Mental photos

I’ve always been absent-minded and  forgetful – my mind wanders away to the stories I’m involved with, or something else I’m observing and the matter in hand fades into the shadows. Throughout my life I may very well have been forgetful about homework which needed doing, or tasks I should be finishing, or what’s actually on the shopping list, or where in fact I should be going, but at the same time I have a weirdly vivid memory for things of no importance or significance, going right back to my childhood. For example, I remember being on a bus with mum, aged about seven, and going past my junior school, and the bus overtook a man on a bike. I guess he was my parents’ age, but he was just a man on a bike with a grey raincoat, very black slicked-back hair and an unsmiling face. Now why should I remember him so clearly? We passed him in a flash, he was of no significance, why is his face etched in my memory?

I also remember people I was a school with, going right back to my infants’ school. I had a friend called Oliver who was half-Chinese, and I remember going to his house to play with him and even whereabouts he lived. He must have left the school when he was about seven because I can only remember him when we were in the infants’ class and I have no clue what his other name was. There was a smaller boy who used to play with us, a little blond child who wore lederhosen – I didn’t know what they were then, but later realised his little leather britches were called that. Living in Cambridge we had people from all over the world who sent their children to school, so maybe Toby’s parents were from Germany or Switzerland. I don’t remember either Oliver or Toby’s last names, but I realised then that their names were quite unusual in those days, even though they are popular now. Another two children who were only at school for a short while in my early school life, Barto Wiley and Angela Dreyfus. Barto had glasses and I seem to remember he had curly hair, and Angela was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Angela had a heart-shaped face and very black hair – instead of numbers on our coat-pegs and blankets we had a picture. I was so envious of Angela who had a strawberry – I had a camel which wasn’t half as lovely as a strawberry.

I know nothing else about these children from long ago, it’s as if I have mental photos of them in my mental scrapbook. I wonder what they did with their lives, I hope they have been happy and interesting, and I’m almost positive that they will have no memory of me!

I don’t have any pictures of me at infants’ school – but here I am in the juniors, and many of not most of the other children went through the school with me.

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