Recalling happiness.

Now that we've mostly discarded the dedicated camera in favour of our smartphone and PC I think we, or rather those who come after us, may be missing something of real value.

An intrinsic part of a family excursion or occasion or holiday used to be, on our return to home and job routine, the ritual trip with those little spools of film to Boots the Chemist or some other photograph developer. A week later I remember well our eagerly awaited return to pay for and pick up the paper wallet containing prints and negatives. We would hurry to the nearest cafe, there to pore over those 24 snapshot memories, evidence of our 'having (had) a wonderful time'. Oh, the all too often disappointment but, ah, the elation when an accidental-on-purpose master-shot came into sight. Of course, after a few more viewings by family and workmates (sometimes struggling to conceal their disinterest!) the prints and negatives were consigned to the drawer or box, there to gather dust until, years and years later ...

Forty years later you come across one like this in that dusty box you. Or perhaps it's someone else of your family trying to sort out your 'effects' up there in the attic. Myself and my future wife Delia in an Italian restaurant. It was taken by the waiter. Happiness recalled.

Or even, sixty two years later, one like this below, taken by my future wife Joan, mother of my four offspring, during our so wonderful, (not to say prescient) holiday up in Rabbie Burns country .. I was performing on a miniature golf course. By the way my James Dean / Sam Snead pose is somewhat spoiled by the double exposure, that misty gasworks actually being in Joan's home city of York rather than Ayrshire! At any rate, happiness recalled, even if only for an instant.

These days of course we all take hundreds or thousands of photos. We store them on our smartphones and/or PCs, rarely review them ourselves and almost never show them to friends and family. Fifty or sixty years on? ... Nothing for anybody. No box of stored memories to pore over. Happiness no more.

It's the same difference with books. Over the years Dee and I collected thousands of hardback books, especially of World War One content (Dee) or Shakespeare / poets (me). We never threw out a hardback. There they all remain, on our bookshelves, looked at sometimes, handled with the reverence they deserve, a tribute to those who went before in both the writing and the production. Today? I have a Kindle Fire. I can call up any book I like, forget it when it's read or abandoned. Doesn't feel the same, somehow. Doesn't provide the same happiness..

So why, today, do we think that taking and storing our personal memories electronically represents progress? Progress from where to where? Leaving what trace of our passing on the sands of time, what ripple in the tideways of human happiness?

Convenience; cost or rather the lack of any. Accessibility if you ever want access. Yes of course, but a poor exchange, I would suggest, for the feel of the thing, the look and the smell of it, for the pleasure of happiness recalled.

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