Late middle age agitation,
beige colour-washed in clothing and mind,
early morn coffee,
recapturing youth tho’ wrinkled and pilled up,
vacant hopes as damp as the drizzle falling around the wet washed smoking zone,
outcast and outdated,
out of step with youth fast passing whose screens quick-flick with lives sped read by,
their days long spread ahead,
minutes like hours slow passing,
mealtimes the office bells of a life rapid passing slow to a rolating highway to a homeless Home,
offspring long gone to hours wage-tied,
TV schedules their timetabled replacement for school routines
secret revisited in daydreams
of a future once more glittering in hopes,
elders sit grouped in playground reminiscence,
carrier bags and walking sticks,
not satchels and cricket bats,
talks of prescriptions and missed appointments,
of customer service and missing buses,
not gossip of TV heroes, friendship breakups,
the sweetest tasting sweets and sticker swapping successes,
cold dregs now swished,
stubbed stubs ground,
they depart all ways west to window shop and bus stop dawdle,
till the hissing coffee machine recalls them,
the next nameless day.
The title might sound like the opening to an exciting story but in fact it’s a phrase that takes me back to when I was about 8 or 9. A stroll along Hastings Beach made me remember the words, they were what a friend and I shouted at the waves as they broke around our feet.
Kevin was an American boy the same age as me. I believe his mother and father had divorced or possibly his mum was a widow and she, being English, had brought Kevin back to the UK. They were renting, I assume, a property in Tenterden High Street, some distance from where I lived and so I’m not sure how we became such good friends, admittedly only for a short time before he and his mum moved on. Maybe we sat next to each other or our mums met at the school gate. Anyway, I remember Kevin coming around to play on at least one occasion and another time my parents taking us to the beach, presumably Hastings as that’s where we usually went. We stood in the water and tried to be King Cnut, sending the waves back.
I can recall Kevin playing in my garden and picking up one of my toy rifles and saying to my mum that it was similar to the one used to kill President Kennedy. I’m not sure it was, mine was a cowboy-style gun but it showed how that event was still in a young boy’s mind some 2 or 3 years after the assassination.
Kevin moved on with his mum but not before leaving me one of his toy cars, a large wind-up red monster that made my Dinky and Matchbox ones pale into insignificance. I kept it for many years. Being boys we didn’t think to exchange addresses, maybe Kevin’s mum wasn’t sure where they were going, but we lost contact and at that age you just move on to the next day and the next game and the next friend. Having moved back to that town Tenterden a few years ago I used to often walk past the terraced house where Kevin and his mum stayed briefly and it would bring back memories. Kevin would now be a sixty year old guy, I wonder if he still remembers me and ‘Go back, Charlie, go back!’
It’s strange how objects or songs or odd little things can fire off your memories. This morning I was walking down the high street of our small town and noticed something in a shop which brought back recollections in an instant. Our town is full of charity shops and coffee shops and I rarely glance into either. However, having not been down in the town this week I was window gazing more than usual and in a charity shop I noticed a Brownie 127 camera. It was only offered at £5 but the memories it triggered in my head were priceless.
Even without holding the camera I could feel in my head the curved, bulging shape of the body and the cord hanging down the sides. It was the first camera I had and was probably passed onto me by my mum and dad. I was around eight or nine and we were on holiday in Cornwall. I have a photo of me standing on a hill or cliff side using the camera. I can still remember the canvas-type holdall it came with too, a sort of light brown material.
I still have some of the black and white photographs I took with the 127 and they aren’t bad considering the age of the camera, I’m assuming my parents must have had it some years, and my youthful fingers on the camera and button. I can still hear the click of the button, a very definite sound and quite a forceful push required if I recall correctly.
Like many people, the holidays we took with our families in our early years, say between seven and thirteen are very precious, especially as now our parents have passed away and only our memories and photographs remain of those happy, innocent times when we had so few responsibilities. I found out later in life my father wasn’t the keenest of drivers so taking us all the way from Kent to Cornwall and on another occasion to North Wales means a great deal to me. I guess the photos I have of all the castles in Wales must have been taken with the 127 too.
A few years later I went on a trip to Paris with my secondary school and I have photos of some of the places we visited. I’m guessing I used the 127 for those too, including one quite impressive photo taken from the top of the Eiffel Tower. The camera was stoutly made and must have survived several days being bashed around in a twelve-year old’s bag.
All these memories, and this blog post, all have come about because my eyes caught a glimpse of that Kodak camera in a charity shop. I guess if you wanted the starting point for a story of memory and intrigue you could take a flight of fancy and imagine that camera was the one I owned and somehow it has ended up in that shop and could be reunited with me after all these years…