The Process of Remembering a place
Write something (it doesn't need to be a completed story or chapter or poem). Just concentrating on the process of remembering in which you mental walk through the rooms of a house once known, or a wood, or a park, or you could do someone's body as your hands move over it. You're trying in all these to get at the way it looked, felt, smelt, and following some kind of order, going through, along, the place.
I began to think through this, and I found as I began to write the act of writing made my imagination/ memory much more precise than if I just allowed my thoughts to drift over it. This is a first draft of a memory of my early childhood home, near Wolverhampton.
69, St Cuthbert’s Crescent, Albrighton
A walk along thepath and through the house and rooms of a place
I’m at the corner. There’s the house. The sitting room window’s open
and my father’s piano playing comes out. He’s playing a version of The Warsaw Concerto. When I was very small he’d start to play and it and say,
“Come on John, what’s this piece?”
And I’d say
Because it always was when he asked me.
Here’s the criss-cross wire of the front garden fence, and behind it Dad’s attempts at growing vegetables. Lots of brussels sprouts and a patch of lettuce. But plenty of weeds in between, weeds with beautiful small yellow flowers on their little branches. Weeds.
The gate latch, and immediately the smell of the air raid shelter. Not a bad smell, a bricky cementy sort of smell. We never used it. But there it was. Mum said certain boys went in there and did wee-wees. A little way up the front path is the old bush of nettles. I liked those. Thick and strong and deep dark green with those fair faint hairy bits. Then a brief glance of the garden which is all tufts and ‘trenches’ dug by us boys, one of which we smoothed out and made into the airfield, our special secret base unknown to either Germans or English or Russian or American, a special airforce of itself with a mixture and British and German and American planes. I don’t think we aimed to save the world, but it was a mild almost escapist form of that. It was really fascination with the sheer form and flight of planes, and with carving and painting them and then taking them on imaginary flights to explore, or bomb, or whatever.
I have to stop these thoughts as I’ve got to the front door. No, I’ll go round to the kitchen door as I always did, a branch of the path alongside the house till you get to the little stack of concrete steps - with George the dog barking in the kitchen already - and up, and stand with the coal bunker on your right and as turn the knob, and the barks turn to little yelps and jumpings up and licks. The kitchen is as always dim, the dark floorboards, the table by the far wall with the water radiator just showing, and an square arch going into the cooking area.
The Warsaw Concerto has changed into something else, Chopin, through the wall. There's George's lead on the peg behind the door leading into the hall.