Wednesday 10 April 2013

I is for ... I REMEMBER

So today is the 10th of April, which must mean that it's the ninth day of the A to Z challenge.  I've decided to share my love of writing through this challenge, and hopefully introduce people to the world of Oulipo.  I first heard about Oulipo when I was at university, and I was fascinated by their approach to writing that I decided to delve deeper into the world of experimental writing.

In a nutshell, this group of writers likes to assign constraints to their work in order to push creative boundaries.  Not only is this fun to do (the process of writing something with a constraint really does open the mind), the results are brilliant.


I is for ... I REMEMBER
"This manner of writing, while not Oulipian, has played a large enough role among the group's members to deserve a mention.  The device is simple: the words "I remember" are used to introduce each of a series of recollections that can be anything from a line to a page in length." 
Oulipo Compendium ed. Harry Matthews & Alastiar Brotchie (London: Atlas Press, 2005) page 163.

I love things to do with memory, especially if it means I can regress to my childhood for a while.

Georges Perec's Je me souviens can be found here, in French

Excerpts of Joe Brainard's I Remember can be found dotted all over the internet, but if you can't be bothered to search, you can look here and here

Writing lists like this can be used as a 'wake up' exercise when writing, to get your mind active.  Or you can use them as starting points for stories, scenes, or poems.


I Remember

I remember being small enough to stand up underneath the counter in our shop without hitting my head.

I remember Mum’s biddy bag.

I remember coming home from ballet lessons and watching Jimbo on Children’s BBC.

Photo credit: aussiegall / / CC BY

I remember ‘shaving’ with Dad in the mornings.  We would each have our own shaving brush and I would watch as he covered the lower half of his face with soap, then I would do the same on my face.  He used his razor to shave and I used my bladeless razor, copying his exact actions.

I remember thinking how uncomfortable Cinderella must have been wearing glass shoes.

I remember watching The Big Breakfast with Zig & Zag on Channel 4 in the morning before I went to school.

I remember making giant dinosaurs at primary school for a class project.  They were made out of cardboard and papier-mâché, and then painted.  We made a stegasaurus and a triceratops and they stood in the school atrium.

I remember being a bag of flour in a Christmas school play.  I was one of the ingredients that made up a Christmas pudding.

I remember being a Munchkin in my primary school’s production of The Wizard of Oz even though I was a lot taller than all the other Munchkins.

I remember the first time I watched The Omen.  Mum had taped it the night before and I watched it during the middle of the day just in case I got scared.  Instead of being scared I found it hilarious.  The special effects were atrocious, especially when a man had his head sliced off by a pane of glass and it was obviously a shop mannequin’s head that went bouncing on the ground.

I remember when Snickers were called Marathons.  Dad still refuses to call them Snickers.

I remember walking from Kessingland to Lowestoft, along the beach and cliffs, with Dad.  We came across war time pill boxes and underground bunkers.  These no longer exist due to cliff erosion.

I remember sleepovers and pyjama parties, where we thought it was great to go to bed at midnight.

I remember not being allowed to eat Smarties because of all the E numbers.

Photo credit: Lynne Hand / / CC BY-NC-ND
I remember bus bags.  These were the bags that my parents had in the shop for people to put their penny sweets in.  They were called bus bags because they had a picture of a bus on them with lots of happy children inside the bus eating sweets.  I was fascinated by this because Dad used to work on the buses for London Transport.  I really wanted to know how the bag company knew about this in order to send us bags that related to Dad’s previous job and his current job.

I remember lying on the fold out settee and watching Sword in the Stone whenever I was ill.

I remember making a cot for my dolls with Dad.  We made it out of two large Red Band packing boxes covered with blue, floral wallpaper that Dad found in a skip across the road for the base, with sponge foam, blue material and split pins so that it could have a headboard like my bed.

I remember playing SuperMarioBros and always being Luigi because he was tall just like me.

I remember solid, plastic dummies that you wore around your neck.

I remember roller-skating up and down outside my house on summer nights until the sun set.

I remember being able to hear the lions roaring at the Wildlife Park from my bedroom.

