Being gormless at half-term

Prior to beginning life as a teacher two years ago, my last autumn half-term holiday was in October 1974, for the school in Devon at which I spent the closing years of my secondary education did not believe in half-term holidays.

There are memories from that week that I recall with absolute clarity. We spent the week staying with my uncle, aunt and cousins in Bishops Cleeve, just a few miles from where I now work. Ken Booth was at Number One in the pop charts with “Everything I own;” he would be succeeded by David Essex singing, “Gonna make you a star.” Were the days not susceptible to such clear recall, the clash of our memories would not be so odd.

Over lunch one day, one of the cousins shared with me reminiscences of silly times. “Do you remember the time when my sisters and I took you to the youth club?” she laughed.

It had not been a moment to disagree and to point out that they had invited me to go to the youth club, but they were altogether too cool and too intimidating for a rustic fourteen year old like myself and that I had refused the invitation and then spent the evening wishing I had had the confidence to go. It was simply the case that she had misremembered the evening and there was no need to revisit my recall of the time.

A while later, one of the other sisters recalled the same moment. “Do you remember the night the twins and I took you to the youth club? When you stood looking gormless?” She laughed at the question.

Clearly there was a consensus between the three of them about the evening. It would have seemed discourteous to have challenged what was obviously something that was a cause of humour. “I have repressed that memory,” I said.

I still don’t believe I have repressed the memory. It would be illogical to have a lucid and unhappy recall of the evening if psychological repression was taking place. But why, then, would my cousins have a shared memory of me being somewhere I believed I had never been?

The disparity of our respective accounts of the same evening is not just a matter of nuance or interpretation, it is a question of mutually exclusive facts, one cannot be at a place and not at a place at the same moment. At some point, we will have to sit down and try to reconcile our memories of that distant half-term evening.


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