Nostalgia is all right, but not as good as it used to be. What kind of thing takes you back?
The smell of Palmolive always does it for me. Hotel soap. It reminds me of the first time I was allowed to go away alone. It is like the scent of freedom.
Penguin paperbacks. The shipping forecasts . Fireguards - and toast made over the fire. Bacon in greaseproof wrap. The smells of coal and blackboard chalk and wet wool and bonfire smoke, and the leathery insides of old cars that always used to make me sick. Prunes for breakfast. Old- fashioned shoe shops with the shoes stacked up in boxes. Cloth hankies. Toilet cisterns with chains. Soap flakes. Embroidery silks. Dundee cake. Impossibly English BBC voices...these all take me back to my childhood in the Fifties.
Sugared almonds and Pears soap call my grandmother vividly to mind.
I am strangely moved by the names of things and places now defunct: Cleveland petrol, Swan & Edgar, Gamages, Lyons Corner House, Home & Colonial stores...
Music from the Sixties is unbearably poignant. It makes me think of growing up and being in love and having lots of sex. Everything felt so intense then. I expect everyone feels that way about their adolescence. Oasis will have the same aching resonance for the present generation. They must get sick of hearing all that 'bliss-was-it-on-that-dawn' stuff from the Sixties generation.
The smell of disinfectant makes me think of primary school toilets.
The war years left the deepest impression on me, and I think on a lot of my generation. If one is honest about it, although it was terrible in many ways, and most of us lost someone we loved, life was never so vivid afterwards. The songs of the time, and the marches, make me very tearful. What a sentimental old fool!
I always feel guilty when I walk into a sweet shop, because it reminds me of my sweet ration as a child when I was allowed sweets only after dinner. Chanel No 5 reminds me of when my mum had gone out for the night. I would be reassured that she was home when in my half-sleep I smelt a waft of her perfume.
The smell of chlorophyll when I walk into a chemist reminds me of the dentist's chair.
The smell of ice cream takes me back to a little cafe on the seafront at Whitley Bay where I grew up. Horse-racing on the television reminds me of visiting my grandma on a Saturday morning, as do Fry's chocolate bars, a stock of which she always kept in her bureau.
The smell of freshly-baked bread reminds me of when I worked in a bakery in-between studying for my A-levels. I had to go to work at 12 o'clock Friday night and work through until 9 o'clock on Saturday morning. It used to ruin my whole weekend because I was too tired to do anything else after that. Even now, that yeasty scent makes me feel drowsy.
I went to riding stables the other day to find out prices and so forth, because my daughter-in-law suggested my grandson might have a ride, and by going there, the horsey smell immediately took me back to my schooldays. It's a lovely smell. Very nice. The price brought me down to earth as they wanted pounds 14 for half an hour, when I used to pay four shillings for one hour. I used to save up throughout the year, for the annual holiday in Filey in Yorkshire. We would take a house for a month, and I would manage maybe two rides a week.
Music is very, very evocative. I am very fond of music. There are many pieces that take me back - to school, for instance, and the plays that I was in. I danced in a play to the "Golliwogs' Cakewalk". As you're not allowed to say that now, I wonder what they call it instead. Sometimes you still hear it.
I think when you get to my age, you think about places you used to go, but nine times out of ten, if you go back, it's a let-down. I don't believe you should try to go back. "Never go back on happy footsteps." JM Barrie said that.
The smell of Clacton beach still takes me back to the long, sunny, seaside holidays of my childhood.Reuse content