When the battered old suitcase comes out and your other half and mum are present, it’s usually a signal for the dust to be blown from those pictures of you in the bath.
It was therefore a relief to me (and readers of this blog, no doubt!), that a post-Christmas visit to my home town of Swindon involved a far less X-rated reminiscence.
Instead of the classic mum/partner embarrassment campaign, a peek inside the ‘Swindon Suitcase’ of treasured mementos actually produced an unexpected blend of childhood tales and journalism.
Buying Albie’s first shoes
Visiting home over the new year, Albie reached his latest milestone in needing some sturdy walking shoes. When I say milestone, I mean his mummy decided he was probably going to be walking soon, so off to the shoe shop sale we went.
In what appears to be a UK tradition, at least in our families, a baby’s first shoes must be Clarks.
This momentous and probably premature purchase triggered a request from Hanna to venture into the suitcase to see what my first footwear looked like.
And sure enough, like a ancient museum artefact, looking worse for wear and covered in a fuzzy layer of white mould, my old shoes were inside. Their scabby appearance compared to my brother’s much older, mint condition pair was an unmissable opportunity to jokingly question whether mine were as much of a treasure than child number one’s!
Delving deeper – family links to journalism
The ‘Swindon Suitcase’ was less of a memory lane, more a memory city.
As well as the fousty footwear, scrapbooks and crappy child artwork even a mother would struggle to love was a hoard of what felt like everything else that decades of family history had to offer.
There was even the signature of now-disgraced DJ Dave Lee Travis buried in Mum’s record of her teenage years! I suspect she would have preferred an autograph of Michael Jackson on her Wembley 1988 concert ticket.
But back to the family, of greater interest was pictures and cuttings documenting my great-grandfather’s career in the printing of newspapers.
I vaguely recall him giving me a tour of the then Evening Advertiser printing presses before preschool when I was very young.
I can’t admit to being an expert in the old-school way of printing papers – but it’s quite possible that reference in this piece on his retirement to ‘sterotyper’ as well as his role as a ‘stereotyper’ could well be an early example of a typo!
It’s worth noting his job wasn’t to make up oversimplified images about people. It was actually a reference to the solid plates of metal used to print papers in those days.
On my dad’s side of the family, my great uncle also enjoyed a long career in printing newspapers. Maybe my career was written in the stars…
A quick stop-off at the pub
I’m not sure about the stereotypers but to reference a social pyschology stereotype, journalists of yesteryear often enjoyed a bevvy or ten to ease the stresses of the working day.
While I won’t admit to maintaining the tradition, early signs indicate Albie is well placed to bring it back should he follow in my footsteps.
School reports – ‘Oliver is reluctant to express his opinions’
Back in the suitcase, more gems were uncovered which raised a smile.
As content editor, one of my tasks at work last year was to contact all 50-odd primary schools on our patch and organise the publication of group shots of all the new starters.
‘First Class’ is a newspaper staple. Throughout the years, countless hacks have drawn the short straw and been assigned the administrative nightmare of coordinating the major operation.
Sure enough, within the Swindon Suitcase was my ‘First Class’ snap. I said a silent prayer for the poor sod who had the misfortune at the Adver in 1996.
School reports were an enlightening read, too.
The running theme painted a picture of me as a shy child, completely unlikely to enter the world of journalism. They were 100 per cent accurate.
But I wonder whether the council figures and all those who have been the subject of my criticism over the years would agree with Mr Kiver’s year-six summary: “He is rather reluctant to express his opinions and ideas’.
At least the reference to being able to spell ‘most common words correctly’ goes some way to dispelling the social media myth that I oversee papers with little grasp of the English language!
I won’t name the teacher who reported my ‘flare’ for English.
The prime purpose of this blog is to provide a digital scrapbook of our parenting journey.
It is like the Swindon Suitcase, minus the frayed edges and hot-pink sketches of Mum.
I hope it also records the important people of the past, too, just like the case.
I’ve often remarked about the value of Nan and Gramp in my upbringing – and among the memories was this fantastic excerpt from my first school reading record, documenting a forgotten snippet in time when Nan and I enjoyed a book together.
Never let the past be erased.