Dear John

I’m consumed with a dreadful regret.  (Amongst other regrets.)  That I don’t seem to have hardly any video of you, or recordings of your voice.

We knew about this, we discussed it!  You mentioned more than once that you felt you could hardly remember what your parents’ faces looked like, or what their voices sounded like.  Now it’s a modern world and video technology is available, and everybody’s doing it.

We didn’t have children, so I suppose there aren’t years worth of children-growing-up videos, but why oh why were we so against it?  I remember deciding no to having a wedding video all those years ago.  I remember we consciously decided not to take video on holiday, although we took lots of photos.  I guess it was being old fashioned and not wanting to be obsessed with recording the moment but just enjoying it as it happened.

It was also about self-consciousness and not wanting to face how we looked.  I spent years not even being able to look at photos of myself, because of being overweight.  I certainly didn’t want to look at videos.

But now I look on my phone and find I have in fact recorded video clips of all sorts of silly things in the last few years, like the cattle parade at the South of England Show, and ducks and rabbits in the tents, and balloons at a balloon festival, and empty stretches of beach, when I was away somewhere atmospheric on my own.  In other words places – atmospheres, things to show you when I got back, which I mostly never did.

Now you are gone it seems like madness to have clips of ducks and suchlike, and yet so few times I turned the phone to you to record your presence.  I have found 15 clips where you appear, but usually for less even than a second, as I turn the camera to you at the beginning or the end of the clip.  There are only three where you speak.  This is going to be such a regret!

All the conversations we must have had over 29 years!  All the times we sat in the front room talking.  Why oh why did I never just record some random conversations we had – either on the video or my voice recorder?  I know the answer – it was because it was too morbid.  No-one wants to consciously say, I’ll just record you for a while so I’ve got a record in case you die.  So I never did.  But I should have thought.  You were getting older, we were both large and unfit.  We should have thought it through and done some videos deliberately; now it’s too late.

There are three tiny clips only, John, where I can hear your voice.

On one I say, ‘go on, say something,’ and you say ‘I can’t think what to say,’ and then ‘okay, I’ll eat a grape – here’s me eating a grape’.

On another equally short one I ask you to repeat something funny you must have said about baby guinea pigs.  (I have no idea what this must have been, I guess it was just an example of our wide ranging often humorous discourses!)  You say ‘I can’t remember what I said’, and then something like ‘no, it can’t have been the same crop of baby guinea pigs..’ but then the video cuts out!

In another, you are in the hotel in Turkey, by the pool, and I’ve asked you to say something, so you say something self-consciously like, ‘Here we are on holiday in Turkey, in Suntopia, having a lovely time’ and then you laugh.

Not enough John.  Nothing to show your character, your intellect, your humour.  So many chances I had to record you – absolutely any day, talking about something on telly, or about something you’d read in the papers, anything.

I remember thinking more than once that I should do an interview with you, to capture your opinions, on the voice recorder.  But I never pursued it because of that morbid factor.

You would say it didn’t matter, and that I’ll have my memories.  But it’s a regret.

I even used to sing, years ago, that song, ‘If I had a talking picture of you – I would run it every time I felt blue – and applaud each time you whispered, I love you’.  And now we have the technology!

I’m so obsessive in documenting other parts of my life – what a silly, silly omission never to have made a video record of you!  I wish I had hours and hours, I would have looked at it over and over, and it would have been like you were still there in front of me.

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