The great house clear up continues and today I tackled my big box of old photos. Up until about the age of 20 I would quite fastidiously place all my photos in albums. Back then of course a photo was a precious commodity - you didn’t take many and you didn’t really know what photos you had until they came back from Prontoprint (I wonder how Ian Prontoprint is getting on these days). So you’d attempt to pick the best moments to capture and as long as you put them in an album quick they you’d also have them in the right chronological order.
But then I got lazy. Lazy at taking photos and lazy at putting them in albums. Today I had intended merely to attempt to sort my life in photos (future historians unaware of the switch to digital, may assume my life ended in about 2003), but I realised I had all my photos from Camp America in one envelope and had at least marked up what they were and when they were taken on the back. So 32 years on, I put them in some empty photo albums. And then I had space in a couple of albums that had shots from the late 80s in them, so I managed to locate enough contemporary loose photos to fill those albums up. I did have one more empty album and considered pushing into the 90s, but it felt odd to fill up albums with photos from holidays with ex-girlfriends or even work with ex-comedy partners and I tiring of the tedious act anyway, so I left it for now.
As with the correspondence I was going through this week I had to make some decisions about what to keep and what to throw away. It seems odd to keep something for three decades and then bin it, but equally it’s strange to have photos that are so dark or blurred that you can’t make out the subject, or that include people or places that you can’t really remember. Photos are really only there as an aide memoire. If the memory of them has gone, then is it worth keeping.
I wasn’t ruthless though and if some bad photos showed an element of a room in our house or a person I knew (even if I couldn’t quite picture the context) I held on to them. I am sure those things will become more evocative as I grow older. But I fully know that these albums will not survive long beyond my death. And nor should they. Who in the future will want to see a picture of a 15 year old Geoff Quigley rolling around with his legs in the air and probably farting? Only me. And maybe Geoff. I am glad that moment can still be revisited now.
I found one photo from the mid-80s (which I may have found the last time I sorted my photos and may even have blogged about) of me, entering my family’s “posh” living room (the one we had for visitors and opening Christmas presents - though latterly the TV and Acorn Computer made their way in there too - and I did my A level revision on the table in there with my back to the window, occasionally glancing around at kids cycling around in the sunshine and wishing I was free). In the photo I am eating a yoghurt. I remember this being taken. It was a surprise shot by my first girlfriend Sian and you can see from my face and my yoghurt filled mouth that I was not expecting it. This kind of thing passed for a practical joke in the 80s and I remember Sian laughing at having got me.
It’s funny now, of course, because as it catches me almost shame-faced in the act of yoghurt consumption it provides a nod to the poster of my show “Someone Likes Yoghurt”. It’s basically the same.
I still think being caught in the act of eating a yoghurt is one of the funniest things that can happen. In the moment of lifting yoghurt to mouth you are vulnerable and to be caught at it, you essentially realise what a ludicrous act eating a yoghurt is. There’s a bit in Monty Python where the show cuts back to Eric Idle at a desk and he is eating a yoghurt and he’s caught in the headlights. And Stew and I once got on a tube at White City and happened to sit down opposite our director who was eating a yoghurt. He lost all authority over us.
Falling out of a hammock and being caught eating a yoghurt. Those are the two funniest things in the world. Would someone being caught eating a yoghurt whilst falling out of a hammock be funnier? Probably not. To combine the two would destroy the comedy of either. This is a complex business.
But looking back at that photo now, it’s hard to believe I am this red-faced, rouge-lipped pretty and slim young man. I do look very feminine (that’s not a sweater dress, just a very long sweater, so basically a sweater dress), but I look good. I always thought of myself as chubby and plain (the low self-esteem or defensiveness by getting the insults in first had kicked in), but I am skinny and though I am certainly not manly, there’s an effete beauty there that you’d think would have had the New Romantic girls of my generation falling over themselves to capture the precious virginity that would hang around my neck like a self-imposed albatross for at least another two or three years. My girlfriend was all for taking funny photos of me mid-yoghurt, perhaps the most intimate thing that two teenagers can do, but that was as far as it was going to go, yoghurt-wise.
I wish I could back and tell that idiot how fat and ugly he’s going to be and to make the most of his wispy, sexiness and find a girlfriend who will not only not try to undermine him by catching him in flagrante with a yoghurt, but also put out a bit more.
Except I don’t think he was really into the idea of putting out either. So I’ll leave him and his lipstick red lips alone. And instead marvel at the wall paper and plate decoration choices of my parents.