WHAT IS THIS?
I’m Ian, and these are my memoirs, a combination photo album / journal / writing apprenticeship currently covering three volumes, each a period in my life: childhood through age 18; 1994 through 2010, the years that Marie-Helene and I spent together raising our six children; and post 2010.
WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?
It was the spring of 1979, and I was preparing to graduate college. Finally!
Departure from Berkeley, my wonderful college town, was imminent. In the fall I would move back East to law school, and the pending move, the loss of college life and the expected scattering of college friends, were evoking in me a dance hall of feelings. As was my wont, I watched the dancing from the sidelines, an exercise in wistful nostalgia.
Sitting in the lounge at Strawberry Creek College next to the Women’s Center in building T 9 (“T” for temporary, which has long since lived up to its name), basking in the memories, I compiled my first photo album out of that dance hall of feelings.
Alone in the lounge much of the time, even though it was a public space, because Strawberry did not offer courses during the summer quarter, and smoking way too much, maybe 60 a day, I fitted in compiling the album between a graduating senior’s unbelievable social life and 40 hours a week driving the campus shuttle bus to BART (amusingly called “Humphrey Go-Bart”).
The album was loosely based on the three wonderful years at Cal, and as I put the pages together themes compiled themselves: there were family pages, pages on English friends, pages on Cambridge NY and Canada, you name it.
I spent hours going through the photos I’d accumulated from this or that pocket camera, none yet 35 mm, and sorting them, first into the ones that I wanted to highlight by putting them in an album, and then into groups with a theme for pages of the album.
As it developed, the whole was a mish-mash of a young life, showing the beginnings of an appreciation of all the good things that I already lived and known, and an awareness of some of the bad.
Glimpses of the future were also visible. Several of the themes included Antony and Laura Nash, my nephew and niece, then aged four and two respectively. Their parents were in the album too of course, but my love for these two, the first two growing babies I knew well, had already planted in me a strong desire to have children of my own, and preferably a few!
The album brought the bigger emotions of the time back into focus, which may have been why I was smoking so much.
I had arrived in Berkeley with Sue, in the middle of my first real love relationship. We met in 1973, had left England together to go to college in the US, and had adventured up the Alaska Highway (and back) in a 1966 Dodge Dart wagon during the summer of 1976. What a trip! And here I was three years later, leaving without her.
We were pretty young, I was pretty stupid, and we each spent a lot of our time in Berkeley mourning the passing of that relationship.
I had already emigrated to the US before starting at Cal.
I hadn’t really thought of it that way as it happened. One year I was lying on the living room floor of the family home, 18 South View Road in Marlow, in suburban England, applying for a student visa to go to college in California, and the next I was at home on the living room floor again applying for a green card.
It all worked out surprisingly smoothly, and I settled down (not literally: movement is key!) thousands of miles from home, thousands of miles from mum and dad, both of whom I adored. I always missed each of them a lot, from then on in, still today even though both are long gone now, but there are irresistible forces in life.
Compiling that first photo album did help me come to terms with these real life forces.
But you could not see any of that in the finished album: it showed little of that internal process. The same applied to the various ensuing albums. which covered 1979-82 (law school), 1982-86 (New York City), 1986-90 (Paris) and 1990-3 (Paris). You could perhaps see a subtext in how photos were grouped, or in one or other of the typically short captions, but as memoirs, even diaries, these photo albums were woefully incomplete.
On that level, not much changed when the internet waltzed into the world. Beginning in 2000, my first online album took shape, courtesy of Microsoft’s Front Page. I worked on the online album for ten years, off and on, until 2010, and it is still pretty much all there at www.zinzins.net.
There was still not a lot in the way of feelings being expressed, although they were more evident as the zinzins years progressed. By the end of that era, I was getting into the stories, and starting to let myself go. Here’s an example from 2010: a Cat Stevens concert in Paris with Tom.
How did this change happen? Well, beginning in 2003, during the course of a year working in Newport Beach and commuting weekly back to Santa Cruz, I started writing a “proper” memoir. I didn’t know how to write, but all of a sudden had free time away from the family, and Marie-Hélène suggested that this would be a good time to learn.
The idea behind the choice of a memoir as the subject matter was that it would at least have some use, as communication with the children, even though the writing itself was obviously going to need improvement as I learned how. If I had tried my hand at a novel, then the finished product would have ended up being thrown out. Didn’t fancy doing that!
That first memoir was complete by about 2008, after years of on again, off again massaging. I posted it discretely online, and it has been studiously ignored ever since! It covers my first 18 years, and is now here: If I Only Knew. Most of it is pretty dull, I’m afraid, although the Beatles chapter is fun to read, and it gets more interesting during my teenage years. I’m still hoping that the children will take the time to read it as they get older.
I began the second memoir in 2011, and finished it in 2016. Once more, it was an on again, off again labor of love, this time covering the sixteen years of Marie-Hélène’s and my beautiful blended family, Nous les Zinzins! The family was no longer an integrated whole, but I worked through the feelings of loss by telling its stories.
I told the stories in different ways over the years spent reworking the site, focusing at first on what had gone wrong, and then on the good times. Parental unhappiness tends to focus on the bad after a divorce, and I want to remind the children that much of our time together had been wonderful.
I’m planning on doing more volumes of memoirs in the coming years, touch wood and whistle! I did start my young adult period, ages 18-30, with the working title “Just Gimme Some Truth.” But it’s been years since I even looked at it.
Real life can be so time-consuming!
WAYS TO NAVIGATE THIS SITE:
There are various ways to navigate each volume, and each volume is different.
My childhood is easy to navigate: click on the title page, and you will see a summary of each of the 25 chapters, any of which you can jump to. They are in chronological order, meaning that it is easy to read this volume as one story. The chapters are also listed in the right margin of this volume.
The last volume, Aging Gracefully (most of the time!) is a normal blog, meaning that it is in reverse chronological order, with the first 2010 post last, and the most recent post first. The title pages (there are two of them) list the posts by title, as does the right margin.
And congratulations!!! You have arrived at one of the least visited sites on the entire Internet! Sites like this are proof that Bob Dylan saw the precursors to the Internet about fifty years ago when he “Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’.”
I’m whispering here: “hello!”
You can of course comment on any post or page. Or you can get in touch with me reliably at email@example.com. Please, please flag any errors that you stumble upon!
This entire site, all pages, posts and photos, is © Ian Stock 1990 – 2017, except for a few photos and some song lyrics, whose author is stated when known.
Not complicated. This is my stuff, the photos, the writings, everything except links to the Web. Do not use any of it (other than for non-commercial or educational purposes) without my prior written permission!!. This means YOU!!