I have a strange approach to memory. I mean, I don’t know because I don’t really know how anyone else’s memory works, even when they say ‘oh my memory is terrible’. It’s all approximation, baby. But I’m going to go ahead and presume that mine is neither orthodox or particularly good.
I can’t remember dates, years, locations, events or even humans very well, but if I try to remember a very particular thing, like, when did I first hear the phrase, ‘Like busses, there’ll be two along at the same time’, what I see in my head is a wind swept playground in front of a low red brick primary school. I don’t know if there’s any correlation between this phrase and the place, but it’s what I see in my head.
I am envious, in awe and suspicious of people who can recall moments with ease. How the fuck does anyone write an autobriography? ‘I first met Joaquin at a drinks party given by Sooki. We were at a bar in Mayfair, The Chiselled Chimp’. He was wearing a blue cashmere rollneck and initiated conversation by enquiring after my Chagalls. We drank ‘Noisy Williams’ till dawn ..’ (Yes, this is my idea of glamour. No apologies.)
How do people remember to remember this detail? Or do people who write autobiographies have the self belief to think ‘I should probably note all this down because I’m the kind of important person who will have to write an autobiography one day’? Which is how and why they end up writing an autobiography.
So this is why I can pin down (or think I can pin down, in some way) the phrase, ‘Like Busses’ but not where I spent Christmas two years ago. Oh and if you’re not familiar with the phrase, “Like Busses’, it basically refers to the idea that nothing will come along for ages and then two will come along at the same time and can refer to anything; job interviews, lottery wins, unsolicited travelling salespeople. It’s kind of rueful and carries that sort of pissy British way of downplaying the hand of fate with it. I recall hearing it a few times in it’s full form ‘Like Busses, you want it for ages and then two come along at once’) until finally I must have given off the air of being someone who understood the phrase at which point it was shortened to ‘Like Busses, isn’t it?’ With whom I shared this landmark moment remains a mystery of course, but when I think of this particular ‘Like Busses’ I see the shop front of a butchers in my hometown. Memory, huh.
And I also wonder if the phrase ‘like busses’ is in itself, a bit ‘like busses’, because, after a long drought, I heard it twice yesterday in entirely separate contexts; I said it at exactly the same time as another woman in the post office queue and then we’d laughed at the very ‘like bussiness’ of it. The second time was later, and with thanks, in my own head, when I opened my email to see that two piece of flash fiction had been accepted after a long and stomach churning silence. Like Busses, I tell you.