Gold Dust Memories

Blogging. I think about it from time to time. I ask myself little questions. Why am I still doing it? Is it in any way worthwhile? What on Earth is it?

One thing’s for sure. It’s an outdated thing, these days. A curious habit of the past, like snuff or that Nimble Bread advert with the balloon. It’s almost a byword for obsolescence and irrelevance, a taunt to throw at someone, the worst kind of folly. A white elephant, an albatross around the neck, the laughable ego-trip of the fool who has failed to move with the times. You get the picture.

Granted. Granted. Yet, here I am, year in and year out, setting down my words in my blog, eating my Nimble, staring at my snuff box.

Truth to tell, it’s a moot point, a zero-sum game. I’ve made peace with it all ages ago. The outdatedness, the irrelevance – who cares? Certainly not me. For me, it’s a wall to spray paint on. A chalkboard to scribble on, an Etch a Sketch that I can shake up every Saturday and scratch something different (but not too different) on. Sometimes I play a game with myself, imagining that I’m writing my little pieces for some corner of a fall-out tabloid section of some national newspaper. My public awaits and my deadline looms. But, of course, in reality, there is no deadline except the one I impose on myself, and my public is a handful of loyal supportive friends who drop by much more often than they really should.

Again, and not to sound heartless, I don’t care all that much. Not anymore anyway. If I did care once, it was all pointless caring anyway. I have lots of analogies for the blog. Some days it’s like a stamp collection. I enjoy finding tiny things to press between its pages, but I don’t need to be waving it around for the world to see. Also, a percentage of my pleasure in it is occasionally looking back over the pages I’ve amassed and the little stamps of memory and experience I have garnered in there. It’s become a more inward-looking thing than the outward-reaching thing it may have started out wishing to be. It’s all good.

In moments of heightened reverie, I might envisage some errant grand nephew finding the pages on some barely working device in some dusty attic and, rather like an uncovered View Master toy, he might peer into it and marvel at the odd 3D effect that such an ancient thing could achieve. Maybe said errant grand nephew might be marginally pleased to see such a fleshed-out record of the musings of long dead grand-uncle Ken, who was clearly a bit of a gobshite. Maybe he will know a little more about me than the carved lines in the gravestone up in the new cemetery. Yes, folks, in happier times, I can think like that. Go shoot me.

Regular readers will know that there’s often a specific point at the end of these weekly musings. Some event from the week gone by that sparked the current diatribe. This week is no exception. Something happened. Well, two things happened in fact, and they seem connected. Here’s the first.

Karin, one of the kind regular visitors to the online page, found some value in last week's post, going so far as to say it might be her favourite. This pleased me and surprised me in equal measure. It was just another post, wasn’t it? Therein lay a small realisation. The 'connection'. That was the thing. Something I had dredged up from my own week and from my own feelings had actually connected with somebody in another place, in another set of experiences. To make a connection like that with one’s rather aimless scribblings, with one’s Nimble, with one’s snuff… well, that’s quite something isn’t it?

The second thing that’s happened is that my Brother-in-Law, John, has recently started to set down in writing some memories from his childhood and, generously, he has been sharing these with his family. I have been lucky enough to see these. Coming as he does from an extremely close-knit family, who lost both their parents at a very young age, and who saw each other through their childhoods and teenage years as siblings, these new recorded memories are really something very special indeed. 

The memories that John has set down to date are neither earth-shattering nor spectacular. Regardless of that, they are, in my view, complete and utter gold dust. A long-departed parent, previously confined to a glass-framed photo on a mantle, springs out in Technicolor from John's pages, as the loving, nurturing Mother of John’s memory. For me, at least, Maeve O’Reilly seems to come up out of these writings and the familiar photographs of her seem somehow more rounded and three dimensional as a result. Remarkably, there is no huge level of detail within these new writings to help achieve this. It is simply the evoking of her, in a true memory, in words, that seems to breathe new life into her story, into who she really was.

The value I see in John’s act of setting his memories down has made me think about what I do here myself every week. My own stuff may not have the same importance but am I too adding at least a little depth to things that would otherwise be flatter? The fact that Karin found something to relate  to in last week’s post, coupled with my own reaction to John’s writing, leads me to think that perhaps that there is some value here, in these many hundreds of thousands of simple words.

So that's it. Both these little events seem to have re-affirmed that there is some value in what I do within the walls of this blog every week. Firstly, there are those rare and wonderful connections, through common feelings and experience, that it can very occasionally evoke. That is a gemstone of a thing and something to be cherished. 

Secondly, to see someone else evoke their memories and emotions, as I try to do, and to feel the effect their work has had on me. Do I manage to do that too, from time to time? Do I spark a ’something’ in others like John’s writing has sparked a ‘something’ in me? I’m not sure. But I think that, sometimes, maybe I do.

So that’s reason enough, isn’t it? To keep sitting here and wondering at how the words appear magically on the screen when I don’t really know where any of the keys on the keyboard are. Old habits, I guess.

An old, unfashionable, outdated habit… but maybe one worth holding on to for a while longer.


Jules said...

Certainly a habit worth persisting in, Ken - from the perspective of the reader, each one of your blogs gives an insight into another life, another world. Certainly, from my perspective, it makes my world bigger because it shows me experience outside of myself, a life I would never have experienced, and always reminds me that I should stop neglecting my own blog, which gets updated ridiculously sporadically

Anonymous said...

Keep it up Ken. It is really important that we prod and prompt each other to have a real go at expressing our thoughts in writing or, indeed, in any other form that appeals to us.

Jim Murdoch said...

What would happen to us if you stopped blogging? I mean we could start e-mailing but I’ve tried that with others and months tend to go by before whoever’s turn it is to write gets round to it or forgets and the whole thing dies a death. I’ve been waiting for eight months (I’m guessing, might be longer) for one of my friends to reply to my last drivel and I think that might be it, the odd ‘like’ on Facebook if Facebook can be arsed letting him see my latest post. So, Christ, no, don’t pack in the blog.

I do try and reply promptly but such is the state of my mind these days that, as you well know, weeks can flit by before I settle down with a cup of... tea these days since I can’t stomach coffee... and fill in my side of the conversation. (BTW I was looking back on some older posts and don’t see my comments so you may need to approve them.)

As regards how earth-shattering your posts are... I wrote a poem a wee while back in the style of Bukowski in which the narrator is looking back on his early poems and how not-great they were. At some point he realises that all a poem needs to be is a poem and he was setting unrealistic expectations that guaranteed disappointment. It goes with the territory, us being writers and used to reworking our stuff to death. A blog is a different beast. It’s one side of a conversation, even if no one comments which, although I’m not the speediest responder, you never need to worry about as long as I can still string a sentence together.

Ken Armstrong said...

Thank you Jim. I've been remiss in okaying comments over the past weeks. Sorry about that. I seem to be in a Winter doldrum, where I do what I have to do and then do nothing else. I always love to see the wise words here so sorry again.

I also tned to think of us a Didi and Gogo, one asking that the other 'Return the Ball'. I'm no good at returning the ball and I realise it's a failing on my part. So, sorry again.

It's lovely to see your work find good homes all around the Internet and the poetry 'zines. Keep submitting, they deserve to be out there.

All the best, as ever