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A New ‘Start With a’



Just as any piece of art begins with a few lines or splashes of paint, writing your memoir starts with a memory, and another, until the memories begin to pour from your mind as a waterfall cascades down a cliff. That's how it felt to me anyway.

It all began some years ago when a person I had worked with in the 1980’s while on a RN Squadron found me on Facebook. While we chatted about so and so, and things that happened I realised how little of what were some of the best days of my life I could recall. It saddened me that I could no longer remember the names of people I spent so much time with thirty years ago.


As we communicated over time, names resurfaced and triggered more details. Others joined the conversation and added their input. It didn’t take long for all our individual memories to piece together the layout of the hangar and the people working in various departments. The friends we socialised with, and the places where we drank or met up. Train journeys home on leave and all the fun we had in those carefree days.

It felt like someone had wrapped me in a big fluffy blanket. I smiled inwardly for days, a warm glow filled me as I played 80’s music evoking even more memories of Sunday Bop nights, with loud music, tables filled with glasses and overflowing ashtrays. Music is a fantastic memory trigger too!

I now write down a lot of memories, making it a daily habit. Some I will use for my own memoir, some just to have it written down in notebooks. Random recollections as they come to mind, but indexed so I can find them again. I also mentioned this to others, and it seems a lot of people are feeling the same. Has the Covid quiet, and loss of contact with others made us sit and ponder more? Is it that at a certain age we realise that our memories are what made us and good or bad they are our history.


How many times have we stumbled across a box of photos of people we know are relatives, but have no names? Or trinkets and souvenirs from goodness knows where. These boxes are our family treasures, 'our history', and it's such a shame that sometime in the future, our grandchildren, or other family members will see our own treasures and not know either.


This is why I wanted to create 'Start With a Memory', a writing and ephemera collecting group to help others pull memories together for the future, and while doing so, experience the joy that creates. Not all memories are happy ones though, and maybe doing this will help people find peace from addressing what has been holding them back, or if necessary consider getting support to hep them work through their pain.


Reliving memories is extremely emotional, and it is very important that people know and understand this before embarking on this journey with me. The group is private and a space to find prompts and activities to go away and do at your leisure. No pressure. There will be workshops, quiet retreats, in wonderful settings to relax, and write, take photos and collect a new memory.


I am really passionate about leaving our stories behind. What we did as children, our lifestyle, our toys, clothes, are valuable glimpses into the past for those in fifty, hundred years time. Taking photos is a way of capturing a moment, but embellishing it with words and things collected at the same time makes it much more special.


Please email me at writing@gailarmstrong.co.uk or visit Start With a Memory on Facebook for more information.


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