A few weeks ago I was up at my mum’s and we decided to get the slides out. I dragged the old projector and wooden slide box down from the attic. With a bit of fiddling, the initial blur of colour sharpened and there in the sunshine was my brother with a blonde pudding-bowl haircut and hand-knitted jumper, me with rosy cheeks and an enormous nappy, and Pip, the chocolate-coloured dog, tripping around in the flower bed.
Snapshots from the past sparkled back at us from the living room wall – beaches, birthdays, mountains, buckets, spades and westcoasting weekends. The slides have got muddled over the years, but that adds to the magic, the surprise of what you might see: a fire on the beach at dusk, aunties in shorts, brown-legged and bare-footed, grannies on deck chairs, kids skittering around; mum sitting on a rock, smiling, with me, just a toddler, in her arms; my brother in flowery dungarees and a sailor’s hat; my papa in his bunnet, trousers rolled up, holding my hand as we paddle in the burn; the Good Companion – the trusty orange tent – pitched by the sea, glowing in the evening sunshine; mum, heavy fringed, and dad, with a drooping moustache, camping, climbing and exploring, looking young, carefree and slightly reckless.
The slide show is a bit of a family tradition, and I’ve always loved it. It captures a period and saves it, unchanging. By the time I was two, mum had upgraded to a normal camera. But the slides, to me, are more vivid and more alive, than photos. Shared, they prompt memories and tales and laughter. They tap into something I can’t put into words. A feeling, a warmth, the comfort of childhood, a time that’s passed, homespun and homemade, a history, a simplicity, a romance, a freedom, an ease of life. The slides wrap me in their arms, whispering stories from the past.
I was listening to Richard Holloway on Radio 4 the other Saturday talking about his inheritance tracks. He said: ‘I’m a happy person, but I’ve a touch of melancholy. I love the autumn, the falling of leaves, the passing of things. This wee song captures for me the loss of Scotland as well as the beauty of Scotland.’ That’s what the slides do for me. They’re tinged with sadness, a sense of lost youth, but mostly they’re a reminder of where I come from, my inheritance, and there’s great beauty in that.