Friday, June 17, 2011

Photo Finish


Either you will 'get' this post, or you won't. I realise that in writing this I could well come across as entirely self-obsessed and self-pitying; or, even more so than usual.... I am writing it in a fairly miserable state of mind, so please excuse the self-indulgence (only three lines in and already far too much 'self'; but then, what else is a blog for?)

Today I lost a photograph; or rather, I realised that I had mislaid it, and probably in a place which ensured it went out with the rubbish last week. Of course, if that is not the case and it turns up, I will be delighted to share it with you. But as of this moment, it is lost forever. It was a daft photo of Richard and I, taken early in our marriage on Brighton pier, circa 1991; we have put our faces through the holes of one of those cut-outs much loved by the Victorians, a sort of 19th century photo-shop. I posed as Albert, standing with 'my' hand on Victoria (played by Richard)'s shoulder, who is seated. Of course, neither of us could see the other's face, to know how 'in character' we were. So the photo showed a po-faced Albert, nose in the air with the nasty smell of commoners up his (my) nostrils; whilst Richard provides Victoria with a crazed grinning mad-eyed expression. The combination was hilarious, though of course you will have to trust me on that one. For several years I have had it blu-tacked to the wall in my office, where it has amused many a passer-by and kept me going through dull audits and tedious spreadsheet updates.

Last Saturday I moved offices, and took the photo down. Rather than transfer it to another wall I took it home, together with other stuff in a carrier bag, with the intention of scanning it to share the full joy with fellow bloggers and facebookers. Only, I forgot; left the bag in the car, to be emptied several days later by husband who was oblivious that I had foolishly shoved the photo in the bag. I am sure it went out with the rubbish, which was collected on Monday.

So, to recap, so far I have: 1. Described a photo that you will most likely never see; 2. Shared the tedium of office life in the Dermatology Centre; 3. Shared the tedium of domestic arrangements in the Wheeler household. If you have made it thus far, congratulate yourself heartily (and try not to hate me). The reason I'm writing is not because of tedium, but because of loss. The reason I loved that photo so much was because it made me laugh, partly because the image was intrinsically ridiculous, but mainly because it was US. Us, at a moment in time, captured being ourselves - our young, funny, separate-but-together selves. We have so many photos where we are trying to smile for the camera (with, inevitably, one of us squinting or frowning or failing to look like a member of the human race), or where one of us is staring artistically off into the distance, with the slight impression of someone who is trying to remember if they need to buy more loo roll whilst attempting to solve Fermat's last theorem in their head. Staring wistfully in Ireland. Staring wistfully in Colorado. Staring wistfully in Brittany. Trust me, we have the set. But this photo...the lost photo...there was nothing wistful or artistic or contrived about it. Somehow it was our marriage, in a nutshell. We also, quite rightly, have hundreds of photos of our kids to the extent that a photo of the two of us alone is rare from the past 17 years. Now that we are beginning to imagine life after kids have left, I have become melancholic about those old photos of just the two of us.

Before you ask, yes I am well aware that there are people in the world with Real Problems. I am also aware of global warming, the debt crisis, the situation in the Middle East, poverty, famine and disease...OK OK this isn't ever a twitch on the needle of global suffering. And to be honest, it doesn't rate on the scale of things I am concerned about closer to home, either. But today, I feel sad. Sad that I will never look at that photo again. Sad that I cannot share it with anyone. And sad that I can't ever go back to the young, funny person who put their face through a hole and pretended to be a po-faced Prince Albert, while her young, funny life partner smiled manically next to her in the most unconvincing impression since Kim Jong-Il shared his Captain Jack Sparrow.

2 comments:

blue hands said...

Oh I really feel for you on this one. We lost a whole set of slides in a shed clearout that recorded the "Big Trip" of our student lives. I try not to think about it too often. xx

bigdaddystevieB said...

I'm completely with you on this! As I read it, I thought: "oh no, it's like losing-a-whole-set-of-slides-in-a-shed-clearout and THEN, of course, I saw Moira's comment about the very same thing! We'd been on a 6-week European tour with six or seven other student friends in "van" we bought for very little money. The entire holiday (including purchase of van and petrol) cost us £55 (yes!) and I did take quite a lot of slides (most of them pretty useless - but they WERE memories of an amazing trip). Moira was being very kind... it was ME who unwittingly threw out the slides with an ancient projector (that used to burst into flames!). I STILL feel awful about it. I thought I'd got over it, but your story has brought it all back.... THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
I know exactly how you feel. hugs x