Tag Archives: memories

How does memory work? (Another excerpt from my 1st draft)

This is a bit of a strange one but I thought I’d share it anyway. To (very) briefly explain –  at the heart of my story are questions about memory, and how our memories of life experiences affect who we are and how we behave. With that in mind…

 

It’s believed that our long-term memory comes in three flavours:
Episodic, Procedural and Semantic.

Your first kiss,
The best meal you’ve ever eaten,
Attending your daughter’s graduation,
Episodic memory covers the massive accumulation,
Of life experiences that are unique to you,
Things that have happened at a specific time,
At a specific venue.

Procedural memory comprises those skills,
That have been learnt,
But that we perform so effortlessly that it appears we weren’t,
Conscious of learning them in the first place,
Like riding a bike or tying a shoe lace.

And semantic memory is all about remembering factual information,
Such as capital cities or multiplication,
Often the sort of stuff you learn at school,
Right down to the most basic cognition:
That a cat is an animal and a hammer is a tool.

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Morning after/Night before (another excerpt from my first draft)

Cold, dry air,
On hot, damp skin,
Mingled smells,
Of cigarettes and gin,
Clothes fighting,
Against being removed,
Two bodies,
Writhing and pressed,
And drunk and unrepressed,
Eros unmoved.
The morning after,
No romance,
Stilted conversation,
Awkward glance,
Hurried dressing,
Dried sweat smell,
Sheepish goodbyes,
Just as well.

About temptation… (another excerpt from my 1st draft)

The apple on the tree,
The serpent from the sea,
The beautiful Eve,
And me.

Listening to the hissing,
Kissing,
Tempted to cheat,
Consumed in a mouthful,
An obsession needing to be fed.

But the fruit’s bittersweet,
Not good to eat,
Our slippery friend,
One step ahead.

To have avoided this fate,
Though now it’s too late,
What we should have done,
Was kill the fucking snake.

Stuff that inspires me: #2 Murmur by R.E.M.

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Everything is open to interpretation. That’s the beauty of things. There’s no right way or wrong way; we take what we can from what we experience. This series of posts is about the stuff that inspires me. I’m not trying to convince you – I’m just brain-dumping some fanboy love on to the page. Not everyone will agree. That’s ok.

This is one from back in the day – but it’s the ones that stick with you that can have the biggest impact. First off, try to put aside any preconceptions (misconceptions) you may have about R.E.M. This was their debut album back in 1983 and a record I first heard many years ago but after the band had reached global mammoth-ness with Losing My Religion.

The reason it’s so important to me isn’t just that I love the music and that it hit me at an important time of life – I also love what it represents. This is a true indie album. Produced by I.R.S. Records in Atlanta, Georgia, I think it stands up against any of the great indie debuts and, as the music scene has evolved in the last 30 years, I actually think it may have gained even greater recognition if it was released today instead of back in the 80s.

That’s not say that it was ignored at the time – released in the same year as Thriller and U2’s ‘War’, Rolling Stone Magazine still nominated it as their record of the year, which was pretty unusual for such a ‘small time’ release.

The band members were all around 20 years old. They lived, worked and studied in Athens and, like a lot of kids, all wanted to be in a rock band. But great musicians? Not really. Lead guitarist, Peter Buck, was such a novice that on many of the tracks Mike Mills actually plays ‘lead bass’ to make up for it. Buck learnt to play once he was in the band, not the other way round.

And Michael Stipes’ distinctive vocals that are intelligible, save for the odd recognisable phrase… was he intentionally distorting his voice? It seems as if he’s too shy to let his words ring clear and true: at this stage he’s the opposite of a confident, brash frontman. In the words of Mitch Easter, the producer:

“We put him in in front of a microphone and that was the sound he made.”

However, what they were saying was less important than how they said it. They had a raw urgency and edge that I don’t think they ever reproduced and I think few bands have achieved, while turning out such great songs too. Just like looking at a painting that you don’t entirely understand but that speaks deeply to you nonetheless, Murmur gets you on a subconscious level and doesn’t let go. Even 30 years later.

The merest hint of snow (another excerpt from my 1st draft)

Overnight,
The temperature dropped,
Wafting the merest hint of snow,
Through the air,
Like dandelion seeds,
Gently blown,
Then blown away,
To make you wonder if they were ever there.

Dancing on sand / Living for the now (another excerpt from my 1st draft)

The coach headlights are thrown on full beam,
Illuminating a sandy stage,
As the dancing pairs,
Defy their age.

And though the evening is warm enough,
That coats aren’t required,
You still couldn’t have guessed at the inspired,
Choice of attire on display.
Sequins, sequins everywhere,
Heavy make-up,
Cumulus hair,
No colour to garish,
No trouser too tight,
An army against blandness,
Dressed for the fight.

Here, there’s no disgrace,
In a belly that struggles to remain penned,
By the buttons on a shirt,
Or a jowl that wobbles more,
Than a few years before.
It’s not about being airbrushed and pert,
Because the reality,
Is that this happiness comes more,
From enjoying the commonalities,
We find with other people;
More from appreciating what you’ve got,
Than what you had;
Not from being grateful,
Just from being glad.

Hillsborough: anniversary of a tragedy and the power of words

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Unimportant though it may seem on the anniversary of a tragedy of this scale, I want to pay homage to the power of words.

For those who don’t know, 24 years ago today, on 15th April, 1989, a football match was taking place between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Soon after the game began, a surge of fans at one end of the stadium caused a massive crush in which 96 people lost their lives. 79 of them were 30 years old or under. Originally, the Liverpool fans’ behaviour was deemed the reason for the disaster. However, following a 23 year campaign for justice by relatives of the victims, an independent investigation concluded that no fans were responsible for the deaths and that the authorities had in fact attempted to conceal the truth about the negligent behaviour of the police, other emergency services and local politicians.

Peter Jones, a BBC sports radio broadcaster, came to work that day to commentate on a game of football. Five hours later, looking out over the desolate aftermath of the tragedy, he signed-off with the words that still make me shiver and my eyes fill, no matter how many times I read or hear them:

“The biggest irony is that the sun is shining now, and Hillsborough’s quiet, and over there to the left are the green Yorkshire hills, and who would’ve known that people would die here in the stadium this afternoon. I don’t necessarily want to reflect on Heysel – but I was there that night, broadcasting with Emlyn Hughes – and he was sitting behind me this afternoon, and after half an hour of watching stretchers going out and oxygen cylinders being brought in and ambulance  sirens screaming, he touched me on the shoulder and said ‘I can’t take anymore’, and Emlyn Hughes left.

The gymnasium here, at Hillsborough, is being used as a mortuary for the dead – and at this moment, stewards have got little paper bags, and they’re gathering up the personal belongings of the spectators. And there are red and white scarves of Liverpool, and red and white bobble hats of Liverpool, and red and white rosettes of Liverpool, and nothing else. And the sun shines now.”

You can listen to it here.

(For reference, ‘Heysel’ is the name of a Belgian stadium where 39 fans had died, also during a match involving Liverpool, four years earlier).

Photo compilation from BBC.