Last week I dropped my little external hard drive on the brick floor. It landed with a crash – as you’d expect – but in addition there was a rather worrying sort of cracking noise as well.
My IT genius husband looked grim, picked it up, pecked away at the keys on his computer – a few mighty commands, I imagine, because as far as computers are concerned he is He-Who-Must-Be -Obeyed – but then shook his head regretfully.
The long and short of this story is that three years of photos have vanished. All my pictures of our family holiday in Canada, plus lots and lots of shots taken on random wanderings around the local area and on trips away.
It’s so odd. Stored on my hard drive, they were invisible and not-quite-real anyway; potential images – but now they are completely lost. It’s not the same as losing an old-school photograph album or a packet of negatives (who remembers those?). Because they were never printed, and I only ever skimmed through them and chose a few of the most appealing to export to my computer, there are lots I can’t even remember. So I know I’ve lost something, but I’m not really sure what.
Which brings me back to my current love, Paddy Leigh Fermor. I am reading the third book, The Broken Road. This one was unfinished and you can tell, for it doesn’t have the polish and perfection of the others. There is more of a sense of a very young man out adventuring, however, which makes it very appealing. But I am challenged by Leigh Fermor’s writing, to try to remember my own travels. I actually have travel notebooks (he lost most of his).
Here is what I wrote about a train trip from Inverness.
Now rolling through mist and hills, thick tangly rich green forest, farms, rivers with fishermen up to their waists in them. Saw two golden-russet pheasants sitting on a fencepost. Some of the little woods have an air of secrecy and mystery, thick and carpeted underneath, you imagine they’d be very silent. There was a nice noise of seagulls everywhere. They are everywhere – coming out of Inverness, by the Moray Firth, silver tide flats and gulls, all kinds of gulls…
That all sounds quite specific and well observed, and you’d think it might be lodged in my brain somewhere – but though of course I remember the trip, I can’t remember these sights at all. Much like my crashed and broken hard drive. I have read that memories aren’t stored or filed forever, just waiting to be taken retrieved. They only survive if taken out and looked at. But then each outing changes them slightly (or hugely!) so they aren’t snapshots of what you did or saw, they’re revisions.
I can only conclude that either PLF – while being a superb writer – had a phenomenal memory, or an amazing reconstructive imagination.
Meanwhile, my memory – like my hard drive – is liable to crash and lose the lot.