I remember going into town every Wednesday afternoon with Mum.  We would go to the bank and then to Gateway for food shopping.

I remember when a weekly food shop cost no more than £30.

I remember when Joan, the woman who worked in our shop, would hold a pen or a pencil between her top lip and her nose.  As a child I was most disappointed that I could not do the same.

I remember when Dad and I would draw faces by using all of the letters we had in our first names as parts of the head and face.

I remember playing corps-exquisite with Dad.  We would both have a piece of paper and we would draw a head at the top, fold the paper over so the head could not be seen, swap the papers, then draw the body, fold the paper over again and continue this until we had drawn a full body.

I remember that my blue bedroom carpet was the ocean and if I touched it I would get eaten by sharks and alligators.  I had to jump from the bed, balancing on cuddly toy stepping stones in order to escape safely.

I remember spending hours just looking through Mum’s button box.

I remember that I used to think ‘chuck’ was a swear word, and was very surprised to hear Mum say “It’s chucking it down out there” when it was raining.

I remember watching the Royal Variety Performance, but calling it the Royal Priority Performance.  My favourite was Ken Dodd with his feather dusters.

I remember Mum’s spice wheel.  We bought fancy labels for all of the jars and filled each one with a different spice or herb.  The smell was amazing.  I don’t remember Mum actually using any of them in her cooking though.

I remember breaking the food in my McDonald’s Happy Meal into small pieces and putting them into my Coke.  I still ate/drank it all.

I remember reading Bill’s New Frock.

I remember going to a café in Lowestoft with Dad.  He would always have a meal from the children’s menu and I would always have a meal from the grown-up’s menu.  The waitress always gave us each other’s food.

I remember not going anywhere without my dummy and my comfort blanket.

I remember seeing a copy of The Sport and reading the cover story about a woman who had had sex with a dog and then gave birth to a baby that was half human boy and half dog.  There were pictures of this dog-boy on the front of the paper which was all the proof I needed to believe that this story was true.

I remember learning to swim with a big blue float and giant orange inflatable arm bands.  I also remember having to wear a really tight swimming hat that smelled horrible.  Mum would fill it with talcum powder before stretching it over my head.

I remember thinking that Daddies Sauce had been given this name because my Daddy liked it.  I also thought that no one else was allowed to eat it.

I remember when P.J. from Byker Grove was left blind after having paintballs fired into his eyes when he took his goggles off, which made every child scared about going paintballing.

I remember taking the dog for a walk with Dad in the evenings.  He would always take an apple with him and rub it on his sleeve before eating it.

I remember cutting out the pictures from old Christmas cards with pinking shears to make gift tags for the next Christmas.

I remember John Candy dying before he had finished filming a film that he was starring in.  They had to use a body double and computer graphics to finish the film.

I remember thinking how unbelievable and amazing it was when there was a shift between black & white and colour in The Wizard of Oz and not understanding how it could be done.

I remember arguing with my friends about which one of us was going to marry Joey McIntyre from New Kids On The Block.

I remember Great Auntie Emmy sending my parents money each Christmas.  This money was to be spent on buying me a pair of slippers.

I remember wanting frog wellies, but my feet were too big.  In the end I got glow in the dark wellies which were loads better than the frogs.

Photo Credit: ChrisGoldNY / / CC BY-NC
I remember swapping sticker-book sticker doubles with friends in order to fill all the empty gaps in my sticker-book.  Any extra stickers were then stuck all over the living room door.

I remember wearing Dad’s cowboy boots.  On him they reached mid-calf.  On me they reached mid-thigh.

I remember Mum drawing pencil lines above my head on the wall and writing the date and my height next to it to see how much I’d grown.

I remember watching Punch & Judy shows on Lowestoft seafront and not having to pay because Professor Jingles knew my dad.
Photo Credit: elvis_payne / / CC BY-NC-ND
I remember how star-struck I felt when I saw Andi Peters in London.

I remember watching Top of the Pops and putting on Teletext 888 so that the words came up on the screen and I could sing along with the songs.

I remember finishing all the books in my primary school’s library, so I had to go to the local library that was next to the school in order to get books to read during private reading time.

