Isn't it funny how memories can sneak up on you and belt you round the head when you're least expecting it?
This evening I was having dinner with a good friend in a cheap and cheerful restaurant on Oxford St when I decided I needed to visit the ladies. The toilet, that is, I wasn't overcome by an overwhelming desire to sit with some random females. Anyway, I tottered down the stairs and pushed open the door to the loo when I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. The source? The toilet freshener. I was immediately transported to my grandparents outside loo in East London, a place I hadn't been for over 25 years. It was strange to be standing in a restaurant toilet and yet feel as if I was 10 years of age and on the other side of the world.
Scents trigger memories in most of us, sometimes in an unpleasant way but at other times very welcome. A few years ago I was smelling perfumes at the Jo Malone counter in David Jones and picked up the Honeysuckle and Jasmine scent bottle. I started to well up with tears and couldn't work out why. I finally realised that the scent had taken me back to my grandfathers garden and I was smelling the honeysuckle he used to grow. The poor sales assistant was quite concerned by the sad looking woman with tears streaming down her cheeks but I'm sure she was pleased that I bought the biggest bottle they had.
Strangely enough, the honeysuckle and the toilet were inches away from each other. The outside loo was actually at the end of the 'lean to', a covered in area which my grandfather had cobbled together from items he had 'liberated' from various places. There was a long bench which housed his tools as well as boxes filled with odds & sods, all tantalisingly out of my reach. I used to like to run my fingers through the different sized nails (the only thing I could reach) and play with the vice, taking care not to crush my fingers. The toilet was always cold, no matter what season it was. I would rush out in my slippers and rush back in again. It was a simple, two bedroomed flat but for me it was possibly my favourite place in the world.
I like that I get these blasts from the past. It makes me feel connected to two people who have long since passed on. I'm not quite sure how my grandmother would feel about me telling complete strangers (and some friends) that a toilet freshener made me think of her but there you go. All I know is that for a brief moment I had my own 'Life on Mars' moment, back to the 70s where life was fun and easy, when jam jar lids had footballers faces on them, toast was made at the end of a fork in front of the fire and eaten wearing pyjamas and slippers. Saturday nights was Bruce Forsyth and Anthea Redfern (I did say undisclosed age, didn't I?) and Wagon Wheels were the size of your head. Okay, maybe not head. But you needed two hands to eat them.
All this from an air freshener. Who'd have thought?