Double memories

Finding something that you know will give somebody else a great deal of pleasure is a smiley moment. Nothing is the same as watching the other person’s eyes widen. Their look of immediate disbelief dissolves as you hand it to them and they receive it with a huge grin on their face.

I decided to sort through my archive box yesterday; school projects, old passports, postcards and sew-on badges from all over Europe, wedding cards, my BA thesis, my ‘Man From Uncle’ secret agent card, a roller skate adjustment key, my army captain’s shoulder pips, my French business school papers, a number puzzle, letters from my mother and my then fiancé, my son’s baby hospital tag, newspaper cuttings, diaries.

My reactions ranged from embarrassment, laughter and sadness. I was deeply moved by some of the letters, but wondered why the hell I’d kept some other things. Definitely a series of Proust’s ‘madeleine moments’…

Folded in between the diaries, I found a slim stationery catalogue punched with six holes near the spine. It was no. 137, issued by Norman & Hill Ltd of 16 Newgate Street. London EC1 who sold Lefax, Filofax and Cardref systems. I recognised it from the time I had run my father’s antiques business. We had purchased some items from an estate and inside a drawer were stationery items, including a small ring binder with inserts. I have no idea what happened to the binder, but my historical genes wouldn’t let me throw the catalogue out. It was a fascinating insight into how people organised their business and family events and records.  And it made a connection to my Filofax which, like everybody then, contained my  life.

Finding it in this box now let me remember the original fascination I had with it then. A little message from history, like Christmas cake-making I blogged about in November.

But the pleasure of my husband’s face now was even better. You see, he is the king of the world Filofax community (

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out early summer 2014.

7 comments to Double memories

  • You had army captain shoulder pips! Gosh. I’m impressed. I used to have a filofax too. There was something special about holding every piece of relevant information about myself in my hand. Computers are just not the same.

    • joanne

      I’ve been a Filofax junkie for years and could’t agree with you more about computers just not doing it.

  • Alison

    Very strange feeling, looking back on little bits of my life. Opening an archive box is a bit like Kim’s game, but I thoroughly recommend it as a life re-balancing exercise.

    The filofax is undergoing a huge revival at the moment; gets over a thousand visits a day, and from all over the world. And they are truly, madly, deeply passionate about it. 🙂

  • Liz Harris

    I have very little that derives from past years as I throw everything away. I never hoard things – not even the boys’ first tooth.

    My mother, however, kept every newspaper throughout her life that recorded a significant event. She lived till she was 94, and there were a great many important events in her life, so there are a lot of newspapers in the pile.

    My instinct was to throw them away when she died, but happily I ignored my instinct, and I’m pleased that I did. They will be an interesting resource, if nothing else, when I set a novel during the period in which she lived.

    Liz X

  • Alison

    I have two medium-sized boxes with stuff from the ‘deep past’ and review them every now and again. Quite a pleasure on a rainy afternoon…

  • Alison

    1937? Wow! The lapel style screams 1930s, but I did wonder…