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In May my daughter Beth and her husband Michael flew from California to spend several weeks with us. One of Beth’s tasks was to sort out a mountain of stuff she left in the attic after emigrating thirteen years ago. What to keep, what to throw away? The process was long, as she was sucked into the life of the attic. Attics are mysterious places: a world of forgotten artefacts, memories of past deeds, records of unremembered events long ago. Rummaging through an attic uncovers secrets, reveals emotions submerged in a back cupboard of the mind. Our attic is nothing much. Not the big, spacious areas at the top of stately homes we see in movies. Nevertheless:

Helping Beth, I came face to face with a piece of my own history once again: a large cardboard box about four foot tall, falling apart now. For many years I’ve agonised over keeping or throwing. It’s filled with parts of model aeroplanes, mostly broken or half-finished, including my PAW (Progress Aero Works) 2.49cc diesel engine, one of the best-in-class when I bought it in the early 1960s and still in production. Barbara says it’s all just junk, and I suppose she’s right. But it’s also a box of precious memories from my teenage years—memories of people, places, events, friendship and kindness.

Box of Old Junk?

PAW 2.49cc Diesel

Memories are partly why I started my blog—a diary of current happenings, ponderings and prognostications—and reflections of past events or thoughts, consequential or not. I haven’t always been been interested in memories. When I was a brash, know-it-all college student I foolishly thought memorialising a waste of time. Letters, diaries, certificates—none of it seemed important then. When I graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree. I didn’t bother turning up at the graduation ceremony. Perhaps I should expand on that.

At the end of my last term, when lectures were finished, final exams over but results not yet announced, I had occasion to go into college to pick up something I’d left in the ceramics department. The place was empty, students all gone. The pottery room door was open. I walked in, and heard voices coming from the far corner of the big room where another door was open to the office of Alex Birns, pottery lecturer and head of Art & Craft. He was talking to Bill Morris, painting and fine art teacher. They couldn’t see me nor could I see them. As I walked in, I heard Bill say: “well, they’ve all done pretty much as we expected”. Alex responded “yes, all except for poor Craig”.

I quietly fled and heard nothing more. They were obviously talking about the B.Ed. results and obviously I’d failed! So I didn’t bother attending the graduation. One Sunday a few weeks later, Janice Noble, the only other Church member at Madeley College, came across me and said:

“Congratulations Craig”

“What about?” I asked

“Your B.Ed. of course” “Oh, no Janice, I didn’t get it, I failed”

“Sorry to hear that” she said, “but I was sure I saw your name on the pass list at college” “Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure; I might be mistaken but you can easily check”

I raced to the college, mind in a whirl, ran to the entrance hall where the pass lists were posted and sure enough, there was my name. Later I discovered the conversation I overheard was because they expected me to get an honours degree, but I only got an ordinary pass (which was all I deserved). So I missed my graduation. Thing is, even if I knew I’d passed, chances are I still wouldn’t have bothered, so disdainful was I then of what I considered unnecessary, frivolous events of no significant value.

I bitterly regret my immature disregard for life markers and memories. I have no photos from my four years at Madeley. Bill Morris almost ordered me to shoot my 4th year work, and I half-heartedly snapped a few groups of my pottery. But I have no photos of Nelson Hall, or the Madeley halls or any of my friends—no record at all of my environment, social life, sports activity—nothing. Nor do I have a record of Barbara and our first flat as a married couple on May Bank, Newcastle. No photos of our firstborn, Adam, or our second flat on Waterloo Road, Burslem; nothing of our extensive Church activities and friends. No photos of the Wattleberries, our folk group or even diary entries of our gigs. One of our most precious possessions is a recording of a performance which we didn’t know existed, made by a member of the group with more sense than me and forgotten by us. A CD copy turned up in the post a few years ago and lit up our memories of those wonderful days. I still have my acoustic guitar though. I might get back to it some day. Now . . . how did I play a C major chord?

Anyway, back to the box in the attic. Is it time to get rid of it? Probably—but not just yet. As you can tell, there must be a sequel to this post sometime.


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