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Total recall

  • Posted on April 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Is it a blessing or a curse? I’m really bad at dates, maybe even at putting things in sequence. But I remember scenes, what was said, feelings, details, places. It’s the way my brain is wired. I may forget your birthday but not something you said or did. I don’t bear grudges though, or remember things that leave me angry; they are detached memories. You may have really upset me, and I will recall that, but it isn’t what I feel or think now.

It doesn’t make my memory perfect, and sadly it wasn’t ‘photographic’ for exams! I think it’s because I rethink and process things that mean something to me. That’s how I learned Greek vocabulary on the bus as a student: repeat and contextualise. But I was writing a poem this week out of a thought that tied together photographs, children and memories. As one does …

Photographs are taken to capture something meaningful, and that’s why we keep them. They bring back memories of more than that fraction of a second.

Children, even when fully adult, contain within them the memory of their conception, birth, nurture and release. This is why your own children are so different from anyone else’s.

Memories, are like both mental children, given birth – nurtured and matured, and also like photographs – captures of a story and a reminder of many other things.

All three are joined, in light and dark, happiness and sadness, continuation and closure.


My sister and I remember family photo albums, mounted with corners on black paper, some titled in white pencil, with grained-board covers and silk tassels to bind them. They were valuable enough to be kept in polythene bags, but not so valuable that our Mum threw them out years ago. I wonder what memories she didn’t want to keep or bequeath? There are no other pictures of our childhood. That was some time ago, and now she has still to meet her un-remembered daughter for the first time whom she has only seen in a photograph.

This week I tried to be helpful in preparing for divorce by drawing up a list of worldly goods, including my family photo albums. I suggested I had the negatives, in case I change my mind (it’s OK, there’s no blackmail in mind!) about saying my wife can have them all. They represent happy times and togetherness, before I lost my family to rejection. To me, they are pictures of contingent love, and that hurts. I have children, and I don’t even know where one of them lives. I have memories, but they are detached from my emotions now. They are reconceptualised, like Copernicus’ skies.


Nothing reminds you so much of your past, where you were, what it was like, or of your past aspirations and hopes. They sometimes brought directness and honesty into your life with their naivety, they made you laugh and drove you up the wall – only to dissolve it by lying on the floor and enacting ‘driving up the wall’. Yes, there is a photo …

Children capture your past and keep it, and remind you as they repeat your mistakes, bring new challenges and question everything you thought you remembered. They are yours, but also someone else’s, so inevitably they join other things together.


As unreliable as children, and as uncertain as a photo with no caption on the back or sequence in the album, memories are changeable, but often all we have. The most vivid are moments with meaning: developing love, profound emotions, the birth of children, achievement after struggle, moments of emotional risk, times when you suddenly realised things were not as you thought. Difficult conversations and lost friendships. The last time your daughter gave you a hug.

Memories could have a whole blog to themselves, possessive as they are, sometimes demanding as children, and imprinted through exposure to light and dark.

The poem

And so I wrote the poem, left it to marinate, and came back to stir it up and lay it out very differently and visually. This is something that ‘happened’ to a poem I wrote on suicidal feelings, and which made it really suddenly a lot more powerful, where the placing and spreading added as much as the words when read across the page. If you appreciate good poetry you may understand this, but basically I am saying you can read this in several ways. First, as unbroken lines like any other poem, but then in vertical or horizontal fragments, which may not be wholly grammatical, but as fragments they still have sense and meaning. It’s slightly holographic – and not very amenable simply to reading as performance! This one isn’t as complex as that, but read it across first, then try bits down, or at random.

Here is Recall as it stands at the moment (never say poem is really finished).


