Continuing my journey back to the images of childhood, before setting out for six months on the road at 62, I can’t resist posting a couple of evocative pictures from the very early years, at Duckshole Farm near Holt in North Norfolk – causing my brother Hugh early grief, but already displaying the instincts of the traveller.
Looking at these pictures for the very first time 60 years on does make me reflect on how memory is constructed.
The picture above might in fact illustrate what I’ve always thought of my first memory, setting off down the lane at Duckshole to the gate onto the road to Holt, wanting to follow my father into town. Clearly preparing to a grown-up and set off on my own…
But now that I’m seeing the images as others will have seen them at the time, how much of the story that I now reconstruct every time I recall those memories is my own authentic recollection, and how much rebuilt in retrospect?
As a psychotherapist, I now work all the time with memory, travelling with clients as they explore their own past and seeking to make sense of how they learned to be in the world – emotionally, physically, consciously and less so.
Sometimes, neither of us knows whether what is remembered in the session is actually what happened, or a reflection of how the brain tells the story back to itself all these years later.
The story is always entirely authentic from a subjective and emotional point of view, drawing deeply on the client’s truth. But in objective, external terms? Often. Sometimes. But always to be taken seriously and respected.
While I remember my own solo walk down the lane, I don’t of course remember the ancient shooting brake car in the background. Nor, interestingly, do I remember ever being held by my father. Clearly, as evidenced on the left, I was. At least once.
But what I do also remember is the continuing close bond with and affection towards my brother Hugh, 18 months younger than me and also now beyond 60 – a closeness that led him in due course to identify what he cheerfully termed my affliction with Big-Brotheritis.
Discovering this pair of pix from, I guess, summer 1952, I sense he may have a point. Although then, as now, we clearly quickly made up again.