In the face of the persistent despair of the world we are labouring with, it's no bad thing to find somewhere else to go; in a post called 'Bolt Holes', Robbie has done just that, and conjured up seven warm, bright, sharply observed and remembered scenes, like seven toning but unique beads on a string, well-lived moments, reasons to be cheerful, grateful, evidence of the dearness of people, books, music, loved long or briefly encountered, and the potential sweetness of life, and most of all, of a wonderful and well appreciated marriage. Treasurable stuff.
It seems to me this ought to be a meme, remember those? That it would be a helpful and heartening thing for others to pick up and think on, and share their own similar recollections.
Yet when I set myself to try to do it, it was difficult. Because, as I've noted before, I am not good at remembering the good. I don't know why this should be, I have, and indeed have had, so much so good in my life; I experience intense, blessed moments every day, even on bad days, which I am always aware of and glad of at the time, yet memories so often end up qualified, coloured, clouded by hindsight and doubt, to be set in a 'yes, but...' context, with an inner, destructive critical voice telling me they weren't really good times at all, I was kidding myself. Arguments about the evils or otherwise of nostalgia seem irrelevant or ironic, I often wish I could connect more positively and rosily with the past. When I want somewhere to bolt, it tends to be into the future, if anywhere, albeit in ways that are either trivial or fantasy, like thinking up knitting projects or dreaming of a small, bright, problem-free home by the river, or into fiction.
Or else the good memories are simply fugitive; I find it hard to connect, to recognise myself as the person years ago who had those experiences. And the continuing moments of joy, satisfaction and gratitude I know I have, which I often dearly wish I could retain in my mind, fly forgotten as a dream. Perhaps that's just the nature of those moments. It's one reason why blogging has been helpful, writing things down solidifies them, helps one remember, or if not, the written record is there for the reading.
All of which is a good reason, along with lighting a candle as darkness presses in from the wider world, to try to find and hold the good moments that have happened, to see them again and cherish them. Life is too precious, too uncertain to dismiss it so wantonly. Here goes:
~ I am sitting cross-legged in the sun on the dark brown, shiny parquet floor in of my glass-walled Hertfordshire Modern primary school, and it occurs to me with surprise and satisfaction, that I am me and everyone else is everyone else. I suppose I am about five.
~ We stop on the way back from Wales, I think, to climb the Malvern hills; I have never known such a thing as the view from their slopes. Perhaps ten years later, when I am nineteen, I climb them regularly, and with surprising ease, on a heavy bike without gears, and the view still thrills me. It doubtless still would now.
~ I have arrived in Paris by coach in the very early morning, late spring, to catch a train to visit my old friend who is doing her student year abroad in Blois. I hitch up with an awkward and shy, plump and bespectacled boy of my own age, who has come on his own for a weekend in Paris. His lodgings aren't open yet, and my train leaves from the other side of town much later, and we walk the breadth of Paris, over Montmartre and across the river, take coffee in a café as the city is coming to life, then go our ways. I know little about the city, have no preconceptions, there is no romance or even potential friendship between the boy and me, just passing companionship, and young legs.
~ I am lying on the warm hearthrug in a bed and breakfast on the island of Iona, dozing after an overnight journey by bus and boat, with eider ducks bobbing on the sea outside the windows. Later I sit for hours in the evening on a low seat in a side chapel of the Abbey, a space bright and warm with textiles and candles, engaged in something - meditation, prayer, talking to my (higher?) self - which is profoundly calm, effortless and real to me. It is a purposely solitary trip I have made here, but love is waiting behind.
~ We, Tom and I, are driving through the Loire Valley to the Perigord, we are just married. We stop in Montreuil-Bellay. The shower in the hotel (not a very friendly place) is a blue plastic tube, but very pleasant, and later we walk down to the river, where I eat a salad of duck gizzards and we drink Loire rosé for the first time. 'Strawberries!' I exclaim at the first mouthful with unsophisticated delight.
~ Molly, six weeks old, comes wriggling towards us across the tiled floor, piddling as she goes. 'She's heavenly,' says Tom, with certainty.
~ Emily, his granddaughter, at a pretty fourteen, has an oyster from Tom's plate. 'Keep going' he tells her as she hesitates. She swallows it and grins. 'I like them!' A smart middle-aged French couple at the next table beam at her approvingly. 'Her first?' they ask.
~ The Rijksmuseum tires us rather easily, but at Jessie's and Jantien's flat a couple of blocks away, there is wine and lentil curry and eager conversation, and they walk us back across to the Concertgebouw, where the massed double basses promise, and deliver, a riproaring Schostakovitch symphony.
So, it wasn't so hard at all, and there's even one more for good measure. When it came to it, I could think of many more, from many phases of my life, but these are the ones I chose. Try it yourselves.