memory scents

 

Only takes a wee whiff.

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England.

A farm with a huge lavender garden. Me cycling over to pinch a few sprigs and tuck them into books and things all over my room. The farm was down the road from a shop, down a hill that was foggy most mornings. The streets were cobbled and there was a field across which I cycled to town, one time passing an elderly man who I’d heard had recently lost his mum. I stopped and said how sorry I was and he said, hardly missing a beat, “Well, it comes to us all.” I’ve thought of him often over the decades, never more so than when my own mum died.

I remember brambles and roundabouts and orange Squash at room temperature, the cream at the top of those bottles of milk on the doorstep and how fresh garlic was impossible to find (you’d be lucky to even score a jar of the ‘prepared’ stuff in the tiny ‘foreign’ section of Waitrose where the pasta was also hidden).

I remember women on the High Street with their carrier bags and baskets and everyone—really everyone—saying hello to one another. All ages too, if only by virtue of the slightest nod of acknowledgement. One time, getting back on my bike outside the Waitrose, two young boys — teeny boppers — smiled and held out a couple of weedy flowers they’d picked from between cracks in the pavement. There was an ad on TV around that time where the guy does exactly that and hands them to a girl on the street and says Impulse? which was the name of the product being advertised, a body mist. Well, the lads played this scene out with such style and giant grins, that I happily took the flowers and pedaled away, smiling too. I was in my mid-twenties then, a veritable matron, so it was in no way a come on, more like a kind of appreciation from a respectful distance, with elements of a sweet lark that I’m not sure exists anymore among young’uns… though I hope it does. Too wonderful a thing to lose.

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