Where were you?
I've been away on the Cumbrian coast to Carnforth. The tiny station there boasts an enormous notice " CARNFORTH THE STATION OF BRIEF ENCOUNTER".
It's a charming station, stopped in time with red fire buckets planted up with lobelia and geraniums and a small waiting room cum cafe from which Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson might emerge at any moment to say their desperate farewells over and over again.
I came home with the image fresh in my mind only to find a stray obituary parked on my desk. I think I've already said I collect them but why this one? Then I re-read it. How apt. Another iconic image for ever imprinted in the consciousness: the obituary belonged to Richard Stolley, editor of 'People' magazine. Before that he was bureau chief of 'Life Magazine'.
Immediately after Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, Stolley was dispatched there where he met a freelancer, who told him the motorcade in Dealey Plaza and the assassination had been filmed by a local businessman with a name that sounded something like Zaprooder.
Stolley's tracking down of Abraham Zapruder would in itself make good detective fiction. Under tremendous time pressure and with great ingenuity he did find Zapruder within 6 hours. He was a local dressmaker who had filmed the whole thing on an 8mm home movie camera. That film would rapidly become one of the most famous film clips in history and with it for ever went Stolley's name.
Most people in the world who were alive on that day can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the terrible news.
W.H.Auden says it all .
"About suffering they were never wrong, The old Masters: how well they understood Its human position: how it takes place
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse Scratches its innocent behind on a tree."
While the world falls apart someone. somewhere is just hanging out the washing or setting the table for dinner. Ordinary lives going on unexceptionally in other places.
Or are they ordinary when you delve deep enough? My own memoir 'Inside Out: a Life in Stages' to be published by Red Door Press comes out on October 21 this year. I do hope you'll give it a try. Available from Amazon, Waterstones or Red Door Books via the net.