Sunday, 6 May 2012

My 700th post - and a first!

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I can't quite believe it but this is my 700th post on the widow's world. It's been just under three years and, I'm pleased to say, I'm enjoying blogging more than ever! 

To celebrate this little milestone, I decided to write a piece of fiction. I also decided to discipline myself to compose a story in just 700 words. It is the first piece of fiction I've published here and I'm not sure whether to promise more or not. You may not even want more in any case! 

Anyway, enough rambling, here it is - my 700 word short story:


Boxes.

It's funny how much change I've seen in my lifetime.

Take telephones as an example. First there were landline phones (or just "phones" - how quaint!). Then, in the eighties, there were carphones - I vaguely remember friends of my folks having them, although they never really took off. Then mobiles; mobiles the size of bricks, granted, but mobile telephones none-the-less. Then cameraphones. Then smartphones with internet access and integrated social media.

So much of change in such a short time. It has been, of course, mostly progress - there are advantages to be constantly contactable or to being able to contact someone else without having to find a phonebox. But, well, don't you sometimes just wish you had some time and space to yourself? I know I do...

And phones with cameras - are they really progress? When I was a child, pictures were cherished; kept safe in albums and boxes in order to preserve our memories. There was something special about bringing them out to share with friends and family; the faces smiling back at you from another time and place. Holidays, weddings, day-trips. Sunny days, long-dead relatives, famous places. Say "cheese!", click.

There was something visceral about a physical photo. A deep sense that it had captured a moment in time; never to be regained. An awareness of the thought, time, energy and expense of taking the picture and developing it. A sense that it had been imbued with a greater worth through each stage of its life.

No more. Now, the image is taken, shared and forgotten in an instant. And, even when it is remembered, somehow logging into Facebook lacks the romance of flicking through an album.

I used to love getting out the shoebox in which the photo wallets were stored. Gingerly taking them out, careful not to get fingerprints on the prints. Looking at each picture in turn, evaluating it, reminiscing, moving on to the next one, sharing the good ones with those around. Fascinated by the way some of the pictures were distorted with over-exposure, double images or leaked light. Fascinated, now, that these were preserved for posterity along with the headless shots and those in which everyone suffered from red-eye.

I used to love holding the negatives up to the light, wondering at the process that could turn the murky brown film into brightly, accurately coloured prints. (I was going to say glossy prints, but ours were almost always Matt - developing photos was always a pricey business.)

I could spend hours with those photos but sooner or later they - and their memories - had to be put back in the box and returned to the cupboard.

They will be preserved though - their analogue memories will remain. The pictures of relatives long gone, who never knew what a digital camera was, they will live on in those Polaroids and 35mm prints.

My grandfather and his box of sweeties. My grandmother and her sewing box, knitting bag and tin of buttons. The hours I spent enjoying their company, staring into their coal fire, laughing at my grandad's jokes and being fed sandwiches and cake by gran. These are memories that - to me at least - an iPhone will never be capable of capturing. Memories that only a "real" photo will ever fully rekindle.

Just thinking of the time spent with them both reminds me that it didn't last. My grandmother died and things were never quite the same. My mum inherited her sewing, knitting and button boxes but their attraction was lost to me. My grandfather's tin of Pascall's Fruit Bonbons and Butterscotch just didn't taste as sweet.

A new, more sombre, box of memories took their place. The box of her ashes, pride of place on the mantlepiece, instead of the more-traditional carriage clock. An even more potent reminder of the passage of time.

So many boxes, so many memories.

And now here I am in my own box, a memory now for those standing round the grave above. How will the digital age preserve me for those present? Will they, in future years, lament the passing of SD Cards and Hard Drives and, with them, my memory?

5 comments:

Stephen Chapman said...

Hugs and kisses to celebrate this amazing event!

:-)

And 700 words eh?! Impressive

Andrew Brown said...

Why thank you, kind sir...

...and yes, exactly 700 words! :-p

Raybeard said...

Sincere congrats, Andrew. Looking forward to your blogs being a continued worthy feature of my future blog-life.

I've read your article twice (so far) - and, it's true. Not a single mention of "little boxes made of ticky-tacky"!

Anecdotes like this always read more immediate when they arise from real personal experience, and yours is no exception.
Those of my generation, as well as your own, will always associate the re-using of shoe-boxes as a convenient storage holder of photos, and you quite rightly make much of that.
Before getting to the end I had morbidly thought of boxes = coffins, but you did even better in mentioning boxes as a container of ashes.
You end on an appropriate moment of reflection, which rounds it off rather neatly.

Yes, do write some more please, even if it's just once in a while.

Andrew Brown said...

Thanks Ray...

It's not all from personal experience, although some of it was. There was never a box of ashes, for example, and I'm glad to report I'm not six feet under yet, either!

Andrew :-)

Raybeard said...

Andrew, more credit to you for making this reader think you were being 100% factual. I now see that you did, in fact, call it a short STORY. (Ker-chiiiiiing!)