Saturday, 20 February 2016


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 sub-conscious; 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 the classroom

I've previously mentioned how I felt when I revisited a former home for the first time since I'd moved 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 realizing 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


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.  You see, 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 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 replacement 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 Kidnapped (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


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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