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Bathing in the warm glow of memories, thanks to dad's projector

PUBLISHED: 17:59 05 February 2019

James enjoyed some quality family time looking back at old family memories

James enjoyed some quality family time looking back at old family memories

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James has been looking through rose-tinted glasses at his past when the fun recorded on film filtered out tougher times

Last weekend my parents’ kitchen rang out to the shouts of “turn off the lights”, “focus!” “What on earth was her name?” and “What on earth have I got on?”

All this shouting took place during the course of an evening looking at old family cine films, shot from the early 1970s until, I think, the early 1980s.

The collection of films – real films which require an ancient projector that only father knows how to work and an ageing screen which my sister takes charge of – included all sorts of gems.

My christening, my sister’s sixth birthday, my parents’ wedding (the showing of which prompted my mother announced she’s “in for the long haul now and hasn’t got the energy to train another one”), and various other family events.

A yellow envelope gave us a clue to the contents of the film within: “A girl whose wedding we went to but I forgot her name” “July 1982”, “Paris 1988”, “Cattle”, “James on a bike”, “Shooting Boxing Day”.

Once the projector, itself an antique, was teased back into life – “How did this dammed thing work? Can anyone remember?” – a long lost world flickered into life on the screen.

Plenty of relative - some sadly (and others not so sadly) long since dead, the clothes we wore “I remember that dress.. in fact I’ve still got it somewhere.”, the cars we drove “It was an automatic” “No it wasn’t”, the people we knew “She had that skirt for years”, the food we ate “I made that! You couldn’t buy novelty cakes in the supermarket in those days.”, and the way we were “Christ I look young” all made an appearance.

It was, a jolly evening although the turning on and off of the lights was incessant and the decision, insisted upon by my sister, to watch a rerun of the one and only time I indulged in country dancing was slightly irksome.

Thankfully the projector got too hot for the showing of the potentially embarrassing “James in paddling pool” and we called it a night.

Nonetheless the experience – something we do roughly once a decade – reminded me of the importance of memory and the preservation thereof. I don’t know if your family has these type of films, but they are a reminder of not only the passage of time but also of who we are.

Memory, happy, sad or whatever, are what defines us and, in many ways, define who we are and what we become. It is an amazing gift that enables us to learn from our mistakes, and gives us wisdom – if we let it.

But I don’t about you but I don’t think memory – the recollection of the past – should rule us totally. It is not a good idea to look back too often, as to do so risks thwarting the future – as Winston Churchill once said “If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”

This week, if you dare read the news, there is much to be depressed about – economic concerns, the unending backstop drama, Russia, council tax rises, NHS under stress, the family of that poor lad who died in the plane crash, drug taking among students, high street worries…..

What we don’t hear about often, and this isn’t the fault of the oft-blamed media more just the human condition, is the good news, the good memories that are being created, the in-the-paddling-pool moments, the way life changes, and it does, for the better.

It is the positive that I think we should search for, and be grateful for,a little more often; the kindness of strangers, the generosity of spirit we often experience, the fun times that filter out the rest.

This, of course, is the other great gift of memory – the trickier parts of life are usually soon forgotten.

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