We’ve been reminiscing like old ladies this week, reading old letters and diary entires over Skype and emailing snippets of long-lost-love. As ever… one topic, two pretty different responses. One’s all wistful and soppy with a little bit of bum-sex, whilst the other’s all lopped-off toes and Princess Di. Enjoy.
Oh. And you might have spotted that terribly subtle MASSIVE PINK BOX over there on the right. Some of you decided to nominate us for the Cosmo Blog Awards under ‘sex/relationships’. More of you could, if ya fancy…
It seems most things I write on here end up referring to my inability to forward-plan, make goals or look to the future in any sensible way. It’s suddenly occurred to me that maybe this is because I can’t let go of the past.
It’s not about missing things, or pining for long lost lovers. It’s the not wanting to forget. Amnesia is my biggest fear. I have a sharp memory for silly little details; bits of conversation, what people were wearing, what drink they ordered. But what if one day I can’t remember those things?
When I was about 7, I saw something on the telly about a woman who had lost her memory. Her devoted husband had found that certain objects were good at triggering memories, and he quickly filled their home with these little reminders – things that were seemingly meaningless to anyone but this poor lady – a pressed flower here, a pebble from a beach there. And so, I have pretty much always felt the need to collect little mementos, memorabilia and souvenirs of the things I do, the places I visit and the people I meet.
The wristband from the festival where I’d accidentally left the camping lamp on and made what was essentially a pornographic shadow puppet show. A bottle cap snagged from the bar after a guitarist I adored had opened his Smirnoff Mule in 1998. A tartan ribbon from the side of a snare drum, 1997. A box of Polaroids from a weekend in the Cotswolds for my 23rd birthday. A metallic bangle left on my windowsill by a boy who probably shouldn’t have been there. Reams of those sticky barcode luggage tags. A rock with googly eyes on it. An old work security pass. Hotel room entry cards. Beer coasters. This catalogue of junk means so little out of context, and nothing to anyone but me. But this collection is the un-curated taxonomy of my life. It is my history with the opposite sex, told through objects and talismans and keepsakes.
There isn’t much I’d ever want to forget really. Even the bad things. It all makes me who I am.
Last week I grabbed a big shoebox from my parents house. It contains every piece of post I received from boys from when I was 14 until about 18. The cost of a stamp, just to send a note containing little more than “I liked it when we snogged do you want to go further with me and also what TV do you like to watch?” (actual sample). The first valentines card I ever received is in there too. Lengthy correspondence with my first ever boyfriend, who wrote to me on and off about pretty much everything we did in our lives right from the night we met in 1996 all the way up until about 2005. Invitations to the house party where I drank White Lightning and got off with a really fit older boy with curtains who later threw up on the dog, and the 16th birthday bash in Southend where I was first clumsily fingered, whilst trying to sleep inside a sleeping bag. I will never throw this stuff out.
This week, through the sort of sequence of coincidences that no one believes could happen, yet happens to me often, I ended up having a drink with a boy I had met 11 years ago at art college, and hadn’t seen since. He was almost exactly the same, which was nice, but I’d not forgotten him. I had kept a magazine article he’d written in 2001 in one of my Big Boxes of Memory Crap. (I’d be concerned about that sounding weird, but he’s managed to remember the thigh-high rainbow-striped socks I was wearing the night we first met so there you go eh).
The bracelet sitting by my window like a little trophy, rewarding me after some recent excellent debauchery. The photo snapped in a pub of a sticker from an old flame’s band. The ring on my finger, originally an anniversary gift, now just a beautiful thing that somebody made for me because they cared enough to, once. I like having these tangible links to the past. I don’t think holding on to memories, physically or otherwise, is a bad thing. They don’t stop you from doing anything. They don’t make me feel uncomfortable. Sure, objects can be powerful things. But that’s nothing negative or scary.
And anyway. If you think I’M some sort of freaky museum-building hoarder, my mum has my dead grandma’s hairbrush. With some of her hair on it.
