Digging Up History…

My middle daughter has a real interest in history. She had a talent for it and a hunger that doesn’t look as if it will be satisfied anytime soon. We have taken her on a university visit and she seems to be angling towards history with archaeology. I understand. I love digging up the past as a way of explaining the present. It has been my own personal archaeological excavations that managed to unearth the original me, the one that was buried beneath centuries of detritus. 

History is cyclical. It is also a story. Graham Swift had his protagonist in Waterland declare that history was a fairy-tale, a succession of fairy-tales that helped to quell our unnerving problems with the real story, the truth, whatever that could be. The truth is out there and there are many different versions of it. This blog is my truth. I have embellished aspects of events, I have changed names, I have even fictionalised tracts of memory because it makes little difference. 

I started writing this blog as a way of capturing the pain of my breakdown. I also wanted to chronicle the journey back from despair. I also wanted to write for a real audience, in a real format, to real deadlines. Readafterbreakdown.com has been a friend and a counsellor. It has listened, been non-judgemental, and encouraged me to shape my thoughts. Perhaps, more than anything else, it has encouraged me to write. It has given me belief when all belief had been wiped away. It has given me a voice and provided that voice with ears to listen to it.

My last month has been taken up with the teaching of history. Having a decent general knowledge and general interest in the subject, I thought that it would be interesting to teach. I have taught it before at Key Stage Three and remember that I liked it. History was a fresh challenge in a wilderness of the mundane. I had taught English for over twenty-five years and it was like the back of my hand. The problem was that I had stopped looking at the back of my hand. I am looking now and see my wedding ring which makes me smile. I can also see the remains of a wart on my right index finger which I dug out with a penknife thirty-five years ago. History, eh?

My history, the one that I spent so long writing about, gives me a reason to write. It’s digging and discovering and putting together and making sense. I discovered that writing has magic. It can create and destroy. It can smart and soothe. There have been times when I have been moved to tears upon the rediscovery of something long lost or interred. Those moments are like pieces of a jigsaw that fell out of the box and refused to attend in order to make sense of it all. And I am digging and building and placing all in public view.  

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