Spending time with one of my God children and his siblings and family this weekend set off a series of thoughts about memory and childhood, and what a weird wee beastie that thing actually can be. On discussion with the Lovely wife later it was a thought we both shared. Why do we remember some things and not others, and what is it as a childhood memory that makes it persist when hours and days and years have been consigned to the dustbin – or at least filed away somewhere in a safe place in the archives of our brains (and, as we all know, the safe place is the one place we will never find again, that’s what makes it safe. There is a story in that somewhere.)
Now, I do not mean bad memories. I think that we all understand that when something caused us pain or intense embarrassment it burns it on our psyche in a way that can never really be removed, and I know we all have plenty of those. Let’s not give our own memory trolls anymore ammunition.
No, I’m thinking of the good nostalgic memories, things we look back to fondly, although perhaps with a bit of confusion.
For example, it is about a year since my Nana passed away and needless to say she has been in my thoughts. Some of the best quality time I had with her as a child as I got to spend the autumn half term with her in her caravan at Blyth on the North East Coast, sometimes with Mum, but often just the two of us. I have more happy memories of this then I really should have as Blyth in October – let’s be honest, anytime – is the back end of beyond and no one would ever suggest going there for a holiday.
But there are so many good memories. Windswept walks on the promenade, empty of course, and the drowned bandstand. The weird Bill and Ben (as in Flowerpot men) sculpture in the park (as this is the late 70s mercifully un-vandalised – I bet the poor things are not there now). The newsagent halfway along the three mile walk into town from the largely deserted caravan site, responsible of course for sweets, but most importantly the place I found my first issue of Doctor Who Weekly (issue three as it happens but I was always a bit late to catch onto things).
What amazes me is all these things are incredibly, well, minor and frankly (Doctor Who weekly aside) naff (good underused British word). It goes on. There was a little cinema in Blyth and I went there a lot. But the only movie I remember seeing there –well – was… Roger Corman’s ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ (1980). Never heard of it? Not surprised. Roger Corman made a successful career of ripping off major hits with a lookalike on a minimal budget. Spielberg does ‘Jurassic Park’, Corman does ‘Carnosaur’. Most of the movies are truly terrible, but hey, who cares. He was not trying to win BAFTAs. ‘Battle’ is actually rather good in places – it is the magnificent seven in space, and has a decent cast, although I just love that Robert Vaughn is in it playing exactly the same role that he plays in the classic western. I bet he was grinning all the way through that. I love jobbing actors who can laugh at themselves.
But why is this special movie to me? Well, I think it must be that I was on holiday. In itself it is not memorable or even any good, but it was watched at a time I was feeling relaxed and happy.
Not a revelation really but, and here is my long winded point, if we want children to remember things I think that the aspect of game and the fun is all important. I’m a bit with Mary Poppins on this. My friend’s kids have special names for places in the landscape around where they live and you just know that in thirty years those places will be clear in their memory and strong in their association to happy times. I just wish I could apply this to everything I do, not only when we are on holiday as maybe we could retain even more of the richness and uniqueness of life.