I can see the floor again in the room that used to be my bedroom. This is excellent, and something of a development. I’ve been using it as a storage area for things I didn’t know what to do with and for rarely worn clothes. Now at least the clothes are all in a pile for sorting and I’ve mostly worked out what to do with the things I didn’t know what to do with. That involved a few bin bags.
There’s a trunk of my uncle Peter’s belongings that he must have packed up when he left school. It hasn’t been opened since. Fifty years. Exercise books, work experience detritus, a little plastic wheel that makes it easier to convert shillings into new pence. Letters in the very familiar scrawl of my grandmother, who is still speaking eloquently to me from the back of paintings and notes pushed into old vases. Letters in the tighter and more formal hand of my grandfather the diplomat who never really wrote to me if it wasn’t on business. Stupid joke Valentine’s cards from my mum to her brother just like the ones she would send me. Applications for work by a school leaving Peter with a primped up CV. Bank statements. Not as many tissues and rennies as the older version of Peter was used to hiding for me to find, but still plenty of rubbish. And amongst them, a few old photos. They slowed me down, those photos. I became curious. Mum the teenager…
Here’s my favourite, taken perhaps before a garden party at Buck House, if I recognise those railings.
Four of the departed. Mum distracted. Danda concerned. Da telling Danda what to do. Peter arrogant. An animated little moment, taken long before I was born. When we die, nobody will stumble on our Facebook photographs, or the ones stored in our phone or in that Dropbox you keep meaning to clear space in. We will find paper photos by mistake and look into the faces of our progenitors and wonder what we never knew about them. Anyone that follows us will have to have a device, or a password, and is going to have to knowingly open a folder marked “photos”. Our moments will not be so transferable or so easily discovered by mistake. It’ll make throwing our stuff out a little easier I guess. I’m glad I saved this one from the bin. I found a contemplation within it.
I’m now at the age where normally the mortality of my parents would be brought to mind. My old friend Alexander lost his mummy this morning to cancer. At least four other friends have said their last farewell this pandemic, and only one with Covid. There they are staring at us full of life, and here we are, still in the stream, reading their life with ours. While we have it.
Grab that fucker, my loves. Grab it and ride it joyfully through all the noise we’re hearing and do not go softly and carpe the fuck out of it all and wheeeee. It’s GOOD. It really is and all the things are momentary. This is it, boys and girls. And then somebody is looking at it and wondering. So long as they can find the folder.