I Remember…

We had a chemistry teacher back when I was in school whose name was Willie Prickett.

No really. Endless amusement for immature minds that one. Daft the things you suddenly remember.

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What you know is not all there is but that may be of no comfort

BBC1 1970's

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When my paternal Grandad was alive and we had him up for the day my parents would put the telly on for him. If there was something on the box that he didn’t recognise he’d give a suspicious look before gruffly asking “Is it BBC1?”.

For my Grandad telly meant BBC1.Nothing else was tolerated.For him television was BBC1. The other two (yes there were only two) channels were just pretenders in his eyes. It’s what he knew and presumably what he trusted. Comfort in the familiar or an avoidance of confusing choices?

Crossing Another Line

I got a phone call today from a woman who was in my class in secondary school. Someone else had given them my number and she wants a bit of help setting up her laptop for a wireless Internet connection and various other bits and pieces. I’ve always kept my school days at arms length and always spurned school reunions (I have always been a very private person and as my school days were not a great experience and much of it is now gone from my memory I have little interest in revisiting them). In fact an awful lot of long ago is kind of lost to me and coming across people from those years can be a little unnerving for some reason.

Anyway she didn’t dredge up any school specific memories as it seems she also was not a great fan of those years but we did manage to have quite a long conversation (alright she talked and I listened) about a wide range of subjects though mostly she was concerned with putting the world to rights. I’m a little nervous about meeting her. It’s silly really but the person I was then is not the person I am now and frankly it was all so long ago it feels like a different universe.

Luckily I tend to think I’m very good with 1st meetings in the same way I’ve never been bothered by job interviews(one of those ‘skills’ that I doubt I’ll ever need to use again).  I also have this thing about all that ‘so what do you do, what have you done’ status comparison chit chat and prefer to deflect a lot of personal enquiries. I’ve always been a tough nut to crack that way and have always been tight lipped around spilling my life story at the drop of a hat.

Next week is a mixed bag of experiences including bit of travelling, a last hurrah, an anniversary and a bit of time in hospital. I’m nervous about it with no real reason to be.  It’s a few weeks of reflection. My partner and I will be reflecting on another milestone in our relationship and wondering where the years went.

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Weddings Through A Lens (1)

Some faces stick in your mind almost indefinitely even if you only saw them previously for avideographer short while. When I first worked for myself I was happy to spend my weekends filming weddings as, on the whole it was a good cash flow sideline when the commercial video side frequently meant waiting 6-9 months to get paid and a lot of outlay in terms of hiring in personnel and equipment. I enjoyed filming weddings and capturing the little nuances, the glances and incidences as I wandered amongst people as an invited stranger.

Filming a wedding is not like attending a wedding as a guest, friend or family member as I used to find I was experiencing the day from behind a large black and white viewfinder (yes viewfinders were b&w mostly). It was reportage and you soon developed a kind of sixth sense of events and virtual eyes in the back of your head. Some days were almost dream like in that I would line up a close up of someone at the precise moment something amusing or charming occurred, almost as if you unconsciously knew what was about to happen. You were an invisible spirit who nobody knew and everyone looked right through as if you weren’t even there. An almost Randall and Hopkirk experience.

I still live around the area where I filmed many of these wedding from the late 1980’s onwards and often see people and faces that I once framed in an electronic viewfinder. As soon as I see them and despite the sometimes large passage of time I know what wedding it was and the name of the couple and locations involved. I can instantly step back into my virtual shoes and relive the day.

Passing Strangers
I was on a bus earlier (International jet set bus traveller that I am) and saw the father of a Bride I filmed in 1991.He was walking his dog ,had inevitably aged (As have I. No picture of Dorian Gray in our attic .Actually no attic). As the bus passed him I looked straight at him and his eyes locked with mine (no doubt thinking ‘what’s she looking at?’). It was a long while ago. Did he remember me? Doubtful. Nobody ever does. I was invisible for a living.

Photo by thparkth under this creative commons license

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The Smell Of Kerosene

I’m not sure that I’m quite locked onto planet reality at the moment. I sat here this morning looking out the window from our computer and pondering the wet and grey tinged half light of the day when I noticed a cake tin on top of our bins.I had left a cake tin outside. Why did I take a cake tin outside?Jet fuel Mug

I seem to remember taking out some recycling items yesterday. Did I have a cake tin in my hand at the time? I stepped out into the morning air to retrieve the item and was greeted with the pungent aroma of aircraft kerosene. I stood and breathed in the chemical laden air which bizarrely transports me back to a very young time.

I grew up near to an airport and under a flight path and the smell of aircraft kerosene puts me back in a scene when I could only just walk. I’m toddling around my parents garden and can see all the detail around me which is all triggered by the smell of kerosene. The whole memory is totally immersive with 360 degree vision, stereo sound and the obligatory kerosene fragrance as the trigger.

