On why I wrote Flying with Cuckoos

I locked away those memories, of childhood and my early youth, over thirty years ago; locked them all away in an unused corner of the mind’s attic and conveniently forgot where I had placed them. They were recollections of sadness and loneliness, emptiness and isolation. They were recollections of a life devoid of love, and a child’s emotional suffering.

And so that was where I stored them, where I believed that such things should be stored; hidden away from the light of the present, hidden away in the attic of the past.

But then, many years on, and for why I couldn’t say, I re-ascended those old and rickety attic steps, clambered into the darkness, switched on the light, brushed away the dust, and re-discovered all those old memories in the place where they had once been so carefully concealed.

I thought long and hard before disturbing them, considering my purpose and all of those reasons why well should be left alone, but then simple curiosity caused me to fetch the sturdy oak casket, and its many fragile storage jars full of memories, and bring it all back into the light.

Once determined, I hurried to see if those old jars had remained intact over the years; forcing the casket’s lock and finding them to be just as I had remembered: each still tightly packed and sealed, and each still so full of so much pain and sadness.

But, it was only after I had prised the first stopper from the first jar that I found the most peculiar thing. I found the contents changed in every way imaginable.

I found colours, once considered brash and coarse, no longer as garish to the eye as I remembered. I found the breadth of flavours less bitter to the palette, the wealth of freed aromas less pollutant to the air.

I moved on from there to examine the next jar, and the next, and the one after that.

To my amazement the result was the same in each case; the contents no longer matched the labels.

Assuming they must have somehow mellowed with time, I rechecked each in turn; prising away each stopper and being strangely disappointed by the blandness that I continued to find.

It was not, however, until I had removed the last stopper from the last jar, and then read the label, compared it to the contents, and assessed the many inconsistencies, that I came to realise just what had happened.

It was not the contents, which had somehow altered over time, because they were precisely as they had always been; the colours just as vibrant and distinctive, the flavours just as intense, the aromas equally heady, equally evocative.

Any mellowing process, I finally came to understand, had been my own.

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