I’ve always been in love. With a character on a TV show (my first was Danger Mouse, then I moved onto actual human beings with Illya Kuryakin from A Man From U.N.C.L.E. I think I must be one of a very small number of girls of my generation to cite this as a TV crush.) With a boy at school, nature, my pets, a new book.
I remember as a child I was often so consumed with this feeling there was no way in the world I could express it. It made me so joyful and sad at the same time. I was nostalgic for things that had only just happened, or hadn’t even happened yet.
When I was out playing or on walks, or just sitting in the backseat of the car, I would look around at the beauty, my beautiful Yorkshire, my perfect world, and the only way I could process this feeling was by imagining I had a built-in polaroid camera in my brain. I wished, so so badly, that I could look at something and blink-not just a normal blink but a deliberate, hard blink- and somehow I would produce a picture which would capture all the love I was feeling at that moment.
I wanted to capture the woods where I would spend whole afternoons playing on my own, with my dog, or with friends, picking bluebells or pretending to be lost runaways or mountain explorers. The view of the Aire valley from the top of the hill, where I would stand trying to pick out my school, my Mum’s house, the train station. The back of my sister’s head in the seat in front of me because, even though she never yielded up her spot in the front seat, I knew that my life would be unbearable if she were ever to leave me.
Like that one boxing day. My Dad always hosted a boxing day buffet at my house for the whole family. My Mum would deliver me and my sister on the morning of the 26th with a trifle in tow. But one year, my sister decided she wanted to go to the the boxing day football match, so she went to see Wednesday and I stayed for the buffet. Of course I tried to enjoy myself, but I ended up in my room crying, unable to articulate the loss I felt at not having my leader, at being nobody’s sidekick for that day. I was so pleased when she came back, though I am sure we probably argued about something silly that night.
This reminds me of one night when I was having particularly scary thoughts about my own death. I had been afraid of dying for a while and this was heightened by reading “Z for Zachariah”, a book about nuclear war. I was tormented by the thought that I would go to sleep and never wake up and nobody would know how much I loved them, so I quickly scribbled in my journal: “I love my Dad and my Mum and my Sister, and Benito” (my dog).
So I felt as a child that if I could only capture every moment perfectly, treasure it forever, that my love would be validated. That it would be preserved somewhere.
Nowadays we pretty much have this ability. Everywhere we go we can take a picture, a quick snapshot, of everything we see and everything that makes us laugh or love and everything we think someone else would want us to take a picture of. #Instagramyourlife.
So why don’t I walk around with my smartphone, taking pictures of every single moment and publishing them for all my ‘friends’ to see? Yes, I do take photos and yes, I do post the odd picture to Facebook and Twitter. But I haven’t got on board with the constant broadcasting of every minute detail of our lives. I suppose it’s because my need as a child was a personal, private one. I wanted to protect it all for my own benefit, not to show it off to the whole world.
So I’m sorry, little Nancy, your grown up self just about has the ability to have an in-built camera, but it would be fruitless and pointless to use it. You would spend more time pressing buttons or blinking really, really hard than actually looking, and feeling, and loving.