Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Memory Exercise

My friend Tim has taken to posting quotes in the window of his house to provide food for thought for the passing pedestrians who are heading for the Chinese fish and chip shop, the Indian restaurant and the local pubs. This is my favourite so far:

'Many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday. if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful, reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry'
- J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher In The Rye

This struck me strongly because I have begun what I call a 'memory exercise', compiling a detailed chronological list of the various projects and events of my life based on things that have an absolutely certifiable date attached to them. Can recommend such a proces to anyone although - be warned! Memory plays strange tricks and you start discovering how strange when faced with the crumbling documentary evidence of what did actually happen when, often in a different order than you remember.

Have reached that stage in my life where I am beginning to wonder whether the idea of keeping everything was a sensible one. HQINFO was packed from floor to ceiling with an archive of clippings, diaries, books, journals, photos, drawings, files when the builders moved in to do a major damp repair job.

As a result, have now got a slightly emptier house and a costly storage space full of boxes. I like to think this is not the result of some compulsive psychological disorder but an orderly and important archive building process that will hopefully prove its value in the future. I laugh to myself when I think that its equally likely that it will all get binned on my demise.

The papers are full of Africa and the G8 and good old Geldof's latest rock extravaganza - which unfortunately seems to be stuffed with the faded figures of the 'rock royalty' rather than the fresh young voices of today's urgent music that is much more in tune with both the issues and the time we live in. Plans to get 1 million people to converge on Edinburgh should finally sink our antiquated transport systems if such numbers are realised but may be what's necessary to push the political elites into canceling Africa's debts.

I saw Geldof's first ever political speech (I believe) at a Save The Whale Rally in Trafalgar Square in the late 70s and managed to get an interview with him for the NME (New Musical Express). Vivid memories of the door of the small terraced house being opened by Paula Yates in ballgown with a tutu skirt that spanned the narrow hall. My friend David and I, a little worse for wear, sat and made small talk with her until Bob arrived in a flurry of words, unkempt hair, and long brown overcoat. Paula hurried off and came back with a plate of Irish stew which he devoured while never missing a word. Later he took me upstairs to show me his gold disc for 'I Don't Like Mondays.' Halcyon days.

Sometime later, at the Institute for International Affairs in London, I had the privilege of introducing Geldof to the legendary Polish foreigh correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski. Legend had it that, in order to persuade Mick Jagger to do Live Aid, Geldof sent a copy of Kapuscinski's book The Emperor, his classic study of Hailie Selassie of Ethiopia. Geldof's speech that day was long, articulate and conducted completely without notes. The hi-toned establishment audience clapped until their hands hurt. It was both moving and impressive.

Memories, it seems, turn into history. Perhaps, as Salinger suggests, there is a purpose for all those papers, files and reminiscences. Only time will tell.

NEW: In Bono talks of US crusade by Madeleine Bunting, she records: 'Ahead lies a day of press interviews, a German television show, rehearsals and a late flight to Manchester. Wim Wenders, the German film-maker, comes by to give back a book which Bono had lent him. It's the Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski's classic on Africa, The Shadow of the Sun. Bono has managed to pull Wenders into taking a key role in Germany's equivalent of Make Poverty History.

On the turntable: Rufus Wainwright, Wilco and the new Robert Plant
In the post: Like A Rolling Stone by Greil Marcus and Collaborative Circles by Michael P. Farrell
Weather: An English summer. Dark, overcast and threatening rain.

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