Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America

Sickness and Memory

My thought processes tend to run away unguided when I am alone. It is as if they have been set free from the constraints of society and take the opportunity for a brisk sprint into the fields and a roll in the fresh green grass of unmotivated play.

It was color that started my latest brief foray; a conversation that had begun in pink and wandered to purple and, finally, green. And it is the green that sets me free, a color that can be many things from a deep, dark bottle green to a shade arguably yellow in some lights.

Then, suddenly, there it is - that sickly lime green that I remember from so long ago, the color that reminds me instantly of an event so distant and yet still reminiscent of a vast nausea that seemed to engulf me. I was five or six years old at the time and somehow had managed to become ill with yellow jaundice. I was kept in hospital for a while, for how long I do not know, and remember very little of the experience, apart from a single and unremarkable event.

Someone came to visit me and brought with them a child's book in the series I was reading. Alright, I admit it was Enid Blyton's Noddy, an endless collection, and some might remember that each book was distinguished by a distinctive color. The one I was given happened to be the lime green that I have already mentioned.

I read the book, having nothing else to do and, presumably, feeling quite ill while doing so. Ever since, I cannot see that shade of green without being reminded of that nausea, even though I do not remember feeling that bad at all. It is as if the feeling had attached itself to the color and become a part of it in my mind. So the color makes me feel sick but nausea does not make me see lime green.

It is a strange trick of the mind that we all experience, no doubt - some minor event becomes attached to a feeling and becomes a trigger for it ever afterwards. But my mind moved on from this fairly common ground to something else.

It has been suggested by one or two people I have met that dim and distant memories may not be real at all but the product of having been told something many times over in childhood. There are memories of mine that may well fit this category, so often have they been the subject of family nostalgia, and so I searched my memory of the lime green experience to see whether some authenticating clue could be found.

And there is just one - a snapshot taken by the mind, a picture of that offending Noddy book in all its sickly splendor. Nothing else remains; just the memory of having told the story so many times that its truth has been lost in the words. I can still see that book, however, almost clearly enough to read its title.

This is the nature of memory, I realize; it is like an archive in which the oldest recordings wither and turn to ashes with the passing of time. Originally in video form, they become reduced to a few snapshots linked by a narrative and, eventually, nothing but a faded photograph remains.

All the time, however, the archivists are busily transferring everything into text format. The story gets told a hundred times and slowly the vivid visual memory is transcribed into a document that we assume is the fact but, in truth, is really the memory of a memory.

Are these documents less valid because of this process? I think not, although their jostling with memories created by family tradition is bound to cloud the issue. It may be that it is impossible to separate these and that the history of ourselves is altered and added to by things we don't remember at all. Yet the history has become a part of us and has much to do with how we imagine ourselves. If some of it is more tradition than truth, it still has its effect on the person we are now.

That is certainly true of the world around us, history becoming more a matter of guesswork and deduction, the further back in time we travel. There are mythic events that we refer to still and that affect our modern lives. So it seems to me only right that we should be the same within, a product of all the days of our lives but with a mythic and legendary element that also plays its part.


Growing up, nearly everything I had in my bedroom was blue: blue walls, blue carpet, even a lot of my toys were blue! Later, in college, my parents had provided me with a blue vehicle to drive. Once I ventured truly free of the nest, my first instinct was to rebel against the color with vigor. What was once blue subsequently became black: A black bedspread with dragons and oriental symbols, black leather jackets--I had mostly blue coats growing up too!--, black computer, black car... I still have most of these things, but have mellowed more into earthier tones as times have passed, although black is still my favorite overall color. But old patterns never completely break; I still have a blue pickup truck in my garage right beside the black car. It was passed down to me when my parents retired and we sold our family farm. Likewise, I would guess there is a nauseating lime green fixture subtly placed somewhere in your world. I tend to think that not only are we inextricably linked to these hated psychological triggers, but that we might even take some subconscious comfort in having the essential characteristics of our being formed through their influence.
Date Added: 16/11/2008

Gone Away
I often say that I have no regrets, Spider, and it is true in essence. All our experiences are wrapped up in who we are now and to change anything would be to change the person we have become. And I am happy enough with that person, for who knows how awful I might have been otherwise? So I accept that lime green will always be a sickly color to me - a link to a childhood that I remember only flashes of now.
Date Added: 17/11/2008

Hi Clive- I haven't been reading the blogs as much, but today my memory brought me back to you! Hope all is well. I find that I start to suspect my memory process. My wife will remind me of something that I completely forgot- and then I will try to bring back the memory to mind. But sometimes I don't know if I am really seeing it as it was, or if I am just reconstructing! Does this mean I'm getting old? Blessings, Rick
Date Added: 26/11/2008

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