Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Discarded memories

The builders have now started work preparing for the installation of our new kitchen in the house in Meadow Street which will be our home in retirement. As Tredegarville School has an INSET day there was no 'God on Mondays' this week. Tuesday we went up to Worcester to have lunch with old friends Mike and Gail, for a pleasant few hours escape from the mess and the decisions.

Having moved Owain into his tidy new abode, it's time to shuttle car loads of redundant stuff accumulated over the past eighteen years of house ownership to the nearest city dump. Carpets, an old filing cabinet, redundant ancient electrical bits and pieces. It's also been time to go through the remaining crates of old files, with some dating back forty and fifty years. Deciding what to keep and what to discard as part of downsizing is still hard. One gets glimpses of long disregarded memories, awakened by finding a batch of correspondence or an old magazine. How nice it would have been to go through everything, maybe digitize some material for future reference.

The reason for keeping so much was that one day I might write a memoir of church life from my experience during the period of my ministry. That was before I had the guts to scrutinise my own decision, asking: Who'd want to read it anyway? I've been in public ministry during interesting times and been fortunate to have such rich and varied experiences, but for the most part I've been a spectator in significant times rather than a participant. The privilege has been to preach the Gospel in this amazing era, and take the world to God in prayer. For this I am most grateful.

Tuesday night, there was a mountain of green recycling bags in between the bins, ready for collection, heavy with paper, half a dozen of them, taking away the fine print detail of a work life that acquired many documents and records for one purpose or another (not to mention teaching notes and sermons). These have been rarely consulted even for sentimental purposes down the years, perhaps because I tend to live too much in the present. All those papers represent an opportunity to re-insert myself into my past. Sometimes the past revisits me of its own accord, and that seems sufficient now that I am resigned to relying solely on stories capable of decent recollection. Anyway, the future is more interesting, and thankfully un-documented.

At the end of Monday afternoon I drove out to St Mellons with birth and marriage certificates to be verified by the staff member of Quantum Advisory, an agency which manages the Church in Wales Pension scheme on behalf of the Representative Body. In the post over the weekend came a similar verification request from the Church of England Pensions Board, with several forms to fill in, including one very strange one relating to tax allowance on pensions over the estimated lifetime of the pensioner. The entitlement is £1.75 million. If I live until I'm ninety, I may get to receive about a fifth of that sum in total. I wonder how many church pensioners with more lucrative careers behind them get anywhere near exhausting their entitlement?

Finally Wednesday evening, I completed the last of the podcasts. It's been my late evening project this past week, in between attacks on the crates of paper files. Internet files don't take up much space at home, that's for sure. There was a news item about recording inactive websites for posterity, such as those used by politicians who go out of office, or as campaign platforms - and all those news pages in their various edits as well, I guess. They may be out there, disused on a server, but over time because of growth of internet content and traffic, they become harder to access, to the point where it takes so long they've effectively disappeared and are lost. Concern is rising that a great deal of information about the Age of Information is more ephemeral than we imagine, and won't outlast us, as the paper records of the past half millennium have done. But like my old files on their way to recycling - material of any importance would have found more use than it actually did. So what's with this compulsion we have to hoard useless stuff?

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