Wednesday, 12 September 2007
Suddenly in Focus
"A rose-red city half as old as time."
JW Burgon, "Petra", 1845
A carelessly Romantic line? No, by Archbishop Ussher's calculation, Creation happened and Time started in 4004 BC. So ancient Petra was understood (by Burgon) to be about half as old as time.
"Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust."
Shakespeare, "Cymbeline" IV 2, 1609?
Death the Leveller, vaguely expressed... until a scholar (I forget who or when... late-Victorian?) noted in his travels around Stratford-upon-Avon that "golden lad" was the local slang for a dandelion in flower,
and "chimney-sweeper" for a dandelion clock.
Adding an extra and precise dimension to the lines.
(Incidentally, you blow on a dandelion clock and the remaining seeds tell you the hour of the day. This works, but be sure you know the actual time by your watch, and blow carefully. Not like birthday cake candles and wishes: we are talking science here.)
I can remember my life clearly back to the age of two. My brother claims he only has memories going back to the age of ten.
My first memories relate, directly or obscurely, to my mother being pregnant with my younger brother.
Then for years my bro and I shared the same house, friends and gangs, schools. I had the duty of taking him to school and getting him back safely every day, whether by bus when we were both teeny (kindly Bus Ladies helped us along here) or by bicycle as we got older.
When he was ten I moved on to a different school and he got his independence.
Sibling rivalry and memory. Me, two-and-something, sharpening up my pencils to prepare for the arriving rival. He, free at last aged ten.
Many more hares than the above were started by Authorblog's question for the week, "which toy was your childhood favourite?". I'm just showing you some examples.
Out of the fog of memory, suddenly in focus - an axe handle was my favourite toy. Martini-Henry, Lee-Metford, Lee-Enfield, it could become any type of rifle. And the back garden and the plantation beyond, in turn, would then become the scree of the North-West Frontier, the Veldt, the jungle canopy of Malaya, the fields of France... (I am only just post-Imperial).
But in recovering from a blur to sharp focus the axe handle, I have also realised that I have forgotten how to do subtraction (((1845 + 4004) / 2) - 1845). You may drop me a note to crow that I have forgotten even the Common Dog of maths, if you like.
Oh the cardboard pennies, shillings and threepenny bits, that were always kept in the teacher's husband's empty tobacco tins, and so had their own distinct smell.
Is any of this true? I am not sure, which is why the question is a real poser.