Saturday, 20 February 2016

THE THINGS WE LEAVE BEHIND...


The row of houses I once lived in

Ofttimes, when we move from one phase of our lives into
another, we do so without a backward glance and with nary a
thought to what we're leaving behind.  For example, when I passed
through the gate of my primary school for the final time, the fact that
it was part of my life that was seemingly gone forever didn't, as far as I
recall, perturb me in the slightest.  Soon, the classrooms and corridors
of my secondary school became the familiar routine of my daily life,
and I'm surprised, looking back today, at just how quickly and
easily I adapted to the change without even realizing it.

The front gate of my old primary school - from the inside

It wasn't until I revisited my old primary a few years later,
after having left secondary and joined the working classes, that
it dawned on me that, in some mysterious, mystical, magical way, I
was still connected to this aspect of my past and, in truth, had never
really parted from it.  You see, not thinking about a thing is not the
same as forgetting it.  The memory yet dwells in our subconscious;
 what we forget is the act of remembering - until, that is, something
suddenly triggers the memory and causes it to erupt in our
minds like an exploding firework.

The toilets - listen to that water trickle

I remember one day a few years back, when I suddenly
caught a whiff of disinfectant and was instantly transported back
to the toilets of my old primary school, where I often used to retire
to during lessons for a bit of peace and quiet in the cool of the tiled
environs, with the sound of gently-gurgling water emanating from the
cubicle cisterns and porcelain urinals.  I felt such a soothing sense
of tranquility there, and it was my very own 'fortress of solitude' for
five minutes at a time whenever the confines of the classroom
became too claustrophobic for me. ( I assume my teacher
simply thought I had a weak bladder.)

I can see my house from here.  The view from my classroom

I've previously mentioned how I felt when I revisited
a former home for the first time since I'd left 16 years before
(which, at the time, was more than half my life away), and it was
practically the same as when I'd left.  As I said in this post,  it was
as if the intervening years and two houses I'd lived in since were only
a dream, and I still felt right at home there.  I'm sure we've all had
the experience of meeting someone we haven't seen or thought
of in years and it's just as if we saw them only a short while
before.  That's how I felt on that particular day.

My former back garden - ah, happy memories

Well, I could labour the point I suppose, with example
after example, but I'm sure you're all smart enough to catch
my drift.  Things we may think we've left behind (whether or not,
at the time, we were even aware of it) come with us without us real-
izing it.  They reside in the caverns of memory, reluctant to let go of
us despite our seeming indifference to them.  Whether it be garden
gates, bedroom carpets, once favourite toys, favoured friends or
whatever, they follow us throughout our lives, just waiting for
an opportune moment to renew the acquaintance.

  Long may it ever be so.
   

Monday, 15 February 2016

I WAS KIDNAPPED ON TREASURE ISLAND...



A million years ago, in 1966 or '67, my older brother and myself
each received a Christmas present of a book from a literature-loving
aunt and uncle.  My brother got KIDNAPPED (and I often wished he
would be), and I was given TREASURE ISLAND, both written by
R. L. STEVENSON.  I can't remember if I read it at the time or
not, but I did so ten years later and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Well, strictly speaking, that's not quite true.  The one I read wasn't
the original festive gift from years before (which had disappeared
into limbo at some indeterminate stage), but a replacement  I bought
a decade later from a local bookshop on recognizing the cover and
being instantly transported back in time to my childhood.


The cover reminded me of the back garden of the house I'd lived
in when I received my earlier printing of this classic.  That was likely
because of the garden having a wooden fence similar to that shown on
the dustjacket, although ours was held together by wire.  To this day,
whenever I look at that illustration, in my mind's eye I'm once again
gazing through my old bedroom window at the garden below.

The back garden from my bedroom window

Anyway, to bore you with further tedious and unnecessary detail,
unlike my original copy, the replacement carried no dustjacket.  The
cover was just like an annual, applied straight onto the boards.  When I
revisited the house nigh on twenty years after leaving it, one of several
items I took with me (to 'reconnect' to my past, as it were) was the re-
placement edition of Treasure Island.  So now the book not only
reminds me of my former home, it's actually been in it.
  
Some years ago, in the OXFAM shop in Glasgow's Byres Road,
I managed to re-obtain a dustjacketed edition published in the same
year as my original book.  It sits alongside my brother's copy of Kid-
napped (which, happily, survived).  However, whether it's the '60s or
'70s version, there's just something about that cover which sings
to me of an earlier, more innocent time so many years ago.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

BEHIND THE LOOKING-GLASS...



Have you ever looked into a mirror and wondered if the many
images reflected in its surface over the years might've been captured
and preserved within its atoms in some way, like that of a camera?  Just
imagine being able to access those images and once more being able to
see the faces of expired family members or even those who owned the
mirror before you.  Or yourself as a child, sticking out your tongue at
your reflection as you combed your hair before making your way
to school in the morning many years before.

Every mirror in existence a repository of snapshots - like a
photograph album - of moments from the lives of every individual
who ever gazed into one.  Far-fetched perhaps, but interesting to
consider nonetheless.  So, tell me - have you ever wondered?


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