Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Complete Purple Notebook, Part Four

What is my purple notebook? A notebook of inspiring memories, of various kinds. I describe it here, and list the first few entries, explaining what they mean to me.

Clare, December 2001. 9/11 programme on radio. My mother died in January 2001, RIP. Obviously, in September 2001, the terrorist attacks on America happened. That Christmas, since we wanted a change of scene to escape sad memories, all my family stayed in my sister's house in County Clare. I was listening to a radio documentary about 9/11, and somehow I felt a sense of relief and gratitude that life went on, despite tragedy. We come to terms with things, personally and as a society.

The Christmas shop after Engaged Encounter. Myself and Michelle attended a pre-marriage course called Engaged Encounter. It was one of the best experiences of my life, though it's hard to say why.  I describe it here.

Immediately afterwards, we went to a big shop (not a Christmas shop, thou
gh it had lots of Christmas stuff) with an enormous blow-up snowman outside, and tea-towels that said: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (only in America), and other touches of domesticity and the magic of everyday life. And I felt so much in love and happy.

Sushi in Kroger. A memory of having lunch-time sushi with Michelle in the American supermarket Kroger. I felt so happy and in love.

Richard Branson, Limerick. On one visit to my aunt's farm in Limerick-- on the day we were going home, which always had a bittersweet atmosphere-- I read a newspaper story about the British entrepreneur Richard Branson, who might have been the richest man in Britain at the time. Somehow I was taken with the idea that a person who looked ordinary, identifiable, human, was the wealthiest man in Britain. But it's not really that. I can't explain the appeal of this memory.

Sepia newspapers. Those hazy lazy crazy days of summer. I read a newspaper article with the headline Those Hazy Lazy Crazy Days of Summer. I didn't know the phrase at the time and it struck me as incredibly poetic-- and the idea of special times also appealed to me, as ever. (Seasonality has always seemed primordially mysterious to me). The photo showed an attractive woman in a bikini. The story struck me with all the poignancy and sweetness and fleetingness of summer. I don't know if it was really a sepia newspaper-- it probably wasn't-- but I felt I was looking at a yellowed, decades-old clipping.

Stories...that have stood the test of time. Me and my brothers used to collect a set of books-and-tapes published by the Ladybird imprint. They were retellings of classic stories. The back flyleaf always had a golden scroll against a mahogany background listing all the titles, with the caption "Stories...that have stood the test of time" at the top. This captured my imagination. How could it not?

Black and white World War documentaries.

Egyptian mythology, Ballymun library. I had a bit of an interest in Egyptology when I was a teen. I remember borrowing a book about Egyptian mythology from Ballymun library. Every time I read up on such a subject, I felt inspired by the idea of becoming well-read and becoming a freeman of all human history and thought. The idea enthralled me in my teens. And nothing in human history seemed wasted. The dead gods of Egypt stood for something worthwhile, something unique. And the exoticism of the mythology were a pleasant contrast to the utilitarianism of modern life.

"Journey". Voyager and general. People use the phrase 'journey' to describe everything from a training weekend to a spiritual quest. It's a cliché. But I love the cliché, and I can never get enough of it. I love thinking about how much of life is a journey, in so many different ways. The Star Trek show Voyager, which follows the crew of a stranded ship on their way back to their own part of the galaxy, is one example of this classic narrative.

Superted, big wheel. A memory of my mother bringing me and my young brother to a funfair in Dublin City centre. We went to a funfair, including a big wheel. I remember telling my mother I felt sad to see her not getting on any of the rides. She said, "Just watching you having fun makes me happy". It seemed strange to me now, though of course I understand it now. The same day we bought an illustrated book about a Welsh superhero for kids called Superted.

Slógadh, tomorrow already. The Slógadh was a drama and music festival which our school entered every year. I think my class took part two years. One year, we stayed overnight in a town. We were in a hotel (or somewhere) and I referred to the next day-- Wednesday, or whatever. One of my classmates said, "It is Wednesday", since it was past midnight. The combination of being up so late, and realising the fluidity of time, gave me a thrill.

Doing work on the English literature shelves, John Cheever, Diarmuid McCullough. In the library, I was doing some work on the English literature section one summer, while listening to the audio history of Christianity by Diarmuid McCullough, through headphones. I found myself looking through book after book of criticism, including one about the American author John Cheever. Suddenly the idea that many people devote the bulk of their attention to writing and analysing words about life itself, and the human condition, seemed wonderful.

S---------- ------------- and his father. This one makes me feel like a bit of a stalker. There was a guy I knew only distantly, but with whom I was friends on Facebook.  I kind of envied his life and lifestyle, which seemed very cultured and intellectual. One picture showed him and his father in a restaurant and somehow I found it very appealing and inspiring. That's it.

Quinnsworth with mother. Skips. There was a big supermarket in Ballymun all through my childhood. At first it was Quinnsworth, then Tesco, then Crazy Prices. I used to go there shopping with my mother and the artificial light of the supermarket, not to mention the labyrinth of the aisles, gave me a sense of the eternal. Skips are a brand of crisps (potato chips) which are very tangy and, at that time, had information on the back of the packets about various extreme sports.

Sapper and Sniper, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Werewolf. Paint. Prince August. Various toys from my childhood. Some of them were not ready-made but you moulded and painted them yourself. My elder brother supervised. The smell of paint is such an exciting smell; the smell of freshness and possibility.

Four-sided on crisps. A very dim memory. I remember looking at a four-sided star image on a packet of crisps (potato crisps). I was very young and it seemed to me like the definitive and simplest and most classical symbol of glamour, excitement and celebration. I've always loved simple symbols that evoke a whole atmosphere.

Collecting clothes in Scoil Caitriona. My school sent us all door-to-door collecting clothes for a school sale of work (rummage sale). I was very shy and the idea appalled me. When I actually did it, and it wasn't so bad, the relief was rather euphoric. And I got the rest of the day off! All the time, whenever I have done anything slightly different, the pleasant sense of combined anxiety and disorientation seems to wake my soul up.

Film review website for CD-ROM. I bought a film review CD-Rom and stayed up very late reading review after review after review, while the house around me was busy. The two degrees of removal-- reading reviews of films, which are themselves a commentary on life and its infinite diversity-- made me feel both distanced and closer to human life in all its variety.

Space shuttle in D-----'s class. There was a skylight in my school classroom when I was about nine. Also, we used to take turns to bring a budgie (and other things) home. These were combined in a dream about a small spaceship which would shoot out the skylight, and which we took turns using. A great sense of excitement and discovery in that dream.

Santa transparency on balcony door. Hard to describe any further. A transparency on a window-- or the glass of a door- transforms a room into a different place, a different world.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of memories and Crazy Prices, I remember Crazy Prices had a lot of luminous coloured signs. I also remember that the character(s) in the signs (the ones I remember, at least) were spiky headed people with luminous orange skin, who always had open-mouthed smiles.