This September I lost Mum. Although she had been very ill in the past, and I had rehearsed for the worst many times, her death was completely unexpected. Numbly, I set about arranging a non-funeral ceremony, and also found myself writing the article below.
It started out as a eulogy, but after I’d posted it I worried it was only a fan piece and, worse, one about me, not Mum. So I wrote a fuller non-religious service, which took place in beautiful sunshine and included three of her favourite songs. This time I remembered Mum for all the goodness she brought to the world, and wrapped the eulogy around a more-fitting example from popular culture, her favourite book: Sheila Burnford’s ‘The Incredible Journey’.
But I kept coming back to the first draft, the one you about to read (thanks for being so patient) partly because it is more raw about my feelings and memories. And partly because people got back to me.
Since its publication, I have been contacted by many strangers, a lot of them Doctor Who fans, who similarly recall watching the show in the company of people they have since lost. Although the tones of their expressions differed greatly, some academic, some nostalgic, the content had a similarly about it.
First off, and no surprise really, all were conventional offers of condolences, an etiquette whose importance I admit I underestimated, for I did find this aspect comforting. Secondly, the majority responded with stories of their own, usually about loved ones who had passed. These stories typically reunited the dead and the living through the recollection of significant events. Finally, every single person who wrote to me identified as profoundly important the theme of television as a source of vernacular memory.
That little idiot box in the corner, which a generation watched guiltily, is also the centre of so much family-ness. Part of the Gogglebox culture where television’s stories are shared and retold in conversations. Television is not a mere mediator of our stories, it harvests them; it’s storytelling skill lies in its placement in our lives, reflecting back our domestic realities, an everywoman who sits and watches while we watch.
As one stranger put it to me, about her and her father, You reminded me of our own memories watching Doctor Who together.
Television memories are those where the popular and the personal are entwined, times when we sat down together, reflected in the green screen, memories that don’t seem significant and are all the more precious for that.
Here, then, is that blogpost dedicated to Mum.
WATCH WITH MOTHER