Time moves on as we go about our daily lives but there are always connections back to the past. The things we see, the things we hear, in fact anything we come across, even something as vague as a scent can be a trigger point that takes us back to a time and place we loved, or sadly, perhaps even hated. Memories are intrinsic to our personal selves, they are what makes us who we are.
I don’t know if you remember that TV series from a long time back with James Burke. It was called Connections and it showed how unrelated events from the past were connected to things in the present. Anyway, here’s my take on some personal connections to the past.
Some time ago, and I’m going back a few years because this incident took place in Woolworths in St Annes and Woolworths, that shop that was always there in my youth went bankrupt and disappeared a few years ago. Anyway, I have always been one for skimming through records and CDs, especially when the word ‘sale’ can be seen. In Woolworths I picked up a compilation CD. It had some really nice tracks and a few I’d never heard of but I chose it particularly because of one track, ‘Horse with no name’ by America. I’ve always loved that song and I don’t have a copy of it so I bought the CD. Later when I had got home and played the album I was surprised to find another track that I hadn’t spotted earlier, it was Desiderata, a poem by Max Ehrman made into a pop song, of sorts, by an American guy called Les Crane.
Now not only is that poem one of my favourites but so is the musical version. It was played a lot at school by our headmaster in the morning services and as soon as I heard it again it brought memories of those long ago schooldays flooding back to me: The registrations, the morning assembly, the prayers. Back in the late sixties a lot of those morning assemblies were about Vietnam and how our headmaster, Mr Trickett wove his morning address from Vietnam to the Desiderata, I do not know but that musical version was something I loved and finding it again on a CD was like getting part of my youth back.
I’ve related this story in another blog but this is a great connection so I’ll tell it quickly again. In 1992 I decided to have a last stab at my ambition to break into the TV and film world. I enrolled on a video production course in Manchester. It was only a short course and it was aimed at unemployed people which at the time, I was. Anyway, I had to make a presentation about TV and film and why I wanted to work in video and happily I was accepted. On the course we were split into small groups of three and were tasked to make a short film. After some discussion with my new colleagues we chose as our subject taxi drivers in Manchester. We made a quick outline of what to do, what to film and so on and after familiarisation with our fairly bulky camera and various training modules we went off to make our film. It’s not easy to make a film with two other people: All three of us all had our own ideas about the direction of the film, how to edit it together and so on but we discussed everything, tried to work each other’s viewpoints into the video and eventually came up with a pretty good rough cut. At this point we had to present the cut to the assembled video school and take questions and comments from the audience which was something of an ordeal but we survived and went on to fine tune our cut.
When the video was finished I tried to get TV companies interested in making a full length version for TV but without success, in fact you can read how I fared with Channel 4 here but I still have the video and what is so wonderful about the digital world is that now I’ve uploaded it to youtube, everyone can take a look at our film about taxi drivers in Manchester in the early nineties. In the time before the internet, my tape would be languishing in a cupboard with only ever having been seen by a few friends. Now the video is on the internet it’s my very own connection back to the nineties!
While we were on holiday last week in the Cher region of France we came across a marker by the road. There are many such markers by French villages telling us about battles and incidents of the first and second world wars. We had actually stopped to consult our map as we wandered down a quiet country lane when we saw the plaque. It was showing us that the dividing line between occupied and unoccupied France in the Second World War was here. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera on hand to snap a picture and I can’t even really tell you where we were, except we were close to the village of Germigny L’Exempt. Marshall Petain was the leader of unoccupied France during World War 2 and General de Gaulle the leader of the free French forces. When Nazi Germany was defeated France was reunited under the provisional government of De Gaulle. Petain was tried as a traitor and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in 1951 and is buried at the Cimetière communal de Port-Joinville on the Île d’Yeu, a small island off the French Atlantic coast where he served his sentence. I wonder what Petain himself thought of the situation, did he think of himself as a traitor or was he doing what he thought was right under the circumstances? Anyway, there it was, a quick stop on a country lane to check the map and a small connection with the 1940’s.
Visiting historic places and sites is a great way of connecting to the past. As I have said, there are many sites in France relating to the two world wars. One that we visited in northern France some years ago was a great concrete structure where the invading Nazis were planning to fire V1 and V2 rockets at the UK. Happily, daring raids by the RAF made this impossible but the structure is still there today. As you stand and stare as a tourist today, you can only imagine the heroism of all those who fought for a free world in the past.
To finish with, another more personal connection. When I lived in Didsbury, back in the mid-eighties, I had a much shorter commute to work than I do now. I worked in Stockport and it took me about fifteen minutes or less to get to work, unlike the forty five minutes of motorway driving it takes me now. Back then I was still a great record collector spending a lot of my free time flipping through vinyl singles in record shops and making up my own cassette tapes to play in my car. I had a favourite tape back then and it was a compilation of TV themes, dialogue from movies, and bits and bobs I had recorded from the radio world. Not so long ago I bought myself some software that lets you record analogue sound from records and tapes and convert them to a digital format and one of the first things I converted was that favourite tape from the eighties. I burned the compilation to a CD and now, here in 2015, I’m travelling into work listening to the same favourites I used to play in my car all those years ago!
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