Monday, 2 January 2012

The Family Album

This is my god-daughter's baptism. She's the little baby. I'm the young fresh-faced young man just standing beside her mother (in the red hat). Her father Terry Hampton, the Vicar in the picture was a great friend, and I remember happy times visiting the family, as well as some very quirky memories - Terry's beloved Cello (in its case, thank goodness) slipping from his grasp and bouncing down the cobbles of St Aubin's High Street. A dolmen tour with him and his son Mark. A gunfighter shoot-out at a themed Cowboy evening at the Parish Hall, where the photo of Lord Coutanche sported a very fetching sheriff's badge and moustache, and where Terry and the Methodist Minister Gerry Stoddern had a shoot out. Terry clutched his shirt, which was red with blood - actually a specially prepared sachet of Congo Red from my chemistry set!

I was watching a TV documentary on John Thaw, and it had reminiscences from his work colleagues, but also, and unusual in these kind of documentary, a lot of interviews with his family, his wife Sheila Hancock, and his three daughters, and quite a substantial amount of home movie footage as well. That allowed the viewer to get behind the TV face, and see - at least partially - the man himself as he was at home, and hear about his home life. There were even the odd clips of him with a young baby daughter on the set of the Sweeney. He seems, in many ways, to have been as pleasant at home as he was when he appeared in public - not perhaps as Jack Regan in the Sweeney, but in his personal favourite, Goodnight Mr Tom.

The God Janus, after whom January is named, was one of the few Roman deities without an analogue in the Greek pantheon of Gods; he had two faces, one looking backward, one looking forward. And the start of January is a month when we look back at the end of the old year, and the past stretching out behind us, and forward to the future.

Both in looking back and looking forward, memory is important. We have a sense of time that other animals do not have. We can project backwards and forwards on a cosmic scale, but also on a personal scale, because we are not machines, we are human beings, with all the emotional complexity that entails, and that means relationships - friends and family.

The past slips away, seemingly into oblivion, but when we look back at photos, or home movies, or just the pictures that we have in our minds of the past, we can bring back those memories to the present.

And it is that which gives us strength to build on for the future, which is a difficult task for those who have been scarred or damaged in some way in their past. John Thaw's mother walked out on his family when he was quite young, and Sheila Hancock could see that this effected often how he reacted to pressures. He had impressed on him that if he and his siblings misbehaved, they would be taken away from his father, and into care, and if they encountered trouble, someone trying to pick a fight, to avoid it at all costs, to walk away. As she noted, this meant that negatively, he would avoid talking about personal difficulties, because he shut that off, he walked away from anything confrontational. On the other hand, when he decided to walk away from an addiction to drink, he did so with that same resolve to leave trouble behind, and never went back to his alcoholism.

My partner Annie Parmeter used to tell me - as part of the counselling that she did - that this kind of behaviour was not uncommon. It is getting stuck in a repeating pattern of behaviour, learned often unconsciously, from childhood, which determines how we react, because we have never looked critically at our own behaviour. Memory should be examined, to paraphrase Socrates.

And memories also carry regrets of people who are no longer there, who we can no longer talk too. That is also part of looking back. But if those people changed us, their memories live on. Annie, who loved Star Trek, would have been pleased that my sons are also fervent fans, and we are currently watching The Next Generation. It brings back happy memories to me, of watching the entire series with her.

More than the original series, there is some very thoughtful philosophy along with the science fiction, and the episode we watched tonight, Skin of Evil, has one of the Enterprise Crew, Tasha Yar, killed, apparently just out of malice. At the end of the episode, there is a short sequence in which a holographic image of her speaks to her friends, about family. Like Tasha, Annie, who was an only child, always considered her friends to be her family.

Lt. Tasha Yar: What I want you to know is how much I loved my life, and those of you who shared it with me. You are my family. You all know where I came from, and what my life was like before. But Starfleet took that frightened, angry young girl and tempered her. I have been blessed with your friendship and your love.

My friend Data. You see things with the wonder of a child. And that makes you more human than any of us.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I wish I could say you've been like a father to me. But I've never had one, so I don't know what it feels like. But if there was someone in this universe I could choose to be like, someone who I would want to make proud of me - it's you. You who have the heart of an explorer and the soul of a poet.

And it returns to memory once more. We carry forward into the New Year happy memories of the past; they make us what we are, and they keep alive our friends and family who are now dead.

Lt. Tasha Yar: [her final words] Death is that state in which one exists only in the memory of others. Which is why it is not an end. No goodbyes. Just good memories. Hailing frequencies closed, sir.
Capt. Picard: Au revoir, Natasha.


Alane Wallace said...


Anonymous said...

Happy new year Mr Tony, forever interesting and always a pleasure to pop by and read. X

Ian Evans said...

"And it returns to memory once more. We carry forward into the New Year happy memories of the past; they make us what we are, and they keep alive our friends and family who are now dead."

"If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present. But if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past."

Fabulous piece Tony :)