Tuesday 12 July 2011

Yesterday's snow

As a little one - well, twelve or so - I was fascinated by the idea of lost snow. Confession: I have been messing about looking for a way to express this without sounding superior, but I give up. I was born in an era when education was taken as a given, if you see what I mean. It was tough, could be boring and it was impossible to avoid. There was so much of it you felt drowned in that very realisation. I used to have a fantasy that, one day, I would know all there was to know. I mean an active fantasy. I would lie in bed and picture myself the Fount of all Knowledge. People would have to make appointments to consult me. And no, it wasn't going on up to last year. Actually, it stopped when I was about fifteen, I guess; I hope. Anyway, all that, just to tell you that I was introduced to the French language at an early age and one of the things that stood out and has remained sticking out over all these years was the idea of the snows of yesteryear. " Ou sont les neiges d'antan?" Well, where does the snow go? It is just too mundane to say it melts. It's a mystery. I came to believe that it was a metaphor for memory. Let's say, for the sake of argument, it is a metaphor for memory. So does that mean that memory doesnt really exist, it is just a puddle on the pavement? If it's more where is it stored? Is it in the ether, in the imagination? I can see that in the post below, the one that remembered the vital importance of having memories restored by a resumed friendship with the Father of my children, I saw the ancient snows as residing in him. But I held his history, too. His past had been with me. He can tell his friends about his earlier life, but I was there: I have the substance. I see sculptures. They see pictures. I think he sees snow as a commodity to shovel, to avoid slipping and to ski on, so it wouldn't be helpful to ask him. Sometimes I tell the people dear to me about people and events that mattered to me or affected me in the dim, distant past. This doesn't make them shared memories. This makes them anecdotes. No repository of snow found in the present then - even if their eyes haven't glazed over by the time I could ask them, and yours too, for that matter.

To-day, I had lunch with some women friends. One I feel particularly close to and two of her friends from a life not common to both of us. We were roughly of an age, within a decade or so and we reminisced. (Subject of another post: the difference between reminiscence and gossip - discuss). Something that emerged - I am avoiding "issue" - was how much experience we had in common, although one was born in Europe, Continental Europe, that is, although we didnt have to put it that way until comparatively recently, and the other three in very different parts of the UK. By the time lunch was over we could have made a whole snowman with what had come back to us. Not all we talked about would have been relevant to the forty-year old inside me. It was from earlier. Amongst other things, we talked about 'Make do and Mend', very much a second World War thing. (I still do - make do and mend, that is). Of course, we talked about the change in mores and how the young live their lives so differently from ours. There has been a cultural revolution - or three - since I was forty, never mind since I was fourteen. Does it signify? If so, how and why? Is there room in a memory that is more than three score and ten to hold all the personal and world events and changes? Maybe, it is right and healthy that we don't know where the snows of yesteryear have gone. There would be no room to live for to-day, to play with the babies, to worry about phone hacking and the sanctity of cyberspace. Ah! that's what's happened. That's the answer. The snows of yesteryear are in the safe-keeping of the Wizard of Cyberspace. Nos da.

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