Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Memory Remains

I had an idea of how I wanted to begin this blog... but I forget how it went. I’ve been thinking a lot lately though about memory and how our memories shape the way we think of the world around us and how things can become skewed.

What prompted this was this past weekend. Stacey and I went out for lunch in a nearby village – a village that I used to spend quite a bit of time in as a kid, as my grandparents lived there for a while. They haven’t lived there for almost a decade, so that’s about the amount of time that’s passed since I was last there. I just found it bizarre how I remembered certain things and not others. For instance, I have memories of a pub and its garden along the main street in the village. When we rolled up there on Saturday, I saw two pubs there along that stretch of road and couldn’t recall which it was. I didn’t remember there being two of them, but both appeared to have been there for quite some time. I decided that it must have been one of them over the other and we went inside to get some lunch. We ordered our baguettes (tuna melt anyone?) and went out into the pub garden. I had an idea of what the garden was going to look like and to an extent I was right – to another extent I was wrong. There was a gate to the side that took you out to a small car-parking area which I remembered correctly, but the layout of the rest of the garden didn’t seem right somehow. I can’t even think or describe how; it just seemed wrong. I don’t really know how I was picturing it, bigger and more open maybe. Maybe the pub’s owners had done some work to change it over the course of the ten years since I’d known it – maybe the pub even had new owners...

After lunch we exited through the side gate and walked out onto the side street. I wanted to find the house that my grandparents lived in when I was a kid and couldn’t remember which road to walk down. After walking a hundred yards down to another road, I decided that it was actually the road entrance nearest the back of the pub that we’d wanted all along. Back we peddled and strolled down the correct road. As it turns out, it made no difference as both roads took us to the same place on foot – I didn’t remember this until we were presented with that fact a little later on. As we walked down the correct road (correct in terms of what my memory told me at least – I’m guessing it was the right one as I probably walked round to the village shop that way when I was a kid) it started to narrow. There are house down this road, houses that have driveways out front, many with cars parked on them. Yet, it narrows as you travel down it. Then, at the end it becomes an alleyway that becomes so narrow the two of us could only walk out the end in single file. I didn’t remember that the road did this, but as soon as I saw it, experienced walking through it again it unlocked memories. I remembered that this road became an alleyway – or the alleyway became a road depending on where you were coming from. I could remember playing hide and seek there with my brothers and awkwardly manoeuvring my bike round between those hedges. These memories were gone, they weren’t things I thought of ever, were probably too insignificant in the grand scheme of life to be worthy of taking up conscious thought. At the sight of this alley/road though, they all came flooding back, as if a vault in the back of my mind had been broken open. I’m now wondering how many other memories are in that skull of mine, hidden from view and locked away; out of sight until the right key is found to unlock them.

The part of this visit to the village that really took me aback though was a walk up to the church; more specifically the graveyard where my Big Nanny’s (Great Grandma) memorial plaque is. I could remember the way to walk up to the church which sits atop a hill overlooking the rest of the village. Stacey and I strolled up around the houses and assorted buildings and entered through the gate of the graveyard. It had been well over a decade since I’d visited Big Nanny’s plaque; in fact I think I only ever saw it once when it was first put up on the wall that encases the graveyard. In my head I knew exactly where I was going (my memories had led us the right way so far) and I wanted to head left as we entered the graveyard. I had the image in my head of the plaque being on the wall that faced out back down towards the village. But, as we looked around all of the memorial plaques were up on the wall to the right which looked out onto a field that would’ve been empty if not for a dead tree still-standing in the middle of it. The grass in this field looked overgrown and dead too. Stacey was the first one to find my ‘Big Nanny’, Maude who would have been 100 years old if she were still with us today. The plaque was as I pictured it if not a little weathered – I just can’t figure out why in my mind I had it placed on the complete opposite side of the graveyard. As I stood there, I could remember Big Nanny giving Little Me some lemonade as I sat on a stool in her kitchen.

My memory is actually pretty good. At least I think it is as that’s what Stacey tells me. I guess my long term memory must be better as I’m pretty good at remembering specific events and on what date they occurred, whereas I keep forgetting to do things (writing) that need doing in the here and now. For example I can tell you that I wrote a blog a year ago to the very day - It was called Season Finale - without having to look it up. Now, I know a blog isn’t a significant event, but I can remember writing it the day between the wedding of my friends Sarah and Mike (Happy Anniversary!) and the day I started that job I had in London for a bit – and I can remember those dates as they are burned into my mind as important days in the life of me. That’s how my mind works.

To add to these thoughts, I’ve watched two films that touch on this subject over the past few days (by coincidence, not choice). These are 50 First Dates and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Both films explore memory loss or in the case of Eternal Sunshine, memory erasing and how our memories make us who we are.

I think I’m going to listen to some Metallica now (remember the title?) – Thanks for reading my ramblings; I hope they’re not so bad that you’ll forget them immediately.

'Ash to ash, dust to dust
Fade to black'