Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Touchy/feely/smelly memories... things going round and round... the ramblings of the PFG on a mizzly day in Norfolk

Well, this is me, in 1971, on a cold and windy winter's evening in Cleveleys, on the Fylde coast of Lancashire, where I was then living. I was sorting through a box of photos recently, and looking at some especially old ones like this, and back into the mid-Sixties, it amazed me the memories some of them evoked. Not just for the time, the place, the person I was, the person I was with, but more tangible ones. The coat I am wearing was dark green PVC, and looking at the photo I am sure I could smell it, like a box of wax crayons when you first open it... I loved that coat. There was a photo of my first boyfriend (and you know who you are!) and I felt the rough, almost tweed-like texture of the trousers he was wearing, preparing to help my mother and I dig a rather large and unkempt back garden. There was one of me with my mother on holiday in Polperro, and back came the taste of fresh shrimp sandwiches, made in a kiosk on the quayside. Nothing similar has ever tasted like them since - or is that the tastebud equivalent of rose-tinted specs do you think? There were photos of my sons as babies, with the smell of Johnsons baby powder accompanying them. My late mother's photograph brought back the smell of 4711 and Coty face powder, whilst it was fine malt and black Sobrane cigarettes with my father. A photograph of me behind the wheel of a scarlet Ferrari and I could remember the day it was taken, and smell the warm leather of the seats.. also remembering how difficult a car it is to get in and out of and remain elegant! Amazing how we remember things, and how real the memories feel.

And of things that go round and round.... I learnt to knit over fifty years ago, and one thing I have never tackled is knitting in the round. Back then, there was no such thing as circular needles, women used sets of DPNs as they are called, double pointed needles, to knit socks, gloves and hats. Though I tried a few times, I never mastered it. Then in came circular needles, producing the same effect but with less hassle, dropping of needles and stitches. I always meant to have a go.. but then I discovered socks could be knitted on two needles, and although the imagery of a woman using four or five needles, or a small circular needle and hand-dyed wool to make a pair of cosy socks, is so comforting and cosy in a way that you want to try it. I never did. Then I found a book called BABY BEANIES by Amanda Keeys, with the most endearing little hats worn by equally endearing littlies. All knitted on twelve inch circular needles (which seem to be impossible to find, the nearest I have found them is sixteen inches) using just a small amount of wool. No messy side seam to knit up, seamless in every sense of the word possibly? Well, I shall see. I have decided small items like these are probably the best way to get started, for someone who has in the past, tended to be all fingers and thumbs whenever she has tried using more than two needles.

And talking of books and things going round and round... whilst browsing in the library I came across Simon Hoggart's book, 'The Cat That Could Open The Fridge' - 'A Curmudgeons' Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters'. Opinions are divided on round robins.. many love them, whilst others hate them. I fall into the latter category, and tend to think that if you can't find the time/be bothered/care enough about the person to whom you are writing, to just write them an individual letter, and instead have to resort to typing out copies of the same old thing, just handwriting in the recipient's name, then I would rather you didn't bother, thanks all the same. Of course, this has meant a significant decrease in the number of letters and cards received and sent each Christmas in this household, but it certainly sorted out the friends from the mere acquaintances! Perhaps if they were really interesting, then it might be a different matter, but they tend to be full of the minutae of other people's lives, that only someone they love very much, or themselves (which maybe the same in some cases) would have the remotest interest in. Why would I want to know how many boxes of tissues poor Timmy used when he had a bad head cold, or why Jim has decided it's time to start walking to the train station each day instead of letting his long-suffering wife drive him? Why would I be interested in Fiona's long-running battle with slugs, or Peter's drama queen antics when someone parked their bike in his slot at the office? The simple answer of course, is that I'm not, in the least.


Anonymous said...

That coat must have been pre-me I don't recall it, but I do recall the swivel chairs.

Suffolkmum said...

Great photo - very Proustian blog, I know exactly what you mean about being able to taste memories at times. Do so agree about the Round Robin letters too - can't bear them, love Simon Hoggart.

ChrisH said...

Ooh, you had a very glam life, didn't you, roaring round in Ferraris and looking like a model. I like Simon Hoggart's take on the dreaded round robins, too.

Anonymous said...

I love your memory of needles. My late mother in law knitted till the cows came home and we still have many of her knitting patterns/needles/wool stored away in the cupboard. I haven't the heart to get rid of it even though I'll never use it. They too have a memory about them.

CJ xx

Pondside said...

Whew - you covered a lot there! You were very glamorous in the 70s with your snazzy coat and red ferrari!
Smells take me back too. A photo of my grandmother conjures up Noxema face cream.
Great reading!

Calico Kate said...

Oh smells. Can't be so elusive and poignant, tearjerking and happy making.

With you on round robins too, grrrr. Would rather just have a few hand written lines lane a couple of close typed foolscap on day to day dross. But that books is terribly funny/

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