Sunday, 23 November 2014

Es war im Sommer '69

It was the Summer of '69. I got my first real six-string, bought it at the five-and-dime.... no, no, NO! Begone with you, Bryan Adams, aarghh!

Where were we... ? The Summer of '69 and in my case, for three weeks anyway, in Germany. I've written a little here before, about travelling around in the back of a racing green Jaguar MkII and having a wobbly tooth in a thunderstorm. Today I stumbled across an old photo, the only one I have from that trip, of Micha and me reunited for a day. Micha and her family had been next door neighbours for a couple of years before they moved back to Germany. I loved Micha - she was my first, proper, best friend. When she left, she gave me her gold-painted bike 'Dobbin' and a little elasticated bracelet with pictures of alpine flowers on each of the white plastic links.

The lovely Micha on the left

It's funny what you remember, isn't it? For instance I don't remember a thing about the food on that trip, or much about the weather. My recollections are like sparse cuttings from a magazine, as if someone has gone through pages and pages full of detail and imagery but has only snipped round a few sentences and a handful of pictures, then stuck them in a scrapbook and thrown the rest away. Every time I flick through this mental album I see those same snippets, I see them clearly, but I can't fill in the blank spaces between them.

So I remembered about the wobbly tooth and the thunderstorm. I also remember staying in a house which had wooden shutters on the windows and I became briefly obsessed with them, “Mummy, can we put shutters on the windows at home? Can we? Please?” (Of course we never did...) I also loved the fairytale theme park in Ludwigsburg where they had a Rapunzel Tower. Rapunzel was my favourite story of all time, albeit that was only a six year lifetime in my case; still, it was magical. My Ladybird edition certainly was well loved.


Just as the Prince did in the fairytale, we had to call up, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” (“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, lass deinen Zopf herunter!”) and as I waited so excitedly, holding my breath in anticipation, a big plait of flaxen rope hair came down slowly from the one high window. It didn't come down quite far enough for anyone to actually grab it and climb up it, which was a little disappointing, but not so much so that it tainted the experience. I just imagined she'd need to grow her locks a little longer and then maybe I could go back one day and actually touch it when she had.

I remember my big sister getting a mosquito bite that flared up really badly and had everyone worried for days, and I remember feeling worried myself when looking down from the top of the Television Tower in Stuttgart – I really didn't like it at all. “Look at the tiny cars down there!” my sister exclaimed as we peered nervously over the edge. I have a vague memory of a trip to a musty old castle with lots of steps, and another of driving along the Autobahn and my parents arguing because my dad had missed the turn-off and my mum was supposed to be navigating. In a shop where we went to buy some souvenirs there were some toys with the laughable name 'Jobbies' - you always remember that kind of stuff, don't you? I didn't come home with a Jobby; instead I had a little doll with red hair dressed in a dirndl. You also never forget the holiday romances and it's true, I had a brief flirtation in a restaurant with a young German boy who seemed to have the hots for me. Sadly the only thing I was able to say to him, over and over again as I remember, was “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” (carefully taught parrot-fashion by my mum – at least I think that's what she'd helped me to say to him) but I still recall how nice his cheeky smiles made me feel, even then.

There were people, lots of people – friends of my parents who let us stay in their houses, took us to places, gave us presents, like Heidi, and Gudrun & Franz, and Theo and Rudolf.  And Micha. Micha who posted that photo to me in England on our return, with a little note on the back.






12 comments:

  1. Proper writing that is C.

    Swiss Adam

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  2. Extremely evocative, C. The way memory behaves is quite astounding, isn't it? I suppose it's *all* there somewhere but our filing systems seem to be ineffective. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

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  3. It's so true about childhood memories but I also know that from time to time something completely forgotten will surface almost in technicolour, usually evoked by a whisp of a long-forgotten scent. Those memories are even more wonderful because they haven't become commonplace with repeating.

    Childhood friendships are the best too, so honest and unembarrassed.

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  4. Thanks all, funny how memories can be so select but so firmly lodged in our minds forever - and often so enjoyable just to write about too.

    Yve, I think I know what you mean, it doesn't happen to me very often though, and sometimes someone can prompt me with their much-remembered detail and yet still I draw a blank or, if I work really hard at it, I might get something but it stays vague and blurry!

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  5. As Singing Bear says, it's probably all in there somewhere, but it's strange how some bits of memory break through in glorious technicolour, while others are in broken up black and white segments, or are simply beyond reach altogether. I find that a certain piece of music can not only (sometimes unexpectedly) provoke a memory, but in the right circumstances, will almost physically transport me back to an otherwise forgotten place and time.
    A lovely piece of writing C.

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    1. Thank you! I think maybe all our memories are in there somewhere, at least while our recording mechanisms are in good working order, but then our playback mechanisms start to get a bit creaky... then as time goes on our recording mechanisms do too... It might explain why a lot of early memories stay vivid but you can't remember what you did on Thursday?!

      Yes music is very evocative for memories for me too - up there with smells!

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  6. I think of memory like a computer. Some of it, or all of it can be erased and it is gone for ever. Like these people who get a bang on the head and they loose their memory, But you are right it is strange what you remember. I can'not remember peoples names for the life of me. Music however brings back memories for almost every song.

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    1. Yes, I agree, a computer's a good way to describe it - see my reply to The Swede too - I see it as a sort of tape recorder.

      Music - absolutely.

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  7. I'm so glad you said that about smells, for me certain smells transport me to a time and place so perfectly I only have to close my eyes and I am transported back in time but also some memories can evoke smells too.
    Can you remember the smell of the leather upholstery in that Jag? Our car ( nowhere near as posh but older) had it too and I can still remember going to sleep curled up against that smell.

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    1. Yes I do remember the smell of that leather upholstery! And have similar memories of going to sleep in the back of the car with that smell, very evocative. I know what you mean about memories evoking smells too - I tried it just now and was surprised at how real a certain memory from my teen years just became!

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  8. I have a particular memory that plagues my mind. It is of a trip to a particular golf course with my Daddy. I remember being on a certain hole...looking down the fairway of the next and then nothing. I guess it's the regimented nature of the setting...why can I remember 1,2,3 and not 4,5,6, etc. Furthermore...the holes I remember being on are the same ones that could be seen from the street. Do I actually remember any of it or have I just placed a memory in the space that was readily available to me. Even worse...I've handled the memory so many times in my head it can't possibly be clean but, it seems crystal clear in my mind...unchanged, untouched.

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    1. Interesting, Erik... it sounds too as if it links in with your spacial synaesthesia that we've talked about before?
      I know what you mean about handling memories so much they can't be clean. Do we add and embellish, subtract and censor, without even realising it? Will we ever know? Maybe it doesn't matter too much even if we do... they are what they are: part of us.

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