Saturday, 16 November 2013

Memories and Deja Vu.

How often do we look back and remember things from the past?   Believe me, says she from an advanced age, the older I get the more I do it.   Wet, dismal afternoons tend to sink me into reminiscence until I get up and do something quickly.   But are those memories accurate - no they are not, any more than that sense of deja vu is.

Do you remember what you were doing when JFK was assassinated.   That is one of those defining moments when they say that everyone remembers what they were doing (whoever 'they' is).  I am sure I remember - I lived in the depths of the Lincolnshire countryside, I was ironing, my young son had just gone to bed, my sister rang to tell me the news.

Daniel Finkelstein in today's Times writes about memory and 9/11 - another of those defining moments.

In 'The Invisible Gorilla' by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons there is an excerpt which suggest that memory plays tricks on us.   Apparently in a study a group of undergraduates were asked to remember what they were doing on the day and for a few days earlier than 9/11.  When the academics conducting the study went back to the same people a few years later and asked the same questions their memories were vivid but very inaccurate.   But there was also a difference.   They were willing to admit that they may well be wrong about those few days before 9/11 but they thought that no way was it possible that they were wrong about the day itself.

So it looks as though we feel secure in our memories of big events - even if the memories are false.

And of course, sometimes we have no memory at all of events - they have vanished for ever, even if we are reminded of this.   Yesterday friend W and I met our friends from Windermere at our favourite Italian Restaurant in Kirby Lonsdale for lunch.  During our lunch friend P asked if I remembered when I ran a choir in our little market town - I vaguely remembered that (it is about twenty two years ago) but I had completely forgotten that he was staying with me one day and I asked him to come to a rehearsal and play the piano so that I could conduct them, rather than try to do both at the same time.

But there was a momentous event as an outcome of this and I do remember that.   I was getting this choir ready to sing with other choirs at a Harvest Festival.   I was not the Principal Conductor, but would sing in the choir on the night.

The venue was St. Wilfred's Church in Harrogate.   We set off with the bus driver assuring me that he knew exactly where St. Wilfred's was and he duly dropped us off there with about twenty minutes to spare - time to get into the choir stalls and get ourselves organised.
He drove off with a cheery good-bye, telling us that he was going to stop down the road and get fish and chips and sit and eat them and listen to his radio.   Of course it was dark by this time and we trooped up the drive to the church in dim lighting.   At the door was a large sign which said "Welcome to St. Luke's Church" - we were in the wrong place!

The youngest and fittest set off at a gallop down the road to where we could see the lights of shops in the distance.   We huddled on the side of the road.   Luckily she caught the driver, he came back and we toured Harrogate asking all and sundry for how to get to St. Wilfred's.   We arrived half way through the first verse of We Plough the Fields and Scatter - hot and bothered, wind-blown and puffing heavily.   I can assure you I can still remember the look of relief on the face of the conductor.

And I will tell you this for nothing.   Should I ever pass St Luke's Church in Harrogate again I shall be in no doubt at all that I am having a strong feeling of deja vu.



George said...

I vividly remember where I was and what I was doing at the time of Kennedy's assassination, as well as 9/11. Unlike other major events, these moments were characterized by a feeling that the world was coming to an end, that everything was falling asunder, and that nothing would ever be the same again. The world did not come to an end, but it changed forever in my psyche. The assassinations of JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King left deep imprints on my life, and no American will ever feel the same after the 9/11 attacks.

angryparsnip said...

I remember were I was, home from school we had half day and putting our flag up at the front of our home.
As a Catholic the lead up to President Kennedy's election was very interesting. The fact a Catholic was running, the suppose connection Church
all the stuff that really didn't matter then and now... and then he was dead.
Same with 9/11 I had just dropped off my children at school and turned on the morning news.

I enjoyed your story.
cheers, parsnip

Heather said...

I was horrified by both those dreadful events and was at home doing very mundane things each time. They seemed to be life changing but of course life goes on. I doubt that lessons have been learned as dreadful things still occur. Perhaps the pendulum still has to swing a little further before human society improves.

Gwil W said...

Pat, funny you should mention revisiting the past and JFK at the top your post because that's exactly what Stephen King writes about in his novel titled 11:22:63 which is what I'm reading at this very moment. I just put to it down to check my emails and your blog post.
I'm just at the early stages of the story where King claims Oswald tried to kill someone else before JFK. Well I didn't know that. Expect all we be revealed in due course. King's main character (obviously based on himself) reveals he didn't know because he'd only seen the Oliver Stone movie as is the case with nearly all of us I suppose.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

The bus driver probably tells the same story but in his version you told him the wrong church, he sensed something might be up and came back and saved the day. Maybe he conducted the choir too!

Arija said...

I have just read all your posts that I have misses while struck down by the most dreadful gastric whatever ever. I enjoyed your day to day living very much indeed Pat. I am nowhere near well yet but at least I can see enough to see again.

John Going Gently said...

The past is a far country
Isn't that the quote?

Em Parkinson said...

I was bord seven months after Kennedy's assassination but, for me, Wilson's resignation was a big thing and, of course, Elvis' demise.

Loved you St. Luke's Story!

Dominic Rivron said...

On 9/11 I remember sitting in my car in the car park of a certain school I worked at then, transfixed, as the news unfolded on the radio.

I can't remember where I was when the news of the Boxing Day tsunami broke -watching tv I expect- but I do remember the numb sensation.

When the news JFK was assassinated broke, I was in bed.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I was a senior in high school in Alaska. We had no tv there (and wouldn't for a few more years and then it was on reels and brought up from the states by barge and was two weeks behind) but they announced it on the radio which was played on the loudspeaker into the classrooms. As young people about to begin our lives outside school, and our hope for what JFK meant to our country - we were stunned and wandered about for two or three days - struck almost dumb by the unbelievable news.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I was little when Kennedy was shot, but I still remember coming home from school to find my Mother sitting in front of the television, weeping. Such a sad time, one my country has never gotten over, I think. Memory is an amazing thing. xo

A Heron's View said...

I fail to see any prominent connection between St Wilfred's Church, 9/11 and jfk murder.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Heron's View - one word connects all three evens - memory.

Thanks to everyone for calling and contributing. Some years ago I was in Dallas and I visited the spot where JFK was gunned down. It was a strangely moving experience, as was standing in the warehouse from which Lee Harvey Oswald is said to have fired the fatal shot.
The following year I saw JFK's grave in Arlington cemetery - that too was very moving.

Mary said...

I had not been in Washington, D.C. very long when Kennedy was assassinated. I was in my office and the men were suddenly gathering in another office in front of the TV - some were wiping tears away. They made room for me to see the screen - it was a terrible moment and I was concerned as to how life was changing right there and then and was in the midst of it all. I think I wished to be back in England on that day!