Owain Hughes takes on a journey back into the 1940s and 1950s in North Wales, enlightening us about his upbringing by telling us tales of his childhood: From the bell his mother put on him to know where he was, to getting stranded on an island, meeting odd and quirky family and characters, trips to London, minor celebrities and a lifestyle that moves between obscure and conventional.
This is quite a wonderful journey through Hughes’ childhood. Many interesting events and characters are popping up, like a fleeting mention of Bertrand Russell and Agatha Christie, much detail of the era and every day life of those days, from cars to architecture and clothes.
So far, so very impressive in many ways and quite a beautiful memoir.
If I had to point out one thing that I didn’t like it is that things can drift, as is often the case in memoirs and, to be fair, in its own right is a literary style that many favour in the genre of memoir and will surely enjoy.
More a mosaic than a linear story, this is nevertheless witty, entertaining, amazing and quite an experience to read.
“Read it for its vivid portrait of a childhood characterised by parental ‘benign neglect’, its flow of bravura anecdotes, and its entertaining glimpses of the Hughes family, their relatives and famous friends.” – Richard Poole
Everything I Have Always Forgotten is the story of Owain Hughes’ childhood in the 40s and 50s. He spent it in boarding schools, in the family’s large but dilapidated house, and on the banks and waters of the Dyfi estuary, across from the Italianate folly village of Portmeirion. The north Wales landscape – Snowdonia in the near distance – dominated Owain’s young life, and his stories of boating, horse-riding and walking culminate in the three day hike through Snowdonia by the 12 year old Owain and a friend which culminated in being marooned for two weeks on Bardsey Island, of the north Wales coast.
The ‘Swallows and Amazons’ aspect of Owain’s childhood was made possible by his parents’ policy of “benign neglect” intended to encourage independence and self-reliance. His father was the acclaimed novelist Richard Hughes and his mother, the artist Frances Bazley, a cousin of the Duke of Norfolk, a pairing which added further exoticism to Owain’s childhood. There were visits to cousins who lived in castles, meetings with spies, a circle of friends which included Bertrand Russell and Clough Williams-Ellis, broadcasts on the Third Programme and visits from “the men from Disney”.
Owain Hughes catches a period of life in post-war Britain which looks back to ‘Brideshead Revisited’ but also forward to angry young men and kitchen sink drama. It includes fascinating information and insight into Richard Hughes, and is packed with vivid anecdotes, making an engaging book about memory and what makes us.