Tuesday, 11 June 2019

An Unexpected Book of Stories: Misha Herwin




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My little red address book has finally fallen to pieces. I’ve carried in my bag for years and now the pages are coming loose, the letters down the side curling up at the corners so it is harder and harder to find what I am looking for.
Time for a new book and it will have to be a real one. I can’t trust so much information to a phone that might get lost, or stolen, or decide to give up the ghost. I don’t mind using my mobile as back up, but I’m not going to rely on it as my only source.
I already have a new book. Slim and brightly striped, it’s waiting in a drawer. But I am curiously reluctant to get rid of the old one.
To start with, it was a present from Karen. Seeing the state of my previous one, she gave it to me as a replacement, so there is a sentimental reason for not letting it go. There’s also the practical one of having to transfer all those names and addresses and this is where it becomes interesting, because this little book is a mine of stories.
Flicking through its pages I am reminded of people I no longer see. Colleagues I used to work with, contacts that proved not as useful as I might have hoped, schools where I did workshops or taught.
Much more poignant are the friends I’ve lost contact with. People like Barbara, who helped me through the worst time of my life and who then moved away. We sent cards, I emailed, rang, tried to set up a meeting, but her sons have immigrated to Thailand, she spent a lot of her time there and somehow there never was a right moment for meeting up.
Then there are family members and friends who have died. Their addresses are crossed through. Just reading through some of these brings back memories of a London flat, or bungalow beside the sea.
Not all changes of address are sad. Some chart the good times in life, like those of my son and my daughter, who have moved from rented flats to homes of their own. Children of friends have married, or set up home together. Friends have re-married and bought new houses with their new partner. Even a divorce has heralded a new and happier life.
Would all this history still be there on my phone? I doubt it. An old address would be deleted to make room for the new. So gradually, bit by bit, I’m copying the relevant information from the little red book to the sparkling new stripy one and allowing myself a wander back through my past as I do.  


2 comments:

Griselda Heppel said...

I so identify with this. Increasingly I'm putting people's addresses in my phone but it's not the same as having them written in a solid, reliable book that lives on the kitchen worktop and comes into its own at Christmas card time (another dying tradition I guess... sigh). I'm on my third address book but I have a sneaking suspicion I've still held on to the others somewhere, for the same reasons as you - even the change in my writing from student days to the present tells a story!

I gave all my children address books as they grew up and of course they are never used. Instead I've had to send them their grandparents' addresses by email at least a half a dozen times because obviously it's quicker to ask me again than to scroll through older emails (or to transfer info from the email into an address book grr). See, the old system of address books worked best.

Ann Turnbull said...

There is nothing so dead and inaccessible as out of date technology - as I've found to my cost. I do save things on the computer, but I also print everything (on the backs of old MSS) and save all old diaries, address books, cash books, etc. Our current household address book goes back more than 20 years and is full of marriages, death, birth, and the children's never-ending changes of address. We might (quite soon!) need to replace it, but I'll never throw it out.