing at the time. The assassinations for instance of J F Kennedy and John Lennon. (I remember a school teacher coming into the class room and announcing that a man called Gandhi, of whom I had never heard had been assassinated in a country that I knew not of, called India. I suspect many of our most entrenched memories are the result of trauma.
Both my wife and I are ardent fans of Derby County and seldom miss a home game. (Please, no rude comments though messages of sympathy are acceptable.) Over the years I have probably watched nearly a thousand football matches. That would account for over 90,000 minutes of my life if my maths are right. (I was an English teacher, not maths!) Yet I remember one match in detail, at Wembley Stadium and bits and pieces of a few others. The details of whole seasons I cannot recall.
I have just had a wonderful relaxed, pleasant overnight stay in our motorhome in Castleton, Derbyshire. Weather, perfect, company, perfect, experience, perfect. As I said earlier I am absolutely sure such memories are stored in the mind forever more, but more important, will I be able to recall such a tiny part of my life in five years time. (For the religious amongst you, where do our memories go after we are dead?) Mine hopefully will in part be written down, but, realistically, from a cynical point of view, who else cares.
I kept a diary of sorts for one year as a child. (See blog dated Diary of an Adolescent, 1953 dated 11th April 2009.) I also kept a diary in far more detail for the year 1985. I'm no Samuel Pepys but it is of value to me in that it records unimportant details of my life that year. (It seems to be around 70,000 words long.) It also details for only the second time in my life what I did on given days. (It does not record every single day, even I recognise the sheer mundanity of my life at times.) But it is useful in showing the minuscule nature of daily life.
June 16th 1985
Woken at 5.00 am by children in an adjoining tent! On Saturday evening a family arrived complete with shining Mercedes.The camping field contained only four tents. Our new neighbours promptly pitched tent within feet of our tent! How strange is it that we are conditioned to live in close proximity to our neighbours. Are we therefore almost frightened of the wide open spaces offered! ( In actual fact, when the minor irritation of the close proximity wore off the family proved to be pleasant, outgoing neighbours.)
Skegness is again visited, fish and chips, that most staple of diets again sampled. We return home mid afternoon happy and relaxed. Who needs the Costa-Bravo!
Now, dear readers, what do you remember from your journey through life.
One, a memory from childhood.
Two, a memory that highlights for you a certain decade.
Three, something of world shattering importance.
Four, something of importance to you only.
Finally, a happy event you will remember forever.


Yorkshire Pudding said...

One...Looking behind the glass in Mrs Austwick's Victorian-style sweet shop to glory at the fireworks that sat there in boxes and in those days - even at the age of seven or eight - I could fill a paper bag with my selections and take them home to smell, fondle and place lovingly in my Bonfire Night tin.
Two...Dancing drunkenly to "Come Up and See Me Make Me Smile" by Cockney Rebel at the students' union in Stirling..the 70's.
Three...The attack on the twin towers that fateful September 11th...driving home to see the horror unfolding on our television and knowing the world might never be the same again.
Four...After completing my first Literature essay at university, scanning the grade list posted outside the English office, working from bottom to top and finding my name there in the little band of A grades. I was at once delighted and astonished. It boosted my self image considerably.
Finally...our wedding day. Joyous and simple. Family and friends were all there though some have now left us...our grandparents, our parents,Ron, Arthur and Mary... I can see them in the photographs. I felt as though I was walking on air that day with my lovely young bride by my side.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

I enjoyed this post very much Ken.

1. An early memory I can still recall quite clearly is going out to the milkman, who came with a horse and cart, and having milk ladled into our jug straight from the churn. I can still see the milkman quite clearly too. (60+ years ago)

2. Dancing with friends to Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock".

3. The world shattering memory has to be the devastation in New York after the Twin Towers were attacked. We were due to visit the USA about 3 weeks later.

4. The births of my two children.

5. Happiest memory - seeing my first grandchild - my grandson - about 2 hours after he was born.


Dumdad said...

Fascinating post. It is one reason why I write my blog. Inbetween the bits of poetry and silliness and random thoughts I do mention family barbecues and such like. But most of my family life is private and is recorded elsewhere.

I sometimes think as I scan my photo albums that an event didn't really happen unless I have photographic evidence! Certainly, flicking through an 20-year-old album brings memories flooding back.

Right now for your list. I wish I could say I was original but I'm not and my memories are mundane but special to me:

One: Guy Fawkes nights in Leeds. Huge bonfires and bangers and sparklers and rockets, and neighbours coming over the wall laden with parkin and other goodies, and staying up late.

Two, Led Zeppelin concert at the Albert Hall in 1970s.

Three, Twin Towers. I was sports editor at The International Herald Tribune in Paris and an assistant came running in and said a plane had hit the Towers. Flicked on CNN to watch, live, the second plane crashing into the Tower.

Four, winning a Paris snooker tournament by beating a much better player, who was swearing and badmouthing me throughout. The organisers apologised to me afterwards but I told them, no worries I'm the one with the trophy!

Finally, Births of my son and daughter. Of course.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post indeed. Perhaps the older one becomes, the more they remember from years gone by. The latter years of life become a haze as they move so quickly.

CJ xx

Shammickite said...

Now I have to use what little remains of my brain to decide what my numbers 1,2,3,4 and 5 are.
OK, here goes:
1. Reaching up on tiptoes to give the lady behind the shop counter my sweet coupons, can't remember the name of the shop.
2. Hitch-hiking to London with my boyfriend and spending the night drinking/dancing/grooving/sleeping on the floor at an all night jazz club.... please don't tell my mother.
3. The news I heard on my car radio on the way to work one morning, that a plane had hit the World Trade centre. It had to be a small two seater plane, right? Big airliners just don't get involved in accidents like that. And then... two of them? And the pilots meant to do it??? I couldn't believe it.
4. When I passed the 11+, my mum said I could have anything I wanted for tea. I chose a family size tin of Heinz baked beans and ate the whole thing, on toast of course.
5. My first gorgeous grandson was born in February 2008 and my second gorgeous grandson was born in May 2009. Perhaps that counts as TWO happy events??

Annette said...

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Please see my blog

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Great stuff. As Mary Hopkins used to say, 'Those were the days, my friend.'

Good lord, horse and cart. I remember them too. Where has the time gone.

Ah, the seventies! Leeds, Cloughie and all that. Must go into Leeds properly, have only ever gone past. Bois de Boloine? camped on it once in my twenties.

You're absolutely right. Where has it all gone?

Went camping with my wife to be and told fibs jusy the same. i was over twenty1 Coupons, we must be around the same age.

Thanks for thinking of me. gone away. Will work out the technicalities if I can when i get back. I know, I'm hopeless!