A sense of memory

Image: Stolen from the internet (link to recipe)

I know you’ve not been wondering where I’ve been, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

In the shielding group, so working from home and furloughed at the first opportunity, I’ve taken the unprecedented opportunity afforded by this global pandemic to make a start on “the book”.

Now, now, don’t get over-excited. There is no guarantee that it will ever see the light of day.

It has meant, however, a drastic cut in time spent on social media and sharing sites. Whilst enjoying the process of a longer work, I did take the opportunity recently to post that “editing your own work feels like pushing carrots and peas around the plate, hoping to make the meal more appetising, whilst wondering who in their right mind would want to eat this shit”. It garnered more than a few nodding “hearts” and some wonderful extensions to the metaphor. So… not just me, then, with a healthy, developing, loathing of the process. (Full disclosure: I detest the default serving of carrots with peas!)

What I came to realise, in all the word wrangling, is how important memory is to the process; not only of events but of emotions sparked in response to these events. (Not to mention in being able to recognise parts already included; a fault, I suppose, developed through having only written short pieces.)

It was a particularly interesting early discovery that emotionally charged memory, though often harder to “write”, was infinitely easier to recall. Details may remain obscure, about who said what and in what order, but the emotional context relives in an instant. Where there was anger, a touch of that anger stains the page; where there were tears, tears may fall.

Taking a break last night, however, I became overwhelmed by the memory of a very specific taste. One which I have only enjoyed once; nigh gone forty-five years ago. Completely unbidden, entirely unexpected: Miss Maltman’s homemade oatcakes. Not only the flavour, either. The sensation of warmth in the mouth, the interplay of softness and texture as the oatcake crumbed, the smell. Oh, the smell.

For context, you need to understand that I only met Miss Maltman once. She was the aunt of a friend. We sneaked out of school one lunchtime, and when we arrived at her house Miss Maltman was standing at her stove, over a hot griddle, flipping oatcakes. I am entirely incapable of recalling any detail of the room, whether she presented them on a plate or scooped them directly into eager hands, or indeed anything about Miss Maltman’s appearance. (I suspect long, straight, salt and pepper hair, but I don’t feel any “honesty” in that).

For as long as I live, however, the joy of that mouthful of love will undoubtedly remain.

In considering it, I realised ‘sense’ memory may be as strong as any other, in allowing us to access past events. When we hear a familiar song, it may remind us of a person, a place, or an event; smell, often, catches us unawares in a similar way, after all.

Sight, oddly, may not be quite so adept at intensely invoking memory. It feels, somehow, to be the smile of recognition which pulls sight’s memories into abstract focus. Why is that?

Touch too. A caress may remind us of the previous stroke of a hand, but it seems a more mechanical process, a pulling together of disparate images and emotions, to form a tender portrait of a time past.

Ironically, in writing this, I can ‘feel’ the texture of the Irish linen tea towel, its moist warmth, steam rising through the fibres, which Miss Maltman had used to cover her freshly baked fare.

It had a green border.

About A Misanthropic Bear

Intermittent posting of random touchstones, memories and events. This wasn't meant to be what it would become... But then, is it ever?
This entry was posted in Blogging, Self Awareness, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to A sense of memory

  1. Widdershins says:

    There you are. 🙂 … I think our best/most vivid/etc memories are stored in our senses, not necessarily our brains … now if only we could easily access our sensual memories … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. joylennick says:

    Thanks, Sue. What those hooked, retrousse, Roman appendages can evoke is tantalizing…Mine? A Welsh black-leaded oven baking an apple and blackberry pie…the aroma reaching every corner of the kitchen. Pass the cream! x .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jane Sturgeon says:

    Ohh, I look forward to reading your book….no pressure… 😉 Strong, loving memories never age…. x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s amazing the kinds of things that can trigger memories and the emotions associated with them. This is why we evoke all the senses whenever possible in writing.

    Also, should that book ever see the light of day, I would be interested in knowing where I could get my hands on a copy. I hope it will, since I’m sure it would make for a wonderful read.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Kelly Evans says:

    I ALWAYS advise my writing students to use all the senses, particularly smell. It’s the one that triggers the deepest memories.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. ‘Remembrance of Things Past…’ 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. gmvasey says:

    Yeah— where do I get it? Please do finish it… and where have you been really????

    Liked by 2 people

    • Running Elk says:

      Patience is a virtue (as well as an opera).
      ~ Dr. Evadne Hinge (or Dame Hilda Bracket)
      Where? lol I can forward the wastebasket on a weekly basis?
      And no, really, I’ve been sat right here. Really!!
      Being in-absentia from social media has been a breath of fresh air these past weeks. Amazing how much you get done when not popping in every 10 minutes. I’m all but “over” Facebook. Just need to work harder on avoiding Twitter, and it will be like being in the 80s again! 😀


  8. Sue Vincent says:

    The Book?
    Ooh…tantalising 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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