Time - what is that? A straight line that moves steadily towards some distant future? More likely it zigzags about so that in any one hour we have been absorbed by the present, contemplated the future and revisited the past. Every day it's the same - a kind of fluidity, not just plodding forward into the future upon a predictable highway but looking left and right, remembering where we have been and imagining what lies beyond the hills up ahead.
How easy it is to slip back into the past - reviewing moments that our brains choose to highlight when so many other moments have been swept away, forgotten. These memories are often mundane - not always recollections of peaks and troughs in our lives - but memories of the everyday, the ordinary...
It is 1958 and Uncle Tom is holding my hand. We are behind the school's new toilet block and there is a bed of nettles. He tells me that you can make soup from nettles. He seems very tall and his silver hair undulates in tight waves across his scalp. His hand is big and warm. Soon we go back inside but the rest of that day is lost to me. There's just me and Uncle Tom and the nettles.
It is 1970, The Isle of Wight Festival. I am camping on Desolation Row. One night we are sitting by a bonfire. Strangers. We tell each other where we are from... Denmark, America, France, Edinburgh. And then I ask the next guy. He's older and a little aloof. He says, "Me? I am an earthling". And for a moment the rest of us are quiet. Why did he say that? Later I knew.
It is January 1978. My first day as a teacher at Dinnington Comprehensive School. Sitting in Bob's sky blue VW Beetle, the windscreen wipers are swishing the sleet away as we travel along the country lane from Gildingwells. I can still hear and see them making their fan shapes in the sleet but I can recall nothing else about that day.
Of course there are bigger, more predictable memories - of the births of our children, of deaths, of achievements - special times - but they are outnumbered by the mundane, like the unexceptional moments alluded to in the previous three paragraphs. I think such ordinary memories are important to all of us but I struggle to say why. I should look for a good layman's book that explores the patterns and mechanics of memory because this is something I often find myself thinking about.