In today’s “The Australian”, reporter Trent Dalton interviews writer Clive James, an Australian writer whose work I always enjoy. In it, a sort of pre-recorded obituary, Clive reflects on his life in general and his illustrious career. He’s lived in the UK for many years, and at 75 he’s now unfortunately terminally ill and too frail to travel anywhere except to the hospice to which he will eventually be conveyed. There, with none of his stuff and books around him, he expects to have time to reflect on the infidelity, as he puts it the biggest mistake in his life –
“But I shall have time to reflect
That what I miss was just the bric-a-brac
I kept with me to blunt my solitude,
Part of my brave face when my life was wrecked
By my gift for deceit
Truth clears away so many souvenirs” Clive James, 2015.
“Truth clears away so many souvenirs” rang a bell with me, and I wish I could remember who it was who wrote some words I read just recently, on how all of us accumulate a lot of stuff including mementos and souvenirs, and especially the heaps and heaps of photos. We find it hard to let all this stuff go, and yet these are not memories but merely the “artifacts of memories”.
Years ago I had a fierce argument with an aunt who was horrified that I did not wish to grab up our father’s sunday school and many academic prizes when their house was being sorted after our parents’ deaths. She clearly felt I had some sort of duty to cling on to prizes HE won – but I didn’t feel that way at all! Different life styles I guess – she spent her life mostly in the one town, we have moved a lot down the years, and more to come. I dread being reunited with several shoe boxes of photos in our house in Australia – as we really let the photo album thing go, I think, in the flurry of house moves and long spells in storage – that’s my recollection, anyway, and I’m sticking to it!
And it was Barry Humphries as Edna Everidge who uttered the immortal line about wrinkles around the eyes which we Aussies call crows feet – “… and what are they but the dried up beds of old smiles?”