The mind works in mysterious ways.
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Distant Memories Part 2

My memory of the mid morning play time (the time when we all took a break from the serious business of..er…playing) is dominated by the presence of a boy from another class. This boy came to school every day dressed entirely as Batman (I kid you not).He had the whole outfit: mask, cape, that weird grey material over most of his body and black boots etc. At play time he would emerge from his classroom into the grass area at the back of the school with his hands on his hips in a typical superhero stance employed to the max as he walked (I say walked but in this stance he more kind of walked like you would make a set of dividers walk, pivoting on each foot in term and twisting the other half of your body forward in this artificial way) and strode confidently towards his desired play object whether it was the swing, the slide, the sandpit or wherever. It was certainly an alter ego that worked as he always got to play with what he wanted. I can remember seeing two girls gleefully exploring the social possibilities of the sandpit when his imposing shadow cast across them causing them to instantly stop chattering & gaze up in the mystery kids masked fizog.

Bat-Brat
No words were spoken but the two girls just got up, brushed sand off their dresses an walked away in an orderly fashion leaving an empty sandpit for the sole use by Bat-brat. At no time did I ever see this kid without his outfit. I often wonder from this safe distance if indeed he was actually enrolled as Batman and that the teacher would call the morning register appropriately “Kimberley?” -“here Miss”, “Jonathan?” -“present Miss” ,”Batman?” -“start the Batmobile Miss” – as it would spoil the illusion in his own class if Batman was called Kevin or something (apologies to any Kevin’s out there, it was just an example. Perhaps by chance his name was Bruce Wayne, Batman’s alter ego. Indeed I wonder what became of that kid. I like to muse that he’s out there somewhere fighting evil do-ers but life teaches me that he’s probably a bank manager or estate agent somewhere and has had his uniqueness (YES English teachers I KNOW that’s bad English) squeezed out of him.
Dinner times were where it all went somewhat pear-shaped for me and recounting it somehow makes the air around me chill slightly in the process of summoning up its memory.

Sprouts
Dinner time meant nursery school dinners, an unsavoury and freakish version of food I had encountered in the real world and complete with foods that I had already decided were off my lifetime menu such as Brussel sprouts which always made me gag. In nursery land I was stood over and forced to clear my plate even if I was the last person left eating as I gagged on my sprouts.I often was the last one left eating as once dinner was finished the class was banished out in the cloakroom. I would eventually join them leaving behind me the titanic battle of wills that would often end with me shutting my mouth with a force that could not be opened again especially not by a looming Brussel sprout that was being force fed me.

Once assembled ad hoc in the cloakroom which was small and narrow we were each given an apple which it was compulsory (or so it seemed) to eat. We all stood in silence bar the sound of ferocious apple munching with barely the arm room to get the apple up to our mouth meaning that we often brought our head down to meet the fruit halfway as our arms tended to be awkwardly pinned against our small bodies.

Forced To Sleep
When this exercise in healthy eating was over we were escorted back into the classroom which by then had been transformed from the makeshift dining room to a room full of single beds which we had to lie on for our regulatory afternoon nap. The small beds were made up with that kind of really irritating and bristley (is bristley a word??) grey blanket that I tend to feel is only reserved for the military and dogs.
So we had to try to sleep (which I never could) whilst a particularly stern classroom teacher would walk up and down between the beds checking to see that we all had our eyes tightly shut and that were each in the land of nod. I could hear her slow footsteps which might stop occasionally to question if I child was asleep, “Samantha?” – no reply (Samantha was either asleep or knew that the wrong thing to do would be to reply “yes Miss”). When I was sure that those same footsteps were far enough away I would sneak a peek with one eye. It is this single image that I can conjure up like a preserved still image. looking across the classroom of beds with classmates in them, a distant authority figure & the low winter sun bathing the room in rays of light.

Kodachrome Memories Ma’am

This memory, like all memories is in full Kodachrome colour (will the memories of future generations be rendered in a kind of digital photoshop with full colour saturation?).

Once this ritual was over I knew it was mostly downhill to home time which I longed for.

One final memory belongs to that repeat set piece at the end of the day where we all sit in a circle and sing nursery rhymes. On one occasion a boy sitting next to me threw up on me when it was my turn to nervously sing. My Mother watched in horror as mid-rhyme I was decorated with the most evil smelling bile mixture. I can remember the boys name as in a twist of curiously still misunderstood significance, he would be in every class I was in throughout infant, junior and High school. We were never friends and by the final year at high school he had taken to attending school dressed as Elvis in his white suited period complete with an odd greasy version of the kings hairstyle but with an appropriate weight gain to match. Such was his dedication to Mr Presley that he would adopt the same “thank you very much ma’am” style southern American accent for all communications in and out of class. In this case I do know what happened to this lad. He became a chef, I believe.

I didn’t complete my full tour of duty at the nursery school as my Mother could see how much I didn’t really enjoy the place though I think I only came out six months or so before I would have got time off for good behaviour. I can’t remember what I did in between nursery school ending and Infant school starting but I’m sure I was fully enrolled into my own little world and unaware of the school memories to come.

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