Saturday, May 24, 2008

and then snow flew everywhere

"Bloody photos!" he emailed after describing a long ago Christmas in the London snow. By chance he'd come across an old photo and was describing it to me. It was of us - me, him, another couple, making sexual snow figures in a street in Golders Green a million years ago. "You and Val made snow breasts and Ray and I made snow dicks and then snow flew everywhere."

Going through old photos, moments of pure mentalese1 - words being unnecessary and in fact, insufficient to describe the memories invoked - transport us back into half-forgotten worlds of pleasures remembered with a painful sense of loss.

And for the long-term expat, these memories are distanced not only by time, but by place.

I recently came across this photo when I was cleaning out some old boxes. I wonder who took it. The composition is excellent, and there it was wedged between appropriately out-of-focus photos of people long since gone from my own or my family lives and memories.

I recognised the girls in the foreground. The little swimming one is myself and the one on the right of me is little Jeanette Griffiths. I wonder where she is now ...

Summer in Australia - the days of those seemingly never ending Christmas holidays. A world away from Manhattan 2008. A world away from Manhattan 2008.

Whether photos evoke happy or sad memories, why do they make us feel a sense of poignancy when we look at them? They remind us of our lost youth, of the comparative innocence of us way back when. So distant are our old selves in the photos, that they may as well be of other people.

I'm going to put all my old photos on my Flickr. Then I'll throw them all out - well not the ones of my children, my weddings. And I'll have to keep the ones of my mum ...

And while I'm at it, I'll throw out or give away all my books. Well, maybe I'll keep that old battered "Crime and Punishment". And my D.H Lawrence's ... Anything I want to read will go on my Kindle.

If only I could get rid of it all, but the past clings.

I shall cleanse the past by assigning it to digital media, to a pristine series of zeros and ones.

Nice and clean. In the words of Dory Previn,
"... a bloodless death
Not grim
Not gory
More like Ali Macgraw’s new enzyme detergent demise in 'Love Story'"

Far-off beaches in black and white, London snow on Christmas days, people long forgotten staring back at me from dog-eared photos - into the hard drive you go!

Bloody photos!

1.Mentalese:A hypothetical language in which concepts and propositions are represented in the mind without words.

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