by Lauren Pinnington
Some of those I mention are no longer with us, most of the places I no longer go but I can conjure up their memories like hitting play on a remote control, as vivid and textured as they always were. As comforting as a hot water bottle pressed softly against your stomach on a freezing November night and as welcome as good news from an old friend, for I know that they have shaped and defined me in a delicate, intangible way.
It is our first kiss on that grey roof. It’s quiet inevitability, our retro shyness. The organic bottle of red from Whole Foods rolling lazily away across the concrete, like it was affording us the moment of privacy. The overwhelming sensation that you had known me forever when it had really only been a handful of months.
It is the multitude of shiny new houses my parents and I moved into whilst I was growing up. The smell of my father’s amber aftershave on a Saturday night and of the cafetière coffee with hot buttered croissants he would make on a Sunday morning. His devilish laughter after he had said something thoroughly sarcastic and enviably clever. The way he would salt and pepper my tuna mayonnaise sandwiches and lace them with vinegar, the acridness making me wince. It never occurring to me to protest the proceedings. Plaster all over his clothes like brittle icing sugar after a hard day at work. The honeyed sound of his voice calling me sweetheart.
“It’s not just an act of remembering, these are the sum of my parts.”
It is multi coloured duvets stolen away from the beds we usually slept in, dispatched to our girlish HQ on sleepover nights. Stale popcorn and texting boys from clunky mobile phones in their first inception. Feelings of deep kinship with our shiny Hollywood counterparts that we saw in teenage rom coms. Lining our eyelids with cheap kohl pencil and practising Americanisms in the mirror.
It is the timber home of my Great Nanny, who was great in every sense of the word. An enduring tin of Cadbury’s hot chocolate which she would make for us on the hob while we giggled and exchanged words of love. Her beautifully tended garden with luscious pops of colour stretching off into the country distance. The rope swing I had begged for, made of old sheets and tied to the apple tree. Her meticulously applied hairspray and creamy sweetness of the huge pot of moisturiser she kept on the side of the bath.
It is overcooked pasta in adult-free kitchens, covered in a starchy layer doused with BBQ sauce and supermarket cheese to serve as our veritable banquet on lunch breaks during the A-Level years – a period of time that seemed infinite. Washed out black hoodies, shapeless things with holes in the sleeves, emblazoned with names of bands we had no idea we’d continue to love long into our twenties. Laughing until our stomachs were sore over some outlandish joke, mouths scorched with horrible white wine and inexpensive rum. The exquisite happiness you can only get from feeling understood.
It is the romantic austerity of my Uncle John’s house in a North London suburb. How his gentle kindness filled its rooms like a mouthful of whipped cream. Bulbous conkers on the ground and flurries of tart blackberries in hedges. The primary colours of toys belonging to a generation that was not my own I would be given to play with. My toes caressing the cold tiles in the kitchen, watching him compose accompanying illustrations to the short story I had so proudly written about woodland creatures who could talk.
It’s not just an act of remembering, these are the sum of my parts.
Lauren is a London based writer who longs for the countryside. She like very strong gin and tonics, the Golden Age of Hollywood and the library at the British Film Institute.