As the sun slowly set on 2016, I watched from a beach on the Dorset coastline, and I thought of my dad.
Today, writing my first post of a new year, I think of all that’s happened since I wrote my first ever post. Four years of blogging. Three years of writing my book. Another year begins and I’m ever hopeful that this is the year I publish my book.
One of the last things Dad and I spoke about was my book; he loved hearing all about my writing. Brexit happened while I waited to hear back from him, keen to know his thoughts. Dad watched the news avidly, always interested in the world around him. But I didn’t get the chance. I wonder what he would have made of Trump.
Between Christmas and New Year, I received an email from my cousin. Her mother was my auntie, Dad’s eldest sister. To my cousin, Dad was ‘Uncle Bobbie’. She sent photos I’ve never seen of my dad as a boy, of my grandparents when they were young, of me as a little girl snuggled next to Mum, sitting on Dad’s lap, holding Dad’s hand; smiling for the camera.
I always wanted to know more about Dad, about his younger life: what he did; where he lived, how he did at school. What happened. What went wrong.
You can learn a lot from old photographs. I discovered, thanks to my auntie’s annotations, that as children in the early 1930s, Dad and his siblings took family holidays at Bognor Regis, Tiverton and Southend. That they lived in Leicester during WWII.
That each of them celebrated sumptuous 21st birthday parties at long tables bedecked with crisp, linen tablecloths, around which sat family and friends dressed in black tie, cocktail dresses and furs and drinking champagne, headed up by my ‘Godfather’ Granddad, cigar in hand, beaming proudly. In fact, in most photos of Granddad, he is holding a glass of champagne.
Bittersweet. Raw. Memories of lives and eras gone by, yet kept alive through photos and words. Especially words.
Before Christmas, lovely blogging friend Tina Frisco, invited me to write a few words about my blogging/writing goals for 2017 for her Spotlight on #Blog Visions for 2017 New Year’s post, a huge honour to feature alongside several amazing bloggers. Thank you Tina for helping me get moving after Christmas!
And when dear friend Charli Mills invited me to write the first essay for her new series, Raw Literature: Starting the Conversation, I was both thrilled and incredibly nervous. Charli challenges us to examine and look past the ‘shittiness’ of our first drafts; to explore, as she defines it, that ‘…first lick of flame after flint sparks…’. That moment when we find the real story and discover the writer we really are. Thank you Charli, for believing in me.
In my essay, Raw Literature: Memoir & What Lies Beneath, I share that ‘moment’ when I realised why I write memoir, always looking for the true story behind the story I’ve always believed it to be. But there are some stories we will never really know, and perhaps we do not need to.
Time then to get back to work. Thank you dear friends, family, online and off, who read my blog, my writing, for taking the time to leave your lovely comments of encouragement; for messages, emails, texts, something said quietly in person. I hope I show you the same kindness, love and care in return.
My 21st birthday was very different to my dads, and that’s another story. But discovering my granddad’s love of champagne, it looks as if I have him to thank for my New Year’s mantra, found hanging on a wall in a pub, naturally…
Love Sherri xxx