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Tuesday 14 June 2011

Thomas and Bertie

copyright Royal Mail Group Ltd
Thomas and Bertie have made it onto British stamps (Royal Mail Shop here) and not before time too! Thomas is the only fictional character to appear in the Sunday Independent's Happy List (lists accessed here) - a list of a 100 people who make the United Kingdom a better balanced and happier country. He has certainly provided many happy hours of fun in our household. We're all delighted that the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas' creator, the Revd W. Awdry, is being marked in this way.

The Thomas and Bertie stamp is, I think, an adaption of the work of the original illustrator of the books, Reginald Payne. Other stamps in the Royal Mail series are based on images from the TV series Thomas and Friends, created by Britt Allcroft in 1984. The difference in style and my inability to distinguish between what I remember of Awdry's stories from my own childhood and what I remember from my children's childhood makes a strong point about collective memory.

My memory of these stories is vivid and I can recall many scenes in the narrative and many of the phrases used by the characters. There is no way, however, that I can distinguish which of these things are the oldest memories and which are the newest. In rehearsing the stories and encouraging my children's use of them in play I have constructed a complex pattern of recollections that fit together perfectly. It is now ten years or so since my youngster daughter last played with Thomas yet some of the things of her play, her older sisters' play, and my own childhood play have entered the fabric of our family communications: 'Never race at fast speeds, said the Fat Controller.' They are part of our family collective memory and its impossible to be certain of their ultimate origin. Our memory has been constructed by our repeated use of it. 
Collective memory mechanism:
memories are constructed from our recollections modelled in our retellings to suit our circumstances and our sense of belonging.

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