I have always been aware that I possess an appalling and fickle memory. Not from these lips will you hear the claim that I remember lying in my pram or the rough cheek of a grandparent as they greeted the new addtion to the family.
The first time we moved I was five years old. The only reason I remember it is because the year is cemented in my memory through a project diary that my father kept of the house he and my mother were building for their family to which one more member would be added years later. And this new arrival – the younger of my two brothers was roughly the same age as I was at the time of that first move when the whole family upped sticks and emigrated to Australia eleven years later.
I was sixteen, my other brother fourteen when we moved to the other side of the planet and yet the other day, try as we might we could not remember the sequence of places we stayed at before finally a house that would become the family home for the next two decades was settled upon.
We all remember the first place we stayed at on arrival because it was a motel and we got there at 3 am after landing at Perth Airport with literally the clothes we stood up in and our luggage. We were not poor or anything, it is just that our furniture and stuff was on a ship making its way over behind us.
Then we all agree about the final place we stayed in before the move to the house, but in between, on top of a road trip in a large camper van across the Nullabor to Sydney and back, there were two other places all of us have varying memories of living in. One of them we know about but both my brother and I have a memory of staying in a flat in South Perth – which is odd because everywhere else we stayed was north of the river. I have a vague recollection, my mother denies all knowledge and my brother insists he remembers watching TV there.
Tonight I went into my garage and for the first time in 23 years, I unearthed my teenage diaries that have been sitting in a box, within another box and carefully sealed in brown wrapping paper. I found the one from the year we arrived in Australia, peeled back the strips of yellowed sellotape, slipped it of its packaging and I turned to September.
It turns out we were all right. Despite the fact that annoyingly I did not think to note the addresses of the places we moved into, ‘Today we moved to a new flat…’ I managed to work out that we actually went to a place in South Perth but only for one day as we had to check out of the motel before the rental we were due to move into was ready. So presumably the rental company offered us temporary sanctuary at a vacant property and we hung around there for the day, during which time my brother watched TV – I suspect the UK show, The Professionals, which we seemed to watch a lot of according to my records – before we moved out and in to the first place before the drive to Sydney.
And it was on the long drive to Sydney, my diary has revealed, that my youngest brother was taunting his older one with a punishment known only as ‘remote fist’. We have no idea what that was. Plus the brother nearest to me and I formed a rock group, called Blackmail. I was to be known as Spit, he Green Vomit. Our greatest artistic achievement was a song called… Blackmail.
‘He got his post, his face went pale
And all because of our blackmail.
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
We know the secrets of your past
The way you drove that car too fast
That little girl had a life to live
You’ve got no choice, you’ve got to give….’
‘Godammit, Green Vomit,’ I said to my brother, ‘we were good. Why ever did we stop?’
‘I just don’t know, Spit,’ he replied, ‘maybe life on the road just got too hard.’
And maybe it did, but along with the secrets of whatever ‘remote fist’ was the memories, like the old diary that I rewrapped in its brown paper packaging are now back and safely consigned to the garage once more.