Posted in Family, Writing

Young By Name, Old Enough for Memoirs?

How old must you be to start writing your memoirs?

The author, aged about 2, in the garden with her teddy
“Teddy and I miss the good old days of rusks and bottles of milk.”

My parents have recently announced that they’re writing theirs. I’m looking forward to reading them to find out whether their memory of my childhood chimes with mine.

My father is 80 and my mother is 78, so they should have plenty of material.

But I started writing a memoir when I was still in my 30s. I was just settling into my new life in the village of Hawkesbury Upton, and all was new and strange. At the time, I didn’t realise how young 30-something would seem to me as I got older, nor how much adventure and change was yet to come.

My daughter occasionally brings to light a treasured memory from her childhood, recalled in a fond nostalgic voice as if speaking of ancient times. She is 10.

Too Much, Too Young?

It’s easy to condemn as vain celebrities who write their memoirs at a very young age. But is it really vanity that drives them, or  pessimism, based on the assumption that the only way is down? I don’t blame them for wanting to capture every golden moment for fear that it might evaporate or be forgotten.

Cover of Kenneth Branagh's autobiography.
Aged 30, the actor Kenneth Branagh published his autobiography. He was born the same year as me.   I approve of the optimistic title: “Beginning”.

Unless your personal memory has the capacity of a sky drive, I reckon it’s worth writing down your memories as you go along. For most of my life I’ve kept diaries, more recently migrating to blogging. I’m very thankful for  the technology that ensures my recollections will remain legible. Sadly, most of my journals are not.

Your memories will never be as clear again as they are now. Or will they? A few years after my uncle died, my aunt dropped into conversation “I know him so much better now”. Having since been widowed myself, I know just what she means. Distance lends perspective, the passage of time brings objectivity – two factors which can only increase your level of understanding.

But hey, if the events of your life need reinterpreting with the benefit of that wonderful thing, hindsight, you can always edit your memoirs later – or write a sequel. You don’t have to wait till the end to write the middle. The old showbusiness adage applies to your readers too: always leave them wanting more.

So cancel my opening remark – I’m not looking forward to reading my parents’ memoirs. What I really want to read is the sequel.

As to the memoir I wrote in my 30s, I’d put it away and forgotten about it. Then recently rationalising my study, I rediscovered it in a dusty old folder. I was astonished at how much I’d forgotten. So, for the sake of posterity,  I’ve been posting chapters to my blog  – just click a chapter title to open the chapter.

Hawkesbury Tales: A Memoir of a Village Life

Who Will Buy?

Give A Fox A Bad Name

Damp

I Decide to Join the WI Choir (just added today)

Posted in Family

There’s No Time Like The Present……. (My 2013 Birthday Post)

My new millefiori watch
And at the third stroke, the time will be: forget-me-not past daisy.

When this year’s birthday presents remind me of the passage of time, the irony is not lost on me. Who wants to contemplate their own mortality on a day that brings them closer to it? Oh yes, I know that every day does that really – but not with the same dramatic impact as a birthday.

Unwrapping boxed DVD sets of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games makes me realise with a jolt that although these events were still in the distant future when I celebrated my previous birthday, now they are simply history. For future generations, unable to say “I was there when Mo Farah took his double gold!”, they will be the  stuff of legend. Just as for me, the end of World War II is defined by snapshots of crowds rejoicing in Piccadilly Circus and a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, for my descendants, the 2012 Games will be defined by shots of Mo Farah’s astonishment as he crosses the finishing line to take gold (twice) and by soundbites of  Chad Le Clos‘s ecstatic father celebrating the young swimmer’s victory.

DVD Boxed Set of London 2012 Olympic Games from the BBC
History, captured and put in a box.

Fastening around my wrist the hyacinth blue strap of my beautiful new watch bordered with Venetian millefiore glass, I mentally award top marks to my parents for their psychic powers. I’d never mentioned to them that I’ve had my eye on this watch in the Museum Selection catalogue for several seasons. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re so closely attuned to my tastes, when they’ve known me longer than anyone else has. For a moment, I gaze at the secondhand ticking round from one tiny glass flower to the next. It’s like some sort of ancient rural device for telling when it’s milking time. And then I think: there goes another minute of my life that won’t come again. Better stop clock watching and make the most of it. As I’ve said before (and I hope I’ll say many times again), “Seize the (birth)day!”

L'Occitane bottle of Elxiir of Youth
And they said it didn’t exist…

But later that evening, I stop worrying. Rummaging in the bathroom for a new bottle of nightcream (yes, I’m now old enough to qualify for nightcream), my hand alights upon a small, blue Occitane bottle that may have the answer to my prayers. It’s an elixir of immortality, according to the label, at least for the face and neck. I wonder what would happen if I splashed it on all over? I think I’m going to need a bigger bottle.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

Seize the Birthday And Celebrate Yourself! (2012 birthday post)

Birthday Thoughts and Diabetes (2010 birthday post)