  • Posted on April 28, 2013 at 11:51 am


are like children that are memories
with birth times and wide eyes
exposed to light and shadows
memories joined to memories
are like memories that are photographs
that were once of our family
exposed to happiness and sadness
times joined to times
are like photographs that are children
wide-eyed free and happy
exposed forever as we once were
light shining onto light
photographs children memories
being recalled are as one exposure of our
longing and open eyes


2013 © Andie Davidson

Live poetry

  • Posted on January 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Red Roaster: Brighton and Hove Stanza of the Poetry SocietyLast night was wonderful hassle. Leaving work early to get home so I could get something to eat before going out to Brighton. I wasn’t feeling too well, rather wobbly in fact, but determined, and couldn’t decide if soup would keep me going or the final spag bol decision would finish me off. Then parking near enough to walk to the Red Roaster without getting frozen on the way back. Gawping at what I had forgotten about Brighton parking: you need 6 pound coins if you want to stay even slightly over one hour, and it was 6:50pm until free parking at 8. I risked it, hoping some jobsworth wasn’t taking delight in a last patrol at 7:55. I’m sure I wasn’t looking my best either.

But once there and warming up, and talking with friends from the Brighton and Hove Stanza of the Poetry Society, I was at home. That was except when I was feeling faint and hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself by keeling over. I actually relish the opportunity to read my poetry. You can only read it one way, so you lose the neat, deliberate ambiguity of the written word (‘peeling is a tearing … all lies in pieces after tears’ – Cooking with onions; ‘With intent I listen/ there is no rhythm in the rain’ – Intent is an image under canvas). The compensation is that you show how it feels and runs.

What a lovely evening; consistent but very varied poetry, all to a really high standard, and very individual. All as worthy of publication as the big names, in my opinion. But what touched me most was the number of people who made a point of coming to me to say how much, or why, they had enjoyed my pieces. Yes, I had been open in explaining the origin of some of my work in being transsexual. I’d rather people heard the words than spent time trying to work out my gender, and it is the heartbeat of much of what I write, even when it isn’t explicit. So to learn that I had evoked deep feelings of childbirth in a mum of two, felt almost an honour. There’s something quite moving about your words reaching some deep place in another, not because you’ve thrust your words on them, but because someone has just received them and taken them in, where they have resonated. That’s much more of a meeting than a handshake and hello.

Writing for me is an imperative, even though I do it all day as a job too. Cooking with onions was a line in my head ten days ago, when I woke up one morning, and evolved in my mind on the journey to work, where I captured enough on paper to remind me later, and the allusions multiplied. That’s how it is, and somehow it really works.

Here are the poems I read, in case you were there and want to read them again, or missed them:

I hope you like them.

Grrl Alex

  • Posted on January 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I consider Brighton a kind place. I go anywhere I like and have had very few negative experiences as a transgender woman. I don’t pride myself in ‘passing’, but I do try without going over the top. I don’t call it a disguise, though I appreciate to some that it is hiding male traits. I call it revealing what I should be: it’s just how I feel about myself from the inside. If someone looks twice at mean and thinks: ‘OK, I think there’s a man under there’ I don’t really care. That’s just how they have learned to think, and it really isn’t as simple as that.

A few months back I met Alex Drummond, a unique trans writer among other things (I really admire her joinery skills). He was over from Wales for a conference, and I wanted to talk about publishing, so we met up at the lunch break and migrated to a café. Sometime into our lunch and conversation, one of the waiters calls over, across the floor: ‘Love the hair!’ I’m not used to flattery, so I turned round. ‘Thanks!’ replies Alex. Huh! Either I was passing very well, or really not at all. Alex, resplendent in black jumper, cross-checked skirt, black tights and rather nice boots, bedecked with beads (hmmm: we actually have the same bead bracelet …) is certainly distinguished by the long brunette hair.

And beard.

So what can it mean to be transgender? I thought I didn’t know, then I thought I did, then I met Alex. Stylish, individual, assertively ‘out’, he just doesn’t need to try in order to be himself. Even if I do hesitate every time I use a pronoun. But what I really respect about Alex is that he is authentic, if different, and unafraid to be an example – and has really done the homework including an transgender-themed MSc. I found that really useful, because alongside her autobiographical account of self-discovery (which I found both funny and very close to home), it helped me understand what my ‘normal’ could be.

Grrl Alex book coverI was really pleased finally to be able to publish the revised edition of Grrl Alex: A journey to a transgender identity in January 2012, including a Kindle edition – not least because I think the unconventional message has a lot to say to all of us transgender people, and to those we know and love.