Thursday, 5 November 2015

What takes you back?

A disheartening amount of time ago, I was a young Arts student.  I majored in history, and at that time a subject many people seemed most excited by was how memory worked: How did people remember things, and what caused them to mis-remember things?

Memory has been on my mind these last few days.  I've been thinking a bit about the Before Time, when I had a job in the city and before my marriage went kerplooey.  Well, actually I've been thinking mostly about the second of those (the job wasn't what I was in love with).  The more it's been in my mind, the more I think I could describe to you every detail of the flat the Ex lived in before we were married, and the house we lived in after we were married, and the way things were stacked on the benches and shelves.

Different things call back memories for different people.  Proust famously was prompted by the taste of a madeline cake.  Kenny Chesney sings that 

"every time I hear that song
I go back to the feel of a fifty yard line
A blanket, a girl, some raspberry wine
Wishin' time would stop right in its tracks
Every time I hear that song
I go back"

For me the prompt has always been smell.  The smell of dust in cooling dry air in the evening takes me back to where I worked with the old boy in the Riverina when I was a teenager.  The smell of treacle or golden syrup takes me back to the schoolyard, just down from the Pinnacle Yeast factory.  And the smell of Twining's berry tea takes me back to the Ex's flat, and to the life in the Before Time.

What calls memories to your mind? Tastes, or smells?  Music or the feel of cold night air?

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