This blog is mainly listed in the running section of peoples’ blog-rolls but it never quite sits well there. A bit out of place.
It’s the bloging equivalent of playing the bag-pipes because you liked dressing up like a woman.
A bit of a beard.
No, this blog is about memory. The nature of it and how it affects us (me in particular) and shapes our view of, and reaction to, the world around us.
I’ve known this since the start. The blog title itself is an evocation of a memory. As my main distraction (or hobby) is running it allows me to think a lot about stuff. Stuff is both the deep thoughts like what is it all about and the less deep thoughts like where is the best place for a piss in the next mile of running. These stuff-thoughts allows me to crystallise my experiences into some of the basic memories we all share and this is what makes reading about a middle aged man running his tits off somewhat bearable.
Let me explain:
If I ran an ultra-marathon and described the miles and leg soreness and queasy stomach that comes with it you’d be bored to death reading it unless you had the same low horizon of interests – even then you’d have to be committed to read to the end.
But, if, trying to describe a perfect bit of running 35 miles into an ultra marathon I instead asked you to remember the experience from childhood where you were playing with your Dinkys and you were so engaged it playing you almost felt like you were the truck. You didn’t know what time of day it was or how long you’d been playing, whether you were hungry or cold, it didn’t matter. Now you’d understand the experience of running an ultra marathon. Cindy dolls work for this example as well but more so for the ladies (i.e. ultra running is not like being a trans-gender child).
The shoulder of Djouce in Wicklow, Mile 4 in the Ballyhoura Mountain Marathon, the miles beyond Inversnaid, long miles by the river Ayr. The roller coaster miles of tonka truck drivers.
These memories are universal and if you can recall them you can enrich your experiences as an adult. Knowing that the nerves before your wedding are the same as your first day at school and this time around you should get more than a gold star for being a good boy.
What prompts this ramble on memory is the death of the poet Seamus Heaney last week. I’m not much into poetry and he wasn’t on the syllabus when I was in school so my knowledge of his work is largely culled from the popular stuff (digging, mid-term break). On a long drive home from Dublin last Friday evening I was listening on the radio to the great and the good talk about his legacy. And while none of them said it, it was the evocation of memory that made me realise why he wrote his poems.
My father was never a farmer but this extract from a poem called Follower explains it better than I can:
I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.