I’ve got a similar set of things to Crumpet, sentimental stuff I’ve hoarded since I was about 14. I’ve got cinema stubs so old that you can’t even read what film’s on it any-more. I still love them though and get sad that you get stupid receipts nowadays instead of lovely green bits of card. I’ve got postcards and letters, drawings and photos. I’ve kept receipts from days out and train tickets from trips. I’ve got a pair of knickers that are over ten years old and a sparkly boob tube from my Chaka Khan days. I’ve got things that to anyone else would seem like tat but to me are a little bit of my history and part of who I am.
The things that hold the most value for me though are my diaries. They span from when I was 16 to 22 covering a wide range of topics including Boys, Love, The Pub, Boys, Amputations, Love, Sex, Angst, Boys. I was a bit of a twat, absolutely ridiculous really.
I read them back now in the same way that I watch ‘Se7en’ I know what’s going to happen, I know it’s Gwyneths’ pretty head in the box, but still I wish and hope that’s it’s a kitten, a nice alive kitten.
So I’ll read those diaries and yell at myself and think ‘No Nina don’t do that, don’t drink the coffee that the bloke you fancy has gobbed in because you think you’re cocky and you think he’ll think you’re cool, it’s gross and totally unhygienic. I drank the coffee and the gob and unsurprisingly that one never became my boyfriend.
My diaries detail my health stuff too. I was 16 when I got my first toe amputated, the diaries cover that one and the other four as well. It’s weird I write about it in such a blasé way.
‘Toe looks well red got an appointment with Dr Murray gonna see if he’ll amputate it’
‘Really pleased,had appointment with Dr Murray he said he will amputate it, going in Friday, out for pub on Sunday’
Pleased? PLEASED? How can you be pleased? STOP ASKING DOCTORS TO AMPUTATE YOUR TOES YOU LOON!
Looking back it’s clear I was in some sort of denial, I just wanted to be like everyone else. I’d laugh and joke about having Spinabifida and having missing toes
‘Haha saw Russ tonight told him about my foot he laughed and called me Nina Eight toes,I love him’
When actually I was an insecure mess dying for approval. I was easy and a bit stupid, had no self-worth or confidence. I was harsh and judgemental, defensive and dramatic. I went out took drugs, got drunk and cried a lot.
I was a proper idiot.
For a long time I struggled reading them, I would cringe at the choices I was making and the behaviour I was displaying. I wanted to be so far removed from that way of being that I couldn’t bare to be faced with it.
Now it’s different. So much time has passed that it doesn’t feel like I’m reading about me. I mean I know it is me but I view it like a mental little sister who I’m actually quite fond of. I made all these stupid stupid choices but each one was a step towards here, where I am now and I REALLY like this place.
What life means is different for everyone, for me though so much is about learning. Learning to be happy, learning to accept and get on with yourself. Learning to accept and get on with other people. Learning to love unconditionally, learning to be happy and make good choices, learning how to contribute to the world. These diaries and other reminders of my past serve to show me the journey I’ve been on. They remind me that I’m doing it. I’m playing life and I’m actually doing OK at it. I still make mistakes and I’m still a twat but there’s definite improvement.
I don’t keep diaries any more, I have the internet to record what a geek I am. In another few years I’ll be able to look back at my Face Book timeline and cringe at myself. I do it with some of my earlier posts on here. My spelling and grammar is bloody atrocious for a start, but by seeing that I’m also able to look at how far I’ve come even in a few years. I now know you have to capitalise your letter I’s (thank you Crumpet) and I’m still learning all the time not to give myself too much of a hard time about the more odd choices I make.
Learning and growing and all that Jazz eh.
I’ll finish this post with this diary entry from 1997 (I was 17) it really made me laugh mainly because of ‘Tragic but valuable lesson’ and also because I wasn’t even really that into Princess Di.
August 31st 1997
Today will be a day people remember in their hearts forever. It will be one of those things you tell your children and grandchildren. Our parents can all recall where they were when John F Kennedy died. My generation will always remember today when Princess Diana was killed tragically in a car crash with boyfriend Dodi. In a way I think it’s nice, they would have never been able to live together happily with the press hounding them. Now they can live in peace together. I hope the press have learnt a tragic but valuable lesson.