Yes, the title of a Paul McCartney album, but also a description of myself. A common conversation between me and one of my daughters might go like this…
“Do you remember that time you abandoned us in the woods and made us find our own way home?”
“That never happened.”
“It did, Dad! Don’t you remember? You said it was character building?”
“No. Never happened.”
This is a fictional conversation about a fictional event. I am not Bean Dad. “Do you remember that time you gave me a tin of beans and a can opener and told me I’d have to learn to use it if I wanted to eat that day?”
I am not Bean Dad, but I am, apparently, Dad who remembers almost nothing of my kids’ childhoods, at least not the way they remember it.
Part of the problem, I think, is that I was always behind a camera. I remember when my sister at university, she had a friend who showed her a load of photos of he and his mum at various tourist traps, and she asked, “Why are there none of your dad?” “He’s always taking the photo.”
And so it was with me. As someone who hates having his photo taken, I am the one behind the camera. And later, I was the one behind the Mac, getting more and more adept at turning a 60-minute Mini DV tape into a 5 minute iMovie entitled (if I forgot to change it) My Great Movie, which would later be burned onto a DVD along with a few other such edits. A DVD entitled, if I forgot to change it, My Great DVD.
I’ve got 14 years of My Great DVDs, from my older daughter’s first grainy Christmas in France (filmed on analogue tape and later converted) to 2010, which is about the time my kids will have started pulling faces every time a camera was pointed their way. Well, 13 years: 2002 is missing, for some reason. Anyway, 2010 was about the time I stopped using a dedicated DV camera and began to rely more and more on my still camera or, eventually, iPhone. In hindsight, this was a mistake, because no matter what phone you buy, you always end up worrying about how much storage you have left. Memory almost full etc., and there is nothing more unforgiving than video when it comes to eating up memory.
As for me, I do sometimes regret that I spent so much of every holiday and other occasion with a camera glued to my face. The worst of it were the school shows, where instead of just watching, you know, your kid, you’d spend an hour zooming in and out, trying to pick out her face in the third row of the chorus. You’d end up with wobbly, choppy footage which was useless anyway. I wish I’d left my camera at home on such occasions. But I can’t go back and change that now. What I’ve ended up with are these 13 years of short films, between five and seven per year, which take us through the regular annual events. From the garden Easter egg hunts to the sunny Whitsun holidays at the beach to the quotidian details of life in Plancher Bas or Auxelles Bas: chickens, rabbits, swimming pools, swings, walks, visitors.
I decided this week to re-import these DVDs onto my hard drive, because the one thing you can be sure of is that you must keep transferring these movies onto different media. I still have a DVD player in the house, but if it were to die, would I replace it? From tape to hard drive to optical disc and then back onto a solid state drive. Keep the files moving. What else to do? I need to make multiple copies in multiple places. Uploading to YouTube might be smart, but there will be so many copyright violations! Because part of making these annual edits was dropping a piece of music on as the soundtrack. These tracks were chosen not because they were appropriate to the picture but just because they were part of the soundtrack of that year. It’s easier to edit to music, too.
Take the one above, for example. An unremarkable set of clips from a routine summer in Plancher Bas, 2003 edition. But there is my younger daughter, not yet three, pretending to read a book, which is cute, and on the soundtrack, Mr Yoakam singing “The Back of Your Hand” from his 2003 album Population Me. An album I probably haven’t listened to in 15 years or more, but wow: what a great song.
It can totally wreck you, watching this stuff (which might be why 2002 is missing), but I suppose in a good way. Worse for my OH, who can see her gran, her great aunt, her uncle, all now dead, and gets to see our now-adult children speaking Franglais and running around the garden.
(I would like to apologise for any distress caused by my use of the font Papyrus in the titles of the above video. I don’t know what I was thinking.)