As I was pushing six 20 pence pieces into the pay and display machine whilst I stopped for a ‘quick’ coffee I was surprised by a memory. My Grandpa, who died over ten years ago, used to collect all his 20p’s for us when we were children. He’d collect them up in between our visits; we lived a couple of hours away so didn’t see him very often. When we arrived at his house, or him at ours, my brother Alex would pile the coins up in piles of five and eagerly work out how much we each had. I always spent mine on sweets, ice creams and weird beach paraphernalia (a snorkel, to see summarily nothing in the English Channel; a kite that took 30 minutes to untangle after 3 seconds of flight) whereas I expect Alex saved his for nobler pursuits like football stickers and mars bars.
I realised when thinking about the humble 20p that there are things that take me straight back to my Grandpa’s house – cans of lilt and sprite and 7up, kitkats straight out of the fridge and the feel of brown felt kitchen carpet under my feet. A man who always wore a shirt and tie, was generous and kind and humble. The vaguest of memories of my Nana. The model of his aeroplane from WWII which hung modestly in the utility room. Wedgwood blue carpets and walls covered in embroidery pictures made by Nana. Family photos – so proud of my Dad and Auntie. The summerhouse with walls plastered in faded to blue greetings cards. All gone now. All memories. Artefacts scattered in houses of family members. Log books, prisoner of war camp diaries and flying boots stowed carefully away for future generations to try to understand their family history.
Recording the present has become so important to me – I take mountains of photos and videos (although only on my phone) and Chris keeps a diary about the children of what they’ve been doing and saying. Why the desire to record everything? I think as they grow I want my children to know more and more about our family history, what they were like as children and how it all pieces together to make them who they are. After all: understanding breeds understanding, doesn’t it?