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There are certain moments studded throughout our lives where events embed memories that last the distance. Not just the obvious, like births, deaths and marriages, but also the smaller, less overtly impactful ones, which glue our past to our present to our future. The minutiae that solidify us. It may be as inconsequential as a conversation, a meal, or the sun-speckled image of a six-year old running ahead, blonde hair becoming iridescent as it whips across her shoulders. Jogging behind is her mother, pushing the stroller with a baby who is laughing with that uninhibited glee peculiar to the very young (or the very odd). For me, the latter is a mental snapshot that has persevered despite having no particular significance, or repercussions. There was no skidding, screeching accident requiring CPR from a stranger who turned out to be a long-lost brother, or future husband, or psychopathic killer. No unexpected thunderstorm with a drenching that left pneumonia in its wake, or sudden phone-call with dreadful news, or fantastic news, or even a hint of more to follow. Just us running down a hill into the sunshine, laughing.
A few years later and another memory has me sitting at the computer when an email arrives from my editor Cate, with the proposed cover for my first book. There is a picture and a title and a name – my name, in huge-ass red font. I am staring at the full-screen image, fizzy with pride and pleasure, when in rushes my youngest, the one from the stroller, and the following conversation ensues:
Her: “Mummy! I need something for show ’n tell and it hastabe good! Coz Zoe did a really great one yesterday and I hafta be better! I hafta!”
Me (glancing from the monitor to her and back): “Well, have I got something special for you. Look what just arrived! No other child will have something like this. You can tell them all how your mother is a writer. And that she’s written a book. Hang on, wait there, I’ll print it off for you.” The printer whirs into action and spits out a wonderful cover reproduction. I hand it over reverently.
Her (after examining it expressionlessly for a few moments, first this way and then the other): “Nah, maybe I’ll just tell ’em how we went to KFC that time.”
I am left to stare at my cover, rejected before it has even reached the shops. But a little while later she’s back with a piece of paper of her own, which she holds out as an offering. Jerky red words litter the top half of the sheet with endearing uncertainty, first her name in letters just as large as mine and then what is clearly to be the beginnings of a story: Ones a poner time. I slide my grin into a smile as I meet her expectant gaze. Writers, both of us.
Fast-forward again, to me putting the finishing touches to this collection of stories and searching for a title. Something reflective of what they are: an eclectic melange of musings and memories amassed across a lifespan. Born of a childhood that began in the sixties, when crystal ashtrays sat on doilies and a hard drive was a difficult journey, and meandered through the seventies to finally splutter into adulthood during the eighties, that hedonistic decade when taste was an optional extra. From the barely-recalled frustrations of 'How to grow a penis' to the fresh apprehension of 'Terror on the steps' or the sheer mortification of 'The Headache', they form an organic photo album, if you will, of images; slices of time. Just things that happened… ones a poner time.