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Friday, 27 August 2010

Virginia Plain

I was talking to my mate this evening to arrange a visit to a Bank Holiday event in one of the villages around London. (Twenty minutes in the car and we're in bucolic Britain. Combine harvesters, buxom maids and inter breeding - more of that later).

He was "clearing out"; a euphemism for "I can't fuckin' move there's so much junk all around me".

He was telling me that he'd unearthed operating manuals  for equipment he bought 25 years ago and receipts for televisions he can't remember ever viewing.

Much of the conversion began..."Do you remember..." Do you remember you could buy fibre optics so you could construct you own fibre light. It was a huge fad in the late 70's. You had a strong single light source in the base and loads of fibre optic strands rising from that base each displaying a pin point of light. It was an evolutionary advance on Lava Lamps - but not much.

It struck me as he mentioned this frivious lighting device that that was where Britain's hi tech industrial base lost its way. Instead of developing  a high speed information, computer and telecommunications industry  using this technology; we sold light spiders in Habitat.

25 years on he'd discovered an envelope containing a few yards of fibre optics. He never built his lamp.

I reminded him that he was proud that he had his first pay slip and credit card bill. He'd forgotten. But sure enough he was able to turn up an envelope containing these historical gems. He recalled that he first used his Access credit card to purchase a curry in Belsize Park. He couldn't remember the year but there was his first statement from Access and sure enough the first entry was for a curry costing £2.80 in September 1973. He forgot to clear the balance and was charged 34 pence interest. His credit limit was £150.  Oh, Happy, Happy Days.

He's recently restored his ancient Tandberg reel to reel tape recorder. It still had a tape in situ. "Odessey and Oracle" by the Zombies.

I always thought there was no point in dwelling on the past. So I've never kept much.I thought that hanging onto memories was a sign of weakness, not being able to face the present and future. I now regret not holding onto a bit more of my past. Pieces of paper, plastic or porcelain which trigger a rush of memories, good and bad.

I have little of that and now I know why. Because for too long my memories were painful and I wanted to run away from them and wipe them out. That's a habit that's hard to break even when there's no longer any reason to continue.



Anonymous said...

I am similar with regard to memories, though I am younger. Do you really think it is worth keeping things, or are you not sure?

Barry Coidan said...

Not sure. I think as tools for sparking memories they're useful. But on balance I feel much more comfortable with less. Be that (active) possessions or cast offs (which hang around in nocks and crannies).

After I left home my mother kept my room unchanged for many years. Invariably when I visited them I'd go through my stuff. I think I found it more painful than pleasant. That said I still have the last letter she wrote to me in 1981!

Steve said...

Every time my wife reads one of my much loved dig-eared books you can guarantee that an old receipt will fall out giving the name of the shop. the time and date that I bought the book. Memories make great bookmarks.

Selina Kingston said...

I'm not a great one for keeping things as I don't like mess but my husband is a terrible hoarder and the garage and the shed is full of "stuff" that drives me mad.
I have kept letters though. Decades of them and on the odd occasion that I have looked back at them they have revived so many memories.
I'm sorry that you have painful memories - that can't be easy.
But hey, on a lighter note you have reminded me of the Access card - "your flexible friend" !!!! How funny!

Barry Coidan said...

Every time my wife goes through our books she finds a £10 note. It's her squirrel gene - complete with forgetfulness.

Barry Coidan said...

SK, I'm now with Mastercard; their ads are so bloody serious - not like Access and his poor relative "cash".

ChickPea said...

As a 'Hoarder' I am always impressed
by people who clear things out......

Anonymous said...

If you look at nations, memory tends to be the cause of war. It also unites people in nationalistic fervour. Governments try to get the latter and avoid the former but they always come together, the good and the bad.

I think it's better to live for now and not put too much stock in memory - beyond the practical needs of now.


fibre optic lighting said...

Great article.