We went on a road trip around the South of Wales – Cardiff, the Brecon Beacons, Swansea, the Valleys.
But something bad happened.
Pretty much all my photos from this trip – gone. I have a few iPhone snaps, but the rest. Gone. I’ve feared this moment. The day when my camera is stolen, my hard drive lost. It happened a different way than I expected – my memory card just, died. It couldn’t be read by anything. The awful thing? I reformatted it when I’d finally given up, and now it works again. So I could probably have retrieved the photos. Before I reformatted. Now? Nope. Gone.
I thought I’d feel a sense of emptiness. How would I remember? It would be like I was never there. What could I show you? How could I conjure the magic of sitting on the side of a cliff amongst the ruins of a castle as the sun sets with mere words? Now all I have to show you that magical moment is me posing weirdly in front of said castle.
Instead of pictures though, I have memories. Of towns filled with books (Hay-on-Wye), stacked against walls outside, lining the castle grounds, piled upon piles of piles in old, musty cellars. I have memories of welsh cakes in castles, tea rooms, buzzing markets filled with Welsh pensioners picking their vegetables. Of visiting Dylan’s family in the valleys, slipping in their icy driveway, eating Welsh-Chinese food in the car from a takeaway deep in mining country.
Of small village pubs tucked away on the windy valley streets, filled with too much lipstick, hairspray and testosterone – where the answer to ‘What beers do you have?’ is ‘Beer.’ Driving up into the Brecon Beacons early in the morning, little icy tentacles of frost slowly melting on the windscreen as the sun paints the days first tiny rays of fire over them. Of street signs filled with words with too few vowels, of Dylan trying to pronounce them, proud of his Welsh heritage, perhaps not as accurate as he would hope.
I ate a lot of Welsh cakes. One of the iPhone snaps that remained captures me and the 6 bags I stuffed in my handbag to take home. I also had my first traditional Welsh food – cockles and laver bread at Swansea Market. Laverbread is, ahem, seaweed boiled to a black paste, and cockles are, well, you all know the nursery rhyme. Tiny little clams. Both quite tasty, I guess, but I’m not sure they work for me as a breakfast food.
We walked a lot, exploring the countryside. The Mumbles, the Beacons.
We ate Sunday roasts at tiny little stone pubs, hundreds of years old and patronised by what seemed to be the entire town.
Most of all, I learnt that I rely too much on photographs.
I use them to geotag where I’ve been, rather than remembering where I visited. I use them to capture what I’ve seen, rather than capturing the image to memory.
I’m not going to stop taking photographs, but I might stop taking as many.
I’m going to record my life to memory first.