Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The collector of stories

I am a collector of stories.  We are all collectors of stories - not only the fiction that comes in books but our own stories, our families', the stories of people we don't even know.  Family legend, anecdote, gossip, speculation, news, jokes, dreams, ambitions ... they are all stories and we love them.  Stories help us make sense of the world, help us make new worlds.  We love to hear them, read them, tell them and share them.

I have sometimes thought of being a professional eulogiser - if that is even a thing - not because I have a morbid need to find myself regularly at funerals, but because I have always believed that people's stories matter.  They should never be neglected.  I am saddened if, at the last moment, even the seemingly unassuming person in life does not enjoy the respect of having their story told in death.  Because everyone has a great story.  If you can get beneath the surface, peel back the layers of 'ordinariness', there is always a surprise. 

Stories have found me in unusual ways recently, delivered via  - a vintage gold brocade chocolate box full of letters scrawled on psychedelic notepaper; a navy blue 1941 pocket diary with hasty commentary on the Blitz in London; and the 19th century gravestone of my great great grandparents 'washed up' improbably in Tasmania, thousands of miles from its resting place.

From them I hear a teenage girl at Boarding school in the 1970s pleading with her sister to post the one thing she wants above all else right now - her 'Tap Turns on the Water' record.  I hear the discomfort of a man sleeping under his kitchen table during an air raid and dreaming up ways of shaking off Irene who is determined he is the only chap for her.  I hear of the death of Matilda, my great great grandmother, from exhaustion after three years with tuberculosis.  She is thirty nine and one year earlier gave birth to Louisa, my great grandmother.  How differently my own story could have twisted.

I love them all, not only the one upon which my own story depends, I love stories.