I’ve been dipping in and out of Down Memory Lane: A Collection of Memoirs, this week. These writings from the heart of Ireland reveal the power of writing about the self. In the process of entertaining us, sometimes they trigger a comparison to, a taste, a smell, an activity and I’m reminded how much has changed in the course of my life.
Or they record something fascinatingly specific about an experience. ‘I was born in Adutiskis, on the border with Belarus, where my grandparents lived,’ begins Dalia Smelstoriute, in a piece that draws together a description of an All Souls Day commemoration, a tantalisingly brief account of her grandmother’s life, and a summary of thoughts about the importance of traditions.
Other people’s families, other lives, these are often what we look for in our reading. A.L Hayes writes: ‘My Dad was a great man for mixing up left over paints to create wieird and wonderful colours. At one stage our hall door was a strange mixture of pale pink and scuttery green.’
Here are character portraits embedded in experiences. An incident in the playground; buying a first record; a first car; taking a holiday abroad; a journey…describing a first love. They’re fragments from a life, and yet they’re rounded moments that sit beautifully on the page.
Memoirs, it seems to me, are important. They bring social history to life. ‘Woolworths was at one time the biggest shop in Mullingar’ writes Caroline Connolly. ‘It had black shiny pillars outside the front door and there were square pillars inside that had long mirrors on each side. As you passed, you could see yourself.’
This collection has come from a series of classes run in Ballinacree, Ireland, by Lynda Kirby It’s been funded by sponsors and all profits go to The Patient Comfort Fund of Oldcastle Alzheimer’s Group. Memoirs to fund memory loss, isn’t that a nice concept?
Well done, Lynda, and good luck with the next project.