storytelling with photographs on the coastal margin of the Durham coalfields.
Tag Archives: memories
“I’d run up the street when the mill was about to close and stand outside waiting for my mother. And people coming out and saying, “Hello there, your mam won’t be long”. And then maybe one would come out another different night and, “oh, your mam’s going to be a long time cause she’s had a smash.”
“And what you call a smash was the shuttle had come out of the reeds and broken all the cotton. And they used to have to bring all them through the reeds again and tie them. And if it was too bad a smash they would change it and start again, if it was too bad. But if it wasn’t too bad they’d mend it and then comb it. But that part when the cloth was taken off the loom itself it was cut out. ”
There is a two-fold thing happening in my life right now. I’m taking photographs of my mam. Forever photos. She’s 88 on Monday. How much longer will she live? Who knows. Life is strange like that. We can’t predict what is going to happen. Or how long we will live. There is a sense of urgency to it too. A kind of capturing memories for when the inevitable happens. A last chance to make someone last forever. When she goes I will lose a connection, a connection to a past that I came from. That is a scary concept. To have one parent is hard, but to have none. Well it doesn’t bear thinking about. Who will I ask about the past, who will tell me the tales that she keeps hidden. So now I take photographs. Of a life once lived. A life that once danced and laughed. A life that once experienced but now sits and waits.
And the two-fold thing……. Well I’ve been researching the family tree for my mam. On the maternal side. Trying to find out, for my mam, where her grandmother and grandfather came from. And I’ve succeeded. I’ve got answers for her. Surprising answers too. My mam never knew her grandparents on her mothers side. I sense, a tale, of sadness, of rejection somewhere there. My mam is very protective of her mother, was very protective. Still is, of her memory. I sense a story there. A sad story, one which I will gently capture. Things start to make sense. Things from my childhood make sense. Injustices, betrayals, rejection. Answers, answers, answers, please. But they will come. Slowly, and gently.
Things develop, projects more forward. The more I think about the mapping the more it makes sense. There are landmarks all across our country. Places where battles were fought, places where kings left this mortal coil. They are the past. The shrines that I now take photos of are the present. When do they become the past. Do they remain forever.
This is what I do on my day off . Mapping for my death in the Landscape project. Maps show alot of things, churches, service stations, monuments, etc. My map will show the spot where I have taken my photos. This is where people have died and shrines have been put up. I’m still trying to get a narrative for this project but just can’t seem to get it from head to paper. What I can see is normal life + death + remembrance. Maybe one day I’ll understand what I’m trying to show.
Today I took my little mam to the pictures. She loves going to the pictures. Normally it is a scary movie we go to watch. Today was no different. She loves scary movies, although she often complains that they are not scary enough. Time is running out, she’s 88, well 87 actually. Her birthday is in 3 weeks time and then she’ll officially be 88. We got there at one pm, the film was due to start at quarter past. They hadn’t even opened up. I don’t know how these places make any money. Oh yes I do. Nearly 20 pounds it cost, for an adult and senior citizen ticket, one small diet coke and a cuppa. Yes that’s how they make their money. I remember the days when……….. well you get my drift.
My mam walks with a stick so I have to get her seated and then go back for the refreshments. She hates climbing the stairs to get to a seat but she doesn’t like to sit too close to the screen so up we go, my little mam hanging onto my arm and using her stick to help her up. She chooses where we sit even though our tickets said we were to sit elsewhere. I told the man when he asked which seats we wanted that we’d sit wherever my little mam decided to sit regardless. He laughed. Not sure I like this new practice of asking people where they want to sit. The film seemed to take ages to start and then eventually we were off. The sound is so intense sometimes but why of why does my mam insist on talking loudly during the quiet scenes. Yes its embarrassing, but haven’t our parents embarrassed us all out lives. When the film finished we waited until everyone had gone and then slowly made our way down from the gods, back to terra firma. And we followed the same routine, stopping off at pizza hut on the way back to the car so my mam can take a pizza home for her tea. Its little things like this that I will remember with fondness, and maybe shed a tear or two, when the inevitable happens. My mam doesn’t understand why I want to take photos of her. But I do, she’s my mam, and these are my memories.
What do you do when the football has started? You start cataloguing all your singles of course. What else would one do on a Saturday night. And then you start to think. About the first time you got your record player. This is mine, a Fidelity UA10.
I got it for my thirteenth birthday. Its one of the best presents I ever got. Before that music was played, mostly, in the company of my parents. Our only record player was upstairs in the living room (we lived in a split level house with the bedrooms downstairs) I could read in my bedroom, contemplate life, even talk to myself, but I could never play music. So imagine the job of being able to go to my room and put on a record and listen to it all by myself. I’d always liked listening to music but that’s when I fell in love with it, in my bedroom when I was thirteen.
Of course you couldn’t have the volume too loud, that came later with the onset of headphones. But you could hear the music, I mean really hear the music. You could close your eyes and be there inside the song. You couldn’t do that when your parents were around. They wouldn’t understand. They didn’t know what it was like to be thirteen. They didn’t understand the sound that came out of your bedroom. And I still get it even now. I still get the music.
I work shifts, 12 hour shifts. That’s three days a week. Which means I have spare time during the week to do stuff I enjoy. On most of my days off I go to visit my mam. She lives with three dogs. In a house we moved into in 1970, when I was 6. She’ll never leave it, except when the inevitable happens. She’s 88 so that time is creeping closer. It scares me because then I will be parentless. What will I do? I’m not sure I will cope very well. I dread it. I can’t even bear to think about it. What will I do with her house? I grew up in it. It holds so many memories. My dog, Rebel, which I got when I was 13 (alot happens when you’re 13 I’ve decided) is buried there. As are 3 other dogs, all of which I knew. There’s also a piglet, Betsy, buried in the garden (that’s another story) and a hamster and I think some gold fish. How do you let go of that?
My mam is from a certain generation. She likes to speak her mind. She’s also very loud (probably because she’s as deaf as a post) It can be embarrassing, especially when out. She’ll talk about people who are no more then a foot away, not polite comments either, and you just want a hole to swallow you up. It used to annoy me but now, even though I cringe inside, I just let her get on with it. Last time I spoke to her about it she stopped speaking to me for the rest of the day. She’s from that generation, isn’t she, not afraid to speak their mind. She’s stubborn too. Even though I’m quite happy to help around the house so often refuses to let me do anything for her. I get away with the gardening mind. That she struggles with. Its the getting up and down you see, not good for old bones. Sometimes I tell her I’m off to the toilet and then I sneak off to do the washing up, or the hoovering, or dusting. I get caught out of course because she wonders why I’m taking so long and she comes to find me. Can never get away with anything me.