Memory Book is about my mother's early onset alzhiemers disease. It combines large format photographs of the woods where my mother lived, taken over the course of a year, with diary extracts written during the same period.
02/11/06 Mum’s house is a shambles - empty bottles, overflowing ashtrays, the kitchen worktop piled high with stale bread, garlic skins and mouldy cheese. Odd socks have taken over along with mountains of beads.
It’s not just her stuff that’s a mess; Mum threw a chair at Mike the other day and another time she went for him with a knife. Next they’re falling into each other’s arms and dancing around the room to Andreas Boccelli at full volume, tears pouring down Mike’s face, mum in a swoon. They live in the eye of a storm, too scared to step out in case they disappear, but at some point they will have to step out. Especially as I am always getting sucked into the fucking vortex.
14/11/06 Me, Dave and the kids stayed at mum’s house the other night. We were in bed when mum rushed upstairs screaming, ‘Mike’s dead, Mike’s dead’. Dave and I went down and Mike was collapsed in the corner with a grin smeared across his face. Mum grabbed hold of his arm and tried to pull him up squeaking, ‘Save him’. The next night they came in from the pub, bloody and bruised after collapsing on the steps, him from being plastered and her from forgetting to put one foot in front of the other. Mum frequently says she hates him but if they’re apart for any length of time she can’t cope. In the mornings he leaves her pills on the table and I find them in little boxes on the mantel piece, or rammed into half eaten bananas or fizzing away in yogurt pots. In the evening she swallows them down with wine. The thing is Mum needs and loves Mike. He keeps her in the real world, even if theirs is a mad world. He takes her to the pub and to friend’s houses for dinner; but the darkness can’t be held back forever. And Mike is holding on by his fingernails. He needs to let go but is scared of what will happen to mum if he does. So he is being ground down. He gets furious…he’s a monster sometimes. Mum thinks so. I can tell. When she looks at him with those big round are-they-scared eyes. He’s gristly and wiry, thin and bone. He’s like the wolf to mum’s red riding hood. He needs to ungrip his claws. We have to find a way out of this.
12/11/06 You either charge around like a wild thing, screaming and roaring, muttering vicious words and making evil eyes at your baby granddaughter, Eveline, or you disappear into corners, talking quietly to some invisible friend. The mountains of beads have gone. They nearly drove us mad. Michael swept them away and everyone let out a huge sigh of relief, but now you float from room to room, putting piles of stuff in weird places. A piece of cheese, three beads, a buckle and a battery in your knicker drawer, or on top of the TV, a peach with a lipstick-ringed bite mark nestled in a used tissue with a knitting needle poked in the top. Sometimes you whisper frantically at them. Is each pile a focus for your faltering mind, a denial of the bewildering world you reel through? They are like cairns, marking your way back through the wilderness but there’s no way back now. When you turn around it’s dusk, grey and smudged. When you face forward night is falling fast.