I remember during rainy lunchtimes at primary school we were allowed to sit in the television room and watch Dennis cartoons.

I remember when Opal Fruits were Opal Fruits and not Starburst.  It was always ‘Opal Fruits, made to make your mouth water’ which I thought was strange as these sweets managed to dry my mouth out, not make it water.

Photo Credit: hddod / / CC BY-NC-ND
I remember dancing with Dad, clinging to his waist and standing on his feet.

I remember getting an indoor tent for Christmas.  I insisted on spending all of my time in there.  I would eat my dinner in there.  I would take all of my toys in with me, and I would still expect Dad to fit inside.

I remember getting my first ‘baby’ doll for Christmas.  I named her Orville after Keith Harris & Orville (the Duck).  I named my second ‘baby’ doll Peter, even though the man who gave it to me was called John.

I remember that nursery school days were divided into two parts; morning and afternoon.  I always went in the morning.  I had a coat peg and my own drawer.  Both had a picture of ballet shoes on them, which I thought was very clever as I was going to ballet lessons at the time.

I remember Dad would always look through an empty toilet roll tube or kitchen roll tube and say “I see no ships.”

I remember when my year 4 teacher, Mrs. Williamson, told us that her son would be joining our class.  When he arrived, all of the girls fell in love with him straight away.

I remember being a snowflake in a Christmas ballet performance.  Another girl, who was also a snowflake, told everyone that she was going to be a cornflake.

I remember falling asleep in the back of the car after long journeys and not wanting to wake up when we arrived home.

I remember Dad always talking in Spoonerisms.  We had chish & fips, tup of cee, par cark, nood gight, mood gorning, rouring with pain (and probably many more that I have forgotten!).

I remember Dad speaking in his own version of Franglais.  He would always say “murky beans” (merci bien), “murky buckets” (merci beaucoup) and “silver plate” (s’il vous plaît) instead of please and thank you.  Both he and Mum still do this.

I remember thinking Dad’s pipe was called a ‘pippelup.’  I was always fascinated when he was about to fill his pipe up, and managed to turn him saying “I’m going to fill my pipe up” into ‘pippelup.’

I remember thinking that I had invented the ‘apples & pears’ Cockney rhyming slang for stairs.

I remember listening to The Teddy Bear’s Picnic on a record that was in the shape of a teddy bear.

I remember listening to Paul Simon sing “You Can Call Me Al” one Christmas Day. That same Christmas I got a Lego house building kit, which Dad ended up building.

I remember reading that the lid on the bottle of bleach in the bathroom was ‘childproof’ and then wondering why I could open it.

I remember that every Wednesday at primary school students who had a birthday that week could bring their presents and cards to show the rest of the school.  Normally, people brought in bikes and skateboards.  Mr. Weatherly, our headmaster, would always ride up and down the assembly hall, occasionally falling off for comic effect.

I remember Skip for Heart.

I remember, like, when everyone, like, used the word ‘like’, like, loads of, like, times in, like, one, like, sentence.

I remember when the students in year 4 at my primary school got to go on Blue Peter for the Christmas carol show.  Mr. Weatherly, our headmaster, used to look after the Blue Peter tortoises and was allowed to take students onto the show.   I was really looking forward to going on there, but Mr. Weatherly left my primary school to go and work at another school when I was in year 4, so I didn’t get to go.  Years later when I was at high school I was talking to a friend about this and she told me that Mr. Weatherly had gone to work at her primary school when she was in year 4 and so she got to go on the Blue Peter Christmas carol show.

I remember Dad pushing me on the swings, and whenever I asked to be pushed on the knees, he would push my nose and vice versa.

I remember being scared of balloons.

Photo credit: Paco CT / / CC BY-NC-SA
I remember going to Step Aerobics with Mum and then watching European football matches on EuroSport when we got home.

I remember when Coventry City footballer David Busst broke his leg while playing against Manchester United.  The pictures of his leg bone protruding through his skin made me feel so ill that I couldn’t even talk about it without wanting to throw up.

I remember when a Day Out ticket to London from Lowestoft cost £25.

I remember that Mum used to smoke Blue Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes.

