Memory and memories

Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone…"

The song from Cats is a favourite of my Monday singing group at Patching Lodge. I can't help launching into it whenever I think of memories and how strange they are. Why do we remember some things and not others, and how do false memories get in there? Two cases recently demonstrated that (logical?) assumptions can trump real memories, but 'evidence' in the shape of ephemera and maybe diary entries can surprise one.

I was convinced I joined the NUJ when I started at IPC Science and Technology Press, Guildford in 1977, but a delve into my ephemera dredged up my 1974 membership card! This is important as I can now apply to be a life member! I was freelance at the time and my diary couldn't shed any light on it apart from the fact that my membership card had arrived one day. I only assume that the events going on at the IMechE or the fact that I got told off by the print unions at the Surrey Advertiser for designing the ads for Robin Bradbeer's shop Guildford Tapes and Calculators prompted me to join. So, I was already a paid-up member at Hutton + Rostron in Gomshall (where I was eventually made redundant) and on that first day at IPC when I received a visit for the FoC.

The other memory lapse was my 'day trip' to New York on Concorde. This will be the subject of another blog posting, but suffice to say I've been dining out on my 'day trip' on three Concordes (yes, the one on the way back broke down), except I'd forgotten we'd stayed over for a night in a hotel! My diary confirmed it was a two-day trip!

If we all kept detailed diaries, then there would be no problem recalling events. Or would there? My diaries are far from that - they seem to be full of irrelevant detail and huge gaps! I'm intrigued by holidays. I have vague memories of what I did there but little recollection of how we actually got there. In May 1961, when I was 14, I went to Innsbruck, Austria with the school, except it was probably my friend Big John's school. How do I know that? I have what is probably my oldest piece of personal ephemera - a ticket for a football match between FC Wacker and Manchester City. I have no idea how we got there. It must have been by train and ferry and taken a very long time. I have a vague memory of being told off by the guard for climbing into the string luggage rack - no, we weren't in sleepers! On that trip, I was introduced to the duvet, walked on a glacier, bought a flick knife and maybe learnt to ride a bike, or was that the previous year's trip?

The previous year we'd been to Kessingland, an old army camp near Lowestoft (also by train? did we have to change?) where we made bombs in bottles with Jetex fuses and set them off in the sand dunes, learnt to smoke (10 Consulate please) and generally got up to mischief.

UPDATE: Michael Portillo mentioned on his TV series Great British Railway Journeys that there was a train called The European which ran direct from the North of England (Scotland even) to Harwich. So that could have been the route we took, both times.

Nostalgia groups on Facebook are also a good way to stimulate memories. In Bury Olden Days, I came across a photo of the street on which I spent my first few years: Wyndham Street, in the central Bury area known as the Mosses, which was demolished soon after we moved to Sunny Bank. Facebook groups are problematic, in that posters regularly 'orphan' images, stripping them of credits and information, but a quick Google found the source as Bury Image Bank. It's Image Number: b04005 and dated 1955.

Looks like the photo has been taken down!

My memories of that house are few: I remember playing cowboys in my street wearing Dad's trilby and using the gas meter cabinet as a den. When we moved, my Grandma Nation took me in a pushchair 'over the Baltic' to our semi in the suburbs.

Here's another bit of evidence - dated ephemera is the best. I was a cone winder in a cotton mill, Wellington Mill, Bury, in the summer of 1966. This is my pay packet, which was about £8 a week, plus a few coins! The following year I worked at Vantona bleach and dye works in Breightmet with Bob Stoney, and in my final year at university I worked in the basement of the Royal Institution, Albemarle Street, London slicing up cadmium crystals, in Michael Faraday's lab, and in a shed on the roof of Battersea College of Advanced Technology.

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