Tag Archives: memory

Write your story down, NOW

Galloway Forest (7), Lowlands, Scotand.Phil: Yesterday I visited Candice for the first time since her daughter Erin was born. Mother and baby are doing well although I think the little one was unimpressed with my stripy shirt clashing with her own on-trend stripy onesie.

When you look at a newborn child you are seeing a blank page. Their story has only just begun. It could be filled with adventure, hopefully with love, perhaps with misfortune. Like opening a novel, you never really know what is going to happen.

In contrast, a friend of mine, John, died last week. He was well over 80 and his story had reached its final page.

Along the way there were many twists and turns. He used to recount some of these to groups of friends occasionally. Much of his life had been spent in agriculture and the story I remember most involved his time as an agricultural contractor.

In the run-up to Christmas, he and his colleagues had been ploughing in Scotland. On Christmas Eve the job was finished and they had to return home with their machinery. This involved a journey of 500 miles. On tractors. Not your modern tractors either, old ones that rumbled along with a top speed of around 20 mph. You can imagine how long it took.

In a hurry to get home, if you can call riding a tractor a hurry, they drove through the night arriving early on the festive morning. To make matters more entertaining, it was mid winter in an era when we had serious winters.

John’s description of being bundled up in all the clothes he could muster and riding an aged agricultural machine were both funny and awe-inspiring.

Sadly, all those stories have gone now. As far as I am aware, they only exist in the memories of those he told them too.

Candice was talking about the importance of trying to write down some of her recent experiences. While we won’t turn this into a baby blog, you can be sure that some of these will influence our future writing either in novels or short stories. Whatever, it’s great to get memories down in print. Perhaps we should all write out own autobiographies. Maybe they won’t be blockbuster sellers, but maybe one or two people will read and enjoy them.

At least the memories will live on.

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What was your first book ?

Phil reading the LadyBird Book of Commercial Vehciles. A first edition too !Phil: It’s World Book Day today. To quote the website, “a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading.”

This started me thinking, what was my first book ?

The first one I read, rather than had read to me. Initially my thoughts turned to Book 1 of the Rev Awdry’s Railway Series – the ones that are now better known as “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends”. Thomas didn’t turn up until book two in fact but presumably Britt Alcroft & Co. who made the TV series decided that a cheeky tank engine was better for the market than the real first engine to star in print was Edward. I always prefered Edward.

To be fair, Rev Awdry himself recognised that Thomas was the star, presumably because young Christopher, who the stories were originally written for, liked him so much. Having met Chris a few times, I can’t quite imagine this but then he was at least 40 years older by that point !

However, this was relatively late in my discovery of books being at around the age of 4. There was a book before this that was much more important apparently. The only problem is that as soon as I mention this, Candice will be moved to tears if she isn’t there already at my anorakiness.

The publication in question was The Ladybird Book of Commercial Vehicles.

For those who haven’t read it, LBBOCV was first published in 1964 and 52 pages long. Half of the pages contain a pair of paintings illustrating a couple of vehicles. The opposing page provides the information to match the pictures. We start with the Bedford 1 1/4-ton Spurling Van and discover that “The Bedford 1 1/4-ton chassic can be fitted with a variety of different bodies. The one shown opposite is the Spurling van which is used for general goods delivery. The sliding door at the side enables the driver to get in an out easily.”

Riveting stuff, but there is more. We get the specifications so the reader can know that both petrol and diesel engines are offered, the later of 3,285cc. capacity, developing 64 brake horse-power.

Can you imaging pitching this as a childs book today ? No, I can’t. Top Trumps maybe, but a book ?

Anyway, there are many other fascinating vehicles such as the Karrier 2 to 3-ton Low Loader, Dodge 7-ton tipper, Thorneycroft “nubian” Crash Tender and finishing up with the fantastic Scammell 6X6 “Super Constructor”. Each painting, by David Carey, is a masterpiece I would love to own as much as a Canaletto and the text is short but informative. If this wasn’t enough, there were different vehicles in later editions including one I liked because it seemed to be loaded with one enormous piece of my Mum’s shortbread.

Apparently I would spend hours sitting in my little chair as a small child, reading out loud from this book. You might think this is a bit odd.

What really is odd is that at this point I couldn’t read. I had memorised the whole book from countless bedtime readings by exceptionally patient parents. I knew every word, including the technical stuff. I even knew when to turn the pages and did so as I went through.

I still don’t really know why. I had lots of other Ladybird books. Why I should choose to memorise Commercial Vehicles is beyond me, but I did, so I suppose this was the first book that was really special to me.

What was yours ?

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