I remember the first deodorant I used.  It was Impulse vanilla.

I remember the first two jokes I ever heard and understood. 

    1. Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Doctor who…?

    1. Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Boo who?
Don’t cry, it’s only a joke.

I remember Dad’s ballet boots.

I remember my first piano lesson with Mrs. Coote, playing middle C and learning how to draw treble clefs.

I remember eating meat pies on Lowestoft seafront with Dad, shielding ourselves near the sea wall from the winter winds.

I remember having a pink My Little Pony wrist watch.

I remember being a bridesmaid at my Uncle’s wedding.  He wore a white suit with a black tie, she wore a navy blue wedding dress, and the bridesmaids wore green.

I remember the first lottery ticket I bought.  I was 16 on the Monday and bought a ticket for the Wednesday draw.  I was so excited when I won £10.

I remember when the bank used to use lb. weights and a set of balance scales to make sure that there were the correct number of coins in each money bag.

I remember getting my ears pierced on my 13th birthday.  Mum wanted me to wait until I was 16, but I pestered her until she gave in.

I remember singing my alphabet while watching Sesame Street and not fully understanding why my parents told me to sing ‘zed’ rather than ‘zee.’

Photo credit: epiclectic / / CC BY-ND

I remember always wanting The Very Hungry Caterpillar because I loved the holes in the cardboard pages to show what the caterpillar had eaten.  I never got this book.

I remember being taller than every other child at school until I was in year 6 (aged 11 or 12) at middle school when one boy finally overtook me in height.

I remember Dad trying to teach me how to skim stones in the sea.  I couldn’t even throw a stone into the sea (it would either end up behind me or land a few inches away from the water’s edge) let alone skim one. 

I remember going crabbing at Walberswick.

I remember making woollen pom-poms.

I remember when Princess Diana died.  I wasn’t upset that she’d died.  I was upset because Sunday morning television had been replaced by news footage of her death or the wedding ceremony between her and Prince Charles.

I remember thinking that it was unfair that the diabetic girl at school was allowed to eat Mars Bars during the day when we weren’t.

I remember making paper people chains.

I remember that we went through a phase of collecting snails, putting them in jars and tubs, and taking them to school.  One of Katherine’s snails gave birth in the school library.

I remember making a Guy for a bonfire out of Dad’s old clothes stuffed with newspaper.  The next morning we went to look at the remains of the fire, and all that was left was a pile of ash and Dad’s socks from the Guy.

I remember never really understanding how wrapping a block of ice-cream up in newspaper kept it cool.

I remember cheese and pineapple on sticks was always a main component of birthday party food, but no one ever ate the cheese. 


  1. I LOVE this post! So much of my writing is done in retrospect - I feel like you need time to digest and process an experience to really make it worth being read. Great stuff!

    A to Z Challenge blogger:

    1. Thank you. I agree. I've used various memories from my childhood as the basis for a lot of my stories. It makes them feel more real.

  2. I rarely work with writing prompts or "restraints" but I love this idea. I used to do it back in school and should probably think about it again! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Happy A-to-Z 2013! ~Angela, Whole Foods Living,

    1. Thank you :) It's a good way of organising your memories.

  3. I love things like this, especially when they're written by someone who grew up in a vastly different place or time than I did. It's like reading a love letter to a person who no longer exists - sweet and cute and just that little bit sad. Our whole lives are in the details, and yours are sublime.

    1. Aww thank you :D This was a project we had to do at university, and even though we were all of a similar age, it was still interesting to hear what everyone remembered. And a lot of the time I was reminded of things I'd forgotten.

  4. Interesting, I can see the benefits certainly. :)

  5. Oh my goodness, you went wild with this! I love it!

    I remember reading a blog posts on Rebeccah Writes.

    I remember having fun imitating her writing prompts.

    I remember being receiving positive responses, and it made me happy.

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

    1. Thank you :D Your comments always make me smile. I'm so glad that you're trying out everything. It makes this challenge all worthwhile.

  6. Great post! I think we must be about the same age, because I remember a lot of those things as well.

    1. Thank you :) I'm *cough* 31 *cough* but shh, don't tell anyone!