Memories fade and turn into a Kodak wash of yellow-green distant summers. Like instant photos in reverse, they start bright and crisp and slowly dissolve into white nothingness, everything covered in dust or snow.
Something touched up a memory today, brought back the vivid colours and deep shadows of tunnel black.
Wherever we went in the car, my dad would always drive. I didn’t know that my mum could drive until I was about 10 years old. On spotlight-bright days of 1970s summers, I would be sticking to the faux-leather seats in the back of a 1968 cream coloured Austin Mini. I’d kill to own it now. My parents bought it, brand new, for £500 with a full tank of petrol and a free year’s Road Tax. They sold it ten years later. For £500.
The seats were deep vampire red and so were my legs after they’d been welded to them for sprawling hours at a time in the August heat. Minis had back windows that would open a crack on a small shiny hinge. Not that it was worth opening them; air whizzed gleefully past and didn’t care to pop inside and help me breathe.
My dad was stubborn, like his son still is. He loved words, like his son always has. He wrote unpublished short stories, like his son once did. During the summer months, he would walk down the garden and back and be in possession of a tropical eight-week tan, the lucky old bugger. My mum would lather him up with Ambre Solaire oil. Factor 0. This wasn’t something you coated yourself in to protect yourself from the sun; you used it to fry yourself alive. Summer smelled of coconuts and my dad’s outdoor skin. In order to get even remotely as tanned as he was, I’d have to spend a whole warm season in the sun and wait for my freckles to join up.
In later years, during my early teens, I would read Yeats’ poem, Death; “… a man awaits his end, dreading and hoping all” and I would find it contrary to my experience. For my father, who, by his own unexpected departure, taught me about death’s corporeal finality when I was 18, and we were just beginning to be friends, had also taught me not to dread it. And he taught me not to fear it. But, like all his lessons for me to become not even half the man he was, they came indirectly, not as lectures or words of wisdom, but through stories, or actions, or small and telling gestures.
As we drove the many summery miles, on bumpy roads that throbbed through heated haze, we would inevitably pass a cemetery. My dad would always shout a buoyant ‘Good Evening, friends!’ (or ‘Afternoon!’ or ‘Morning!’) out of the car window in the direction of the stone testaments to lives been and gone. I imagined I could see the inhabitants of that final place, nebulous figures like drifts of smoke, sitting in deck-chairs by their earthy beds, laughing happily with their companions, like a gathering of contented gardeners on an allotment, and all of them raising a glass back to us in a cheery hello as we zoomed by.
Death, it seemed, was just a frivolous and endless party.
Four of the five people in this photograph are still laughing as they raise their glasses and smile at the one who remains; at that small young boy who is, as he writes this in 2014, the same age as his dad was when this picture was taken.
Sometimes, through happy tears, there’s warmth and brightness in the oldest and most faded of memories.
Nan (obscured - and obscure sometimes), Great Uncle, Dad, Me (aged 3), the Mini, Great Aunt, 1971.
Photo Booth, 1976. Me, Mum, Dad.
Thursday n. the day of the week before Friday and following Wednesday
Well, obviously. But this Thursday in particular is my @*th birthday and I was actually born on a Thursday too, which means … ummm … well, not much really. There must have been loads of times in my interminable lifetime that my birthday has fallen on a Thursday.
Commonly believed to originate from Thor, who is one of the Avengers, ‘Thor’s Day’ is actually a more recent replacement for the older (Old English) Thu(n)resdæg or ‘day of thunder’.
The etymology of this, in turn, is a translation of late Latin Jovis dies or ‘day of Jupiter’ (the God associated with thunder).
A noticeably charmed day, simply by being the penultimate in a normal working week of Monday - Friday and bringing with it a whiff of the weekend.
“If I could only touch you and create a ripple in all you know,” said the book.
This particular book has created tidal waves right down to my very core, right down to my atomic level.
It has been a particularly beautiful, sometimes painful, occasionally heartbreaking, and a distinctly life- and attitude-changing read that has made me reassess my past and probe the dusty chambers of my heart. The book has the prime location in my bookcases. I will turn to it again and again in years to come. But for now, the last pages flicker in an autumnal breeze as the final chapter dwindles to its last words.
I … love … you.
Only by rising and reaching out can you find your center. Learn to hear your heart over your head as your mind will often keep you in the confines of what you have always known. To lead with your heart requires that one is willing to follow its guidance fearlessly. If man could be as unconditional in his heart- expanding without restrictions or boundaries much like the universe, it is astounding to think of how much more complete one would become.
You believe in ghosts. Of course you do. The ones whose name is spoken in a chance sentence when you least expect it. The ones that you hear in the notes of your favourite songs and in the drops that bounce off the windowpane. You still feel them. I know you do. Haunting your chest and casting shadows at the back of your throat when you tell someone that they don’t exist, yet all you can ever really do is habit their pictures often to make sure they’re still there.
We are all haunted.
To be a successful writer, I believe one must have the ability to engineer a thought to a limb; to not only describe the summertime, but afford the reader a subtle breeze, a chance drizzle or even if just the sand between their toes at a crowded beach. I’ve only recently discovered that by tousling words around with similes and metaphors, you form expressions and with expressions, you can arrange a bouquet of flowers for a woman who never gets them, release a hummingbird from its ribcage and impel a Malaysian snow. To be a writer, I believe you need more than just a muse, rather the ambition to touch them with simple words.
For a while now, I’ve been wanting to write you a letter, just a simple letter to remind you that I have not forgotten, that I still think of you, but I live in a box of pencils that break when I try too hard. Here I am trying to make a sheet of paper beat to the tempo of my heart.