Monday, July 18, 2022

my episodic memory









the loved one is reading through a stack of her diaries ... going back more than thirty years ... and we had a short conversation about memory in which i gave a frivolous explanation of why i don't keep a diary 

i said, somewhat self-importantly, that I felt no need to file my past in a strict order ... and i went on to suggest that anyway, everything that we can remember seems as if it happened yesterday

but in truth, i'd be ashamed to commit a lot of self-inflicted fiascos and disasters to a journal

later in the day there appeared a short video of a narrow street in a village in northern spain through which three shepherds and a couple of gentle old dogs were leading a large mixed herd of sheep and goats up towards the mountain pastures ... there was a wonderful cacaphony of ancient bells and occasional rasping country voices

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrZ8ORGBlco

and whilst i revelled in that sound, i remembered that i had journeyed not too far away from those shepherds many years since, back in 2001

and suddenly i needed to re-structure a memory

i set about searching the on-line maps to find a village i'd been stranded in when my van broke down ... the water pump had cracked and i had to wait there all day whilst another came fifty miles from the nearest big town, first on a service bus, and then on a school bus

it took a while to locate the village, Zarreu, because i had only remembered the name of the district, Cerredo ... different maps give the village one name or the other

on that morning, unable to converse with the mechanic, i had phoned a good spanish friend and asked him to translate as best he could

and then, all day, i had wandered the few streets of what turned out to be a coal-mining village

the language spoken in the village was an asturian dialect and i felt some connection with the place because my father was the son of a Welsh miner

so i had a vague recollection of the solidarity expressed by many Welsh people for the Asturian miners when they were oppressed, first by the mine owners, then by Franco

just a couple of weeks before this, the twin towers in New York had been destroyed

in the window of the village's tiny "casa cultura", someone had thoughtfully placed a copy of a famous poem about New York by Lorca, the one about black doves

my sense of connection became deeper

the water pump arrived right at the end of the working day, a friday ... but the mechanic said he'd come in first thing next morning to fit it and so i slept in the van that night

he didn't show up

but his apprentice did

after a wait, he decided the boss was probably too drunk to work, and so he did the job himself

it took a couple of hours and whilst i watched, the phone rang in their tiny office

he answered it, expecting a conversation with his boss ... but then he handed the phone to me

it was my friend linda, the english wife of the spaniard i had called for help the previous day

she said i have bad news ... your sister is wanting to contact you because your father has just died

the shed where i heard that news is still there

green door, what's that secret you're keeping ?