Friday, September 11, 2015

Like the Corners of My Mind

11th September 2015

When I was in my early teens, I was taken by my mother to visit her ailing father in hospital. This was no cuddly Grandpa, but someone who had remained distant to both his children and his children's children. He was sitting in a wheelchair in a common area when we arrived, and as we stood there making conversation, he started to fumble with his dressing gown. He was trying to close it, but only managed to open it further across the gaping fly of his pajamas. The point is: the sight of my grandfather's white hairy testicles is emblazoned on my memory, and I will never forget it (though I have tried, believe me.)

(That's not him.)
Same goes for this day in history. 9/11 has only one connotation around the globe. The very mention of 9/11 conjurs images of those planes hitting the Twin Towers and it always will. This is the way memory works, and it's a good thing for us writers that it does.

When I was eight years-old, my father, in an unusual move, took me and my best friend into the center of Glasgow where he had some business, and there in a very fancy sweetie shop he bought us each a bag of any sweetie we chose from the many jars sitting on the many shelves. I chose a confection that seemed impossibly magical: different coloured lozenges with actual writing on them! They didn't taste that good, but that doesn't seem to spoil the memory.
When you think of all the things that happen to you as a child, relatively few stand out, but the ones that do have a certain force, a sort of floodlight behind them. These stand-out memories, if you're artistically inclined, are like little booster points that urge you to self-expression.

(Just for the record, the all-important Battle of Bannockburn happened on September 11th, in which the Scots sent the English King Edward back to London tae think again. That was their first and last ouster of English interests.
And September 11th is also the birthday of DH Lawrence, who showed us the working life of Nottinghamshire and gave us the wonderful Lady Chatterly's Lover, which the BBC has just re-filmed with Richard Madden as Mellors. Can't wait to see that!)

So, apart from all the towers and the battles and epiphanies, what I want to say is, cherish your memories. Unlike your darlings, don't kill them. Hold them in your hand and feel the weight of them. And then write about them. Even the bad ones.

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