"That is just the way with Memory; nothing that she brings to us is complete. She is a wilful child; all her toys are broken. I remember tumbling into a huge dust-hole when a very small boy, but I have not the faintest recollection of ever getting out again; and if memory were all we had to trust to, I should be compelled to believe I was there still."
Jerome K Jerome, Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow
We are one of the first generations who can precisely replay many elements of our childhood memories on demand. This has never happened before in the history of human beings.

Strange as it may seem, in the distant past they didn't even have TV. It was a civilisation changing invention, sitting between the Printing Press and the Internet in the communication triumvirate that holds sway over our hearts and minds. Never mind those senile old fossils the Wheel and Fire, it's talking to each other and telling stories that has made us what we are today.

And yet TV is still less than a century old. There are people around who remember before it existed.

At first it was just another aspect of your life, a lazier way of taking in a story and a way to keep yourself entertained. Nevertheless it was precious; if you missed something that was it. Tough shit. True there were repeats, but rarely of things you wanted to see. On the odd occasion when something you did like was on again it felt like magic. You could enjoy it all over again with the added frisson of somehow knowing what was coming next.

Years went by and eventually you were able to buy programmes you remembered from your youth. And sometimes, despite the fact that you'd only seen them once, there were bits that you remembered very clearly, you knew the lines that were coming next and who was about to walk through that door. And, perhaps more than a mere madeleine dipped in tea, watching this thing again brought back the feeling of the time, memories you'd long thought lost - or lost so thoroughly that you hadn't realised they had ever been there in the first place - bobbing back to the surface of consciousness and shining unexpectedly in the light of the present. For a brief moment you could be transported back to that time.

Not always a good thing of course. The past contains its fair share of unpleasantness. This bully. That teacher. Those nightmares.

And yet there's a strange phenomenon that can be observed when finally seeing something again, when a chunk of childhood - long inaccessible - is unearthed from the bottom of the video trunk. Sometimes what you see on the screen doesn't correspond to what you remember. The memory you have been living with all these years is a lie - and there on the screen is incontrovertible proof.

There are a couple of these incidents that spring to mind for me. The first was when I saw the famous Goodies episode Kitten Kong again. From watching it on first broadcast I clearly remembered Bill Oddie walking into the Goodies HQ and saying of Twinkle the giant kitten "Well, it's eaten up the Post Office Tower!"

And yet in the repeat it was different. They were already in the HQ discussing the situation.

"It's only a kitten!" said Graham.

"Oh yeah?" said Bill, "It's already eaten the Post Office Tower!"

OK so an unimportant difference, but the important thing was I had remembered something that hadn't happened.

The second was far more recently when I finally saw on DVD (for the first time since it was broadcast) the Doctor Who story Mind of Evil. There was a whole scene that I remembered completely differently from what was actually in the episode.  Such is the strength of this memory that I can still clearly see this personal director's cut in my head, even though it was never committed to film.

And if memories of TV shows are unreliable what about the memories of real life? No matter how big the stack of bibles they swear on, can you ever really believe someone's testimony?

The memory doesn't cheat - it downright lies.

As you may be aware, on 1 June an anthology was published that included a short story I'd written. The anthology, The Root Cellar and Other Stories, is available for purchase as an eBook right now should it take your fancy.  It also contains are twelve other dark tales aside from mine, all of which are well worth reading and which cover a wide range of subjects.

Anyway, as a result of this in common with all the other contributors I gave a short interview, answering a series of questions about my story and other related matters which I hope you might find mildly diverting:


I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

There are many problems associated with suffering from depression. One of them is that you find it difficult to talk about with other people which is ironic because this is the one thing that received wisdom would have you believe is good for alleviating it. Or so they say. Is this the truth or just urban legend, a word of mouth remedy which has no basis in fact? It's hard to find out because of course the one thing you don't want to do when depressed is precisely that.

Such is the strength of the urge not to talk about it that even talking about not talking about it feels taboo which makes the writing of this blog tricky.

Why this should be is another matter; there is probably no single reason but a concatenation of several which is what makes this negative compulsion such a strong one.

The first of these may be to do with the nature of the beast itself. Depression is a condition of the mind, of the consciousness and the mind and consciousness are emergent properties of the brain, what happens when a complex autonomous system becomes self aware and most importantly starts describing itself. Without language of one for or another you wouldn't be; you are, as has be said many times before, the stories you tell yourself.

And no-one likes stories with a sad ending.

So perhaps in describing it you fear that it will make things worse. Even now I am attempting to distance myself even from this generic description of the condition by talking mainly in the second person (although this does have the advantage of drawing the reader in more).

The second reason you prefer to avoid talking about it may be to do with a fear of boring people, or even worse, actively repelling them. This has some basis in fact. When coming across someone going through such a mentally bad place the first instinct of many people will be to stay away, to think of them as "hard work". From an evolutionary standpoint you can see where this behaviour might have originated, but in our modern society we should have risen above such base "I'm all right Ugg" instincts. Perhaps it's true that it may require more hard work or investment of time or emotional resources being friends with someone suffering from depression, but surely that is no reason to shun them? After all, from a purely practical point of view there might be more work involved being friends with someone in a wheelchair - say finding pubs or restaurants with wheelchair access - than with someone able-bodied but in reality no-one would dream of entertaining the repellant point of view that you shouldn't do so.

The problem of course is that mental issues are still not seen as genuine as physical ones. After all this time some people still feel the temptation to think "pull yourself together" when coming across someone suffering from depression or anxiety and remove themselves from the situation for fear of being bored or annoyed.

And it is this prevalent attitude that makes the already difficult task of talking about your depression even worse.

Mental issues are just as real as physical ones, so if you know anyone having the former it might be a good idea to encourage them to discuss it.  They may seem reluctant but once they do so it may be a merciful release, and in the long run they may find themselves feeling considerably better afterwards.

Which is a worthwhile thing to be involved in.