I was in Richmond the other day after coffee with a friend. There we were, chatting our way to our respective cars, crossing the road without the benefit of a pedestrian walkway, and not concentrating.
Worse still, the moment I’d stepped out of the coffee shop, I decided the glare was too intense and fiddled in my hand bag for my sun glasses.
I was midway between putting on my sunglasses and replacing my ordinary ones when we reached the other gutter safe from the cars that flow along Bridge Road at unpredictable intervals, when my sandal with its thickened sole made contact with the edge of the gutter and sent me flying over it head first.
My friend, who watched horrified, said later that it looked as if I was trying to roll onto my side, perhaps to spare my wrist – the one I broke last November – the indignity of another break.
In any case, I fell on the side of my face and grazed my upper cheek under the eye and the side of my chin as well as giving myself a fat grazed lip. I also snapped the handle off my sunglasses.
Most of the damage has cleared a week later though my lip’s still sore.
I have a brand new pair of sunglasses to replace the broken ones whose frame lasted a good ten years. The break provided a good excuse for an update here. But it’s not so easy with my body.
Once you get to a certain age and start to fall over, break bones and the rest, the assumption is you’re on the way out, or so it seems when people look at me twice after I tell them I had a fall; as if I’m not to be trusted out on the streets again.
I can explain the details of this fall in full – I was doing that wonderful thing called multi tasking, too many things at a time – but it matters not.
If I had simply crossed the road without the fuss of changing to sunglasses or the animation of conversation with my friend, I suspect I would not have miscalculated the height of the gutter, which I’ve approached and taken accurately many times.
Greater concentration was the key to preventing this fall, not frail bones or a wobbly body. At least I hope so.
Which brings me to the effort of my structural re-edit of my book – the days of work that go into pulling this monster into a better shape – more narrative drive, more accurate sequencing, a stronger ending and all this against the pull of memory and of time.
It’s as if others, sit on my shoulder, mainly in the form of my siblings, who say to me, that’s not what happened; that’s not what it was like.
I keep telling myself that it’s my story, my version of events and not the only version.
I’m trying to be as truthful to my memory as possible but there are all these gaps and when they crop up, I plunge back into my memory store, concertina events from the past and let my imagination pull things together to offer a more coherent narrative that might not be as absolutely factual as some might demand.
Facts can get in the way sometimes – but I’m not trying to be a Donald Trump here with his ‘fake news’.
I’m trying hard to tell a story that allows for the emotional truth of my experience to shine on the page.
My unconscious leads me there, but my unconscious does not have the same sense of linear time my conscious mind has.
It’s the same for all of us. Our unconscious makes links in events that have a deeper resonance than mere temporality allows.
And so I struggle on battling the thought police who tell me to get it right in their terms or else.
As Paul John Eakin, the wonderful theorist on memoir and life writing tells us: ‘Autobiographers lead perilous lives.’