Not a map of Wednesbury (for dad).
So Mum died suddenly, and ‘Mr Alzheimer’s’ screws with your memories: fractures them, erases bits, then re-shuffles them and deals them out again. So when you tell your tales of growing up and ‘courting’, none of us really know what’s what.
But then ‘your’ Wednesbury always did seem cartoonishly unreal – mixed up in my head somehow with old Beano’s and flea-market war comics. A place of air-raids and factories, smoke and churches, yellow light and fire and brick and stone. And the georgraphy never quite made sense – everything always seemed to be on a hill, or at the ‘top of the town’, or else ’round the corner’. (My own Wednesbury is flat and grey and empty, it’s concrete car parks and trips to Kwik Save and everything being too far apart.
Sorry dad. This is a hardly-map an uncertain territory. But it’s all we’ve got now, and it’s precious.
My dad has had Alzheimer’s for 10 years. He was diagnosed early, age 62. So we’ve all become finely tuned to what ‘memory’ is and isn’t, how it can be fragile and sturdy, true and not-true, often all at the same time.
So I knew I wanted to do a memory map connected to my dad’s memories, and the stories he often tells. I wrestled for a long time of how to make it ‘map-like’ – because (as I say in the piece) – in my head, Wednesbury doesn’t make geographical sense, and it’s all mixed up with childhood comic books.
Then I realised – duh – that the cartoonish non-map was the map…