A heap of grey ashes, dead and cold, smothering the last embers of a smouldering cinder may yet suddenly be lit up in a flash of flame if someone pokes it, letting in oxygen. So it is with memories. An article on an alumni association website suddenly beamed me back forty years, and people I had long forgotten were resurrected in all their glory in my mind. Events and conversations from decades ago were as clear as yesterday (which nowadays isn’t always as clear as it should be) – literally flashbacks, flashing and flaming images of the past.
I e-mailed a former colleague, who responded instantly, and oh my goodness! How bright and clear were the 1970’s and 80’s to us both! “Do you remember …” “Did you know …” “Who was the person who …” “When did X do that …” “Who said …”
I sat down and wrote a 5,000-word memoir, which I sent to her asking for feedback. It came, yet more oxygen to feed the flame, and my memoir is now over 6,000 words. I could easily have made it 7,000 if I’d added more personally revelatory details but I went through it carefully, removing some of my more caustic comments about former colleagues and references to indiscretions: of course, those were some of the most diverting parts, but I see no point in re-opening old wounds and offending respectable elderly people I have had no contact with for forty years if they should happen to read it. Would they be likely to read it? Many of them, sadly, are dead and gone, but their children are still around. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.
Who would be interested in this, anyway? Well, maybe the alumni of the International School of Geneva who subscribe to the website that triggered my reminiscences, and maybe the International Baccalaureate Organisation we worked for, which is vastly different nowadays to what it was then. Perhaps they would be surprised to know from what a tiny sapling that mighty tree has grown.