Monday, 8 September 2008

Something to get me going again.

I feel like a rusty old car that needs cranking. I can almost hear the creaking as the rust and moss that's grown in the workings is sheared off by the promise of the creative wheel. And so I turn to Sarah's prompt for today: The smell of my grandparents' house. I'm not sure where it's going but that doesn't really matter; it's just a little exercise.

Not unusually, I had two sets of grandparents. I only knew my grandmothers as my grandfathers died before I was born. Actually, that's not true; one of them died when I was three weeks old. When my father died, my dentist, with whom I had an appointment the following day, told me that he believes how when someone dies a new life fills their place. There has to be a certain amount of logic going on here but I don't think it should be taken too literally. Otherwise, we'd all be shouldering an awful lot of responsibility. Anyway, back to my grandmothers' houses.

I'll deal with the one in Cumbernauld first. I've already written about my visits there (albeit briefly) in my contribution to the Your Messages anthology. However, if we're talking about smells, perhaps we'll go in a different direction.

I can't just tell you about the smell in her flat; it's more of a journey. We always flew there. Because my father was a pilot, we were always standby. I'm probably giving away my age by saying that behind the check-in desk was a board with seat numbers. We would hang around at the back of the queues of fare-paying passengers willing the little oblong pieces of card to stay there until the last minute and then be stapled firmly onto our tickets. This didn't always happen but the smell of rushing and waiting somehow blended into one. Waiting, rushing, the transience of mixed perfumes and clacking heels on the shiny floor, the walkways became tunnels, the tunnels leading to the gate, brightly coloured, plastic seats arranged in squares. A door opens behind the desk and the whistle of jet engines (see, I'm not THAT old) pushes aside the fight between the warm air of the waiting area at the gate and the crisp air from outside.

On board, a creamy plastic aroma streams down onto the parting in my hair; adjusted to the 'off' position, I am stifled by the leather briefcases and glossy in-flight magazines but 'on' and I am chilly. I smell coffee brewing and breakfast being warmed. I look forward to my round, grey, palid, salty mushrooms and tinned tomatoes. The jagged, plastic knife is surprisingly sharp and even saws through the bacon. And gouges a groove in the foil container. I panic and try to check underneath to make sure I'm not losing valuable tomato juice. The foil burns my fingertips and I recoil, knocking my impossibly wide coffee cup. Now, I will have to be careful how much whitener I put in there. I could save some anyway in case they come around with refills. I realise that I haven't added salt and pepper to my meal. They're like tiny daleks, one blue and the other mustard yellow, the colours of the airline. How organised. I'm intrigued by the the salt and pepper pots; once you peel off the little round stickers sealing the holes in the top, there's no going back. Either you stick them in your handbag there and then or you use them. I don't add salt and pepper at home so I may as well use them now.

And now I've run out of time and we haven't even got as far as the diesel trains, bacon rolls, meat pies and shoe racks in the department stores. Oh well, you've been spared. This time. And just before I go, my other granny had a bungalow. I don't remember much except hydrangeas, stuffing and silver polish.

1 comment:

pierre l said...

Interesting memories Kathryn. When we were married and until our first child arrived (now 30), my wife was working for BA as a computer programmer. We lived a 5-minute walk from the West London Air Terminal.
The magic phrase I can remember went something like "you're on if you can get to the gate on time".