Friday 16 June 2017

Fake memory

She's a rum cove, memory. Never to be trusted, always to be run past Google before acceptance. That's the thought for today, prompted by getting to the beach on the daily walk and saying to myself in delight, "Oh, look! The tide's out!"

Apart from the fact that this a) makes our little bay bigger, b) means that sometimes there will be the gift of conveniently-deposited seaweed for the garden, and c) always allows for seaglass fossicking, currently d) is the tide-dependent possibility of walking from Sandy Bay to Hekerua around the rocks. Ever since ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie raged through back in early April and took out a huge chunk of our bit of Te Ara Hura, Waiheke's round-island track, there's been no other off-road way to get between the bays. It's been a real disappointment and inconvenience to lots of people, but fixing it will take quantities of time and money that maybe the Council isn't prepared to spare. We locals have been left watching this space - literally.

Besides being a time- and location-specific exclamation of pleasure, the "tide's out" thing is also a reference to a play I saw, a youngish person's lifetime ago, at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. No-one's going to guess it, so I'll tell you it was 'The Philanthropist' by Christopher Hampton, and the line was actually "Oh, look! The tide's in!" It's spoken by the main character, a vague and disconnected academic surrounded by drama but mostly untouched by it. It was a funny moment because his delight in noticing that the view from his window was at its best for his visitors was in such contrast to everything falling apart around him.

So, remembering solely that line from the play, and for 30 years quoting it to myself whenever appropriate (and now deliberately misquoting it, as above), I have had the impression all that time that it was a cheerful comedy. Imagine my surprise, then, to re-read it the other week and discover that it begins with an onstage suicide, and continues through offstage assassinations, adultery, betrayal, disappointment and career failure to quite a dismal ending. So that was unexpected; it was also, incidentally, dispiriting to learn that Hampton was just 23 when he wrote it, a revisioning of Molière's 'Le Misanthrope'. And I've been somewhat dismayed too to learn that it was Christopher Hampton in fact, and not C. Isherwood, as I'd thought right up to five minutes ago. So, memory completely discredited.
And today's connection? Well, all the landslides that Debbie caused, and especially this personally-inconvenient one, reminded me again of a geography textbook I had to read in the sixth form titled 'Down to the Sea in Slips'. I always knew the title was also a deliberate mis-quote, and thought it was a line from Masefield's poem 'Sea Fever' - actually, it turns out to be quite a lively bit from Psalm 107:23. The correct wording, 'Down to the sea in ships', was (so Google helpfully mentions in passing) used for the title of a 1922 movie, remade in 1947, about a young boy learning about life on a whaling ship based in Massachusetts - where, of course, I have been, going whale-watching from Boston, and spending an interested couple of hours in the excellent whaling museum on Nantucket. Which is the place that, somewhere within the last week - could be in a travel section of the Sunday papers, could be Twitter, could be Facebook - has been compared with Waiheke. If only I could remember where!

So, there you go: full circle. Memory, eh? Totally fickle.

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