I’m 61. My parents are dead. I have no brothers and sisters who knew me as a child. Noone really shared my childhood who is currently a close friend. It is not until 10-12 years old that I have photographs or memorabilia which show my life, or facebook friends who can share conversation about incidents and dreaded/wonderful teachers in our childhood. But if I begin to decay, wouldn’t I like to be able to go back further and enjoy memories of my early years.
A while ago I went to a Memory Clinic in Glasgow which specialises in research. They build a body of willing subjects who are either confirmed in early stage dementia, showing some signs of cognitive impairment, or fit and well but interested. Both my mother and grandmother had dementia and fortunately I sit in the fit category at the moment. I woke this morning with an idea which I thought I’d share.
When my mother was officially gathered in to the health system I created a memory book which she could use, and the nurses could refer to. It was slight. I didn’t really know my mother and didn’t really know anyone who had reference material or stories to tell me.
So I’ve set myself a little task, gently, over the next few years. I wondered whether others might like to join me – especially if, like me, you are an only child with little family memorabilia. I’m going to use facebook and google and other simple tools to try and track a few people who may have pictures or memories from that time.
For example my Primary School still exists – St Dunstans in Cheam. I was there 1963/64ish to 1967 when I was moved to my first boarding school. Did they take a photo each year? Is there a picture of the main hall from that time with its high stand on which sat a black and white TV showing BBC Schools programmes to us in the mornings? I guess Miss Rundle and other teachers of the time are quietly retired or beyond reach. I was at school with someone called Tim who lived on my road. Also David Smith with whom I used to go in the holidays to visit museums and attractions in London. They are my age. Maybe they are still around.
And then Dorset House near Pulborough was my safe space from 67-69 where I found my love of theatre. Is there a picture of the company making Toad of Toad Hall or Emil and the Detectives. Was there a programme sheet for parents. I know my grandmother was transfixed by the realistic movement of the train carriage Emil sat in. I was the one behind the set wobbling the carriage in time to the BBC sound effect. An early immersive experience. My mate Chris Harris was an important part of my growing up there, and Chris Harrison who I later used to meet commuting to London in mid-70s. Whatever happened to them, along with the lad who’s parents ran the Holiday Camp at Middleton on Sea where I went on a couple of day trip adventures.
These are my memories this morning. What more might be triggered if I saw pictures, read school reports, saw images of shows or events, and even had the full names of those people who I knew really well when I was 5 to 10 years old. After this my memories are easier to find. I still have friends who went with me into Christ’s Hospital in 1969. I started keeping a bit of a diary and an envelope of programmes and cuttings. I was starting my theatre life and my exploring more widely in terms of career. I was 10 and growing up fast.
Let’s see what I can find. It may never be needed for me. I may fall off the perch fully cogent. But maybe I will in the meantime find some people around the globe who shared some of my early experiences in Cheam (Surrey now London) and Bury (Sussex).
Better do some work to keep this 61 yr old earning a living, but maybe at the weekend I will do some exploring. My Memory Project.