Wednesday 15 May 2024

The GHOST Who 'TALKS'... (Updated)

Actual drawing size 57mm high

I've just spent the last 20 minutes or so 'conversing' with an old friend.  He died 11 years ago (which I only found out about in September of last year), but between the end of 1977 and 1980, we kept in touch by letter after he joined the Navy.  So did I employ a happy medium?  (Guffaw!)  No, I recently rediscovered his letters in a box and had a read through them, and it was good to 'reconnect' with the friend I'd liked and found amusing, before he became almost another person (at least in regard to me) and I eventually cut all ties with him.  (Regular readers will perhaps remember the events from previous posts.)

As I read his letters and cards, his 'voice' ran through them, and it was as if time had rolled back and his missives were recent communications, not nearly 50 years old.  To read references that only I would know was a poignant reminder of our youth, and I found myself dwelling on events and circumstances that I hadn't thought of in a long time.

For example, he mentions 'cows passing over' (raining) when he was on a training exercise, and my mind returned to the time a passing car drove through a muddy puddle and thoroughly drenched us with its contents.  I remarked that we looked as though a herd of cows had passed over us and 'dropped their load' (though the latter part wasn't the precise phrase used).  Over the years, whenever we recalled the event (which happened when we were primary school kids), we always referred to it as 'The Day The Cows Passed Over'.

He also humorously calls himself 'a bear of very little brain', adding 'Tiddely Pom', which was a direct reference to the time I'd bought a Winnie The Pooh book and brought a poem containing the phrase to his attention.  When we were out that night, we kept repeating the full poem (short as it was) and couldn't help laughing at the sheer silliness of it.  (Ah, the exuberance of youth.)  This had happened only around a couple or so years before he joined the Navy, and with that curious paradox of time, seemed fairly recent and also ages ago at the same moment.

He also scribbles the phrase 'Biffo The Bear Is An Easter Egg With Legs' in the top margin of a letter, which recalls the time we were on our way home after visiting a friend* and saw a father write the phrase (backwards from our point of view) in the condensation on his kid's bedroom window.  I assumed he remembered the circumstances, but was surprised when he asked me on one of his visits back to Scotland just where it came from.  I explained its origin, but he had no memory of the event.  "Then why did you write it in your letter?" I asked.  "Because you did in yours, and I found it funny" was his reply.

Another random thing he wrote on one letter, unconnected to its contents, was 'Rubber Buttons'.  This referred back to a conversation we'd had as young teens, about the so-called 'short trousers' we wore as kids.  Back then, short trousers ended just above (or touching) the knees and were higher-waisted.  Their flies had far too many buttons (seemingly made of a dense rubber) which were difficult and time-consuming to undo, resulting in having to hoist up a trouser leg to have a wee, as it took too long to open the fly.  When you were desperate, trying to undo the buttons was like moving in slow-motion, so long did it take (or appear to).

What's more, short trousers were thicker back then (as well as longer), and when you rolled up a leg, it resulted in something resembling a concertina that was spring-loaded, threatening to unfold over the 'little chap' and getting soaked in pee in the process (both trousers and said 'little chap').  Oh, the hardships, trials and tribulations we had to suffer in the '60s.    

There was so much more; references to people we knew, jobs I'd had, places we'd frequented, etc.  I'm glad I never threw his letters out as they allowed me a brief return into the past, and my demised youth that yet calls to me on occasion, but tauntingly teases me by remaining just beyond my firm and tangible grasp.  The rough pencil sketch at the top of this post is a quick drawing I did of him one night (I think) in the flat of a mutual friend (*same one as alluded to above), which said friend had in his possession for a good while until I reclaimed it from him.  It's been back in my ownership for decades now, from before I eventually realised my childhood pal had 'grown up' into a person I no longer liked or found amusing and let him follow his own path.

It was good to revisit him from a time before this though, even if it was all-too-brief.  As is life, sadly.  It's a shame I never made copies of my own letters before I sent them, just so I could read his correspondence in context, but it simply never occurred to me to do so way back then.

Any similar stories, Crivvies?  If so, let's hear them.


Anonymous said...

That's a very well written post, Kid - well done. You're at the top of your game, this morning!

My father, a power station worker, went to 'work abroad' in 1975. Over the years, my mother made my brother and myself write my father letters, at regular intervals ( compulsion was necessary, ourselves being young & lazy children!) After my father passed away, it turns out that he'd kept our side of the correspondence, provided a fascinating record of certain past events. What's really strange, though, isn't being reminded of events you remember; it's reading about details you don't remember happening at all - and had a contemporary reminded you, you'd have declared they didn't happen! Such things create the sensation you literally were 'a different person' back then? So exactly what role does memory play in one's identity /sense of self? You think identity comprises memories of all the experiences making you, you - but what about events that clearly happened that you don't remember, and would have denied ever happened? Are they your identity, too? It feels slightly weird! After my father passed, I arranged all the letters in chronological order (it's slightly more complicated than that) and photographed them with my digital camera. Unfortunately, that SD card failed, so I'll have to photograph them it again, some day (when I've got the energy).

By the way, that sketch of Alan is good.

Best regards,


Kid said...

And that's a very well written and thought-provoking comment, P, that deserves to be a post of its own. Yeah, if who we are is comprised of our memory of events, (as you say) does that also apply to the things we don't remember? That's a fascinating question and I'll probably be pondering it for hours (between naps). More comments like yours please. And thanks for complimenting the drawing, doodle as it is.

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