Don’t Look Back

Don’t Look Back

There was a Peach Melba once that has never been equalled. I had it as a boy during a Christmas trip to Paris. The details of the drive to Paris, the hotel, the shops, The Mona Lisa in the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and Midnight Mass at The Notre Dame Cathedral are all as nothing compared to that sumptuous ice cream and fruit dessert. Ever since, I have been disappointed by so-called Peach Melbas which fail to live up to that memory.

However, I try to keep memories in perspective. ‘At least I’ve got my memories,’ is a common piece of self-consolation. But the knowledge that those events and people are all in the past and physically irretrievable seems to me an acute reason for wistfulness. And I have no desire to make myself any more wistful than usual.
Memories, though, are unavoidable little mental phantoms that seem to have lives of their own. So, even though you may not be searching the cerebral databanks, images and words may still be mysteriously downloaded into your consciousness while you are on a train, eating your cereal or even while enjoying unbridled sex (with a horse).

My earliest memory is of the blazing neon sign ‘ODEON’ which I could see through the window of Great Ormond Street Hospital where I was, for a short while, as a toddler. To this very day, a sight of that cinema brings back the atmosphere of that mysterious time. I can recall my bed in the corner of the ward with its thick brown blankets, the soup which, I was assured, was ‘making me better’ and my parents’ visits.

Everyone’s teenage years are rich with experiences. Dances and discos were the preoccupation of every teenager from Friday to Sunday every week. I remember meeting my first ‘girlfriend’ at a school disco where the naive and rather over-ambitious disc-jockey thought that ‘Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man’ by the underground, Tolkeinesque electro-progressive rock group, King Crimson, was a suitable choice for dancing to (it isn’t, despite being a great piece of music). This was an old-fashioned relationship in that it was mostly a weekly liaison on a sort of hand-holding level. This wasn’t first love or even, first lust. It was more like first curiosity. A curiosity which was well past its sell-by date three months later when we mutually agreed to call it off. I wanted to talk about UFOs, time travel, the occult and rock music but she kept banging on about the three-day week and the power- cuts. The irony is that she’s now a well-respected magazine editor at Condé Nast, while I’m, well, not.

As a keen people watcher, I have seen things that would raise more than an eyebrow.

The shabby vagrant emitting a powerful fountain of urine in the middle of a crowded Charing Cross Road. The refined-looking lady responding with a laugh and a ‘Good Lord!’

On a bus , there was a strange thin woman with no hair or eyelashes. Her eyes were peculiarly colourless and there was a definite smell of fish. She was dressed in some sort of loose fitting overalls a bit like a uniform. During my days of alien-investigating this seemed like proof positive that extra-terrestrials had landed and were now trying to take over without being spotted.

On a train, the young woman in tight denims stood to leave and, in doing so, firmly placed her hands on my knees whilst looking me directly in the eyes. As a gawky teenager, I had no idea what this meant (despite the fact that I had been reading my biology textbook at the time) but I have spent many an idle second or two since then speculating on what might have happened if I’d got up and followed her. She’d have probably reported me to the police – whose story would they have been likely to believe?

In the sea, off Cyprus, I came across a drowned woman. I had been exploring the shallows with my goggles and snorkel and then, there she was. At first, it looked like her hands were moving in some conscious motion, but I soon realised all was not well. I grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her over to be greeted by a violent spurt of foam and saliva from her nostrils and mouth. Her skin was ice-cold and the palest shade of violet. By this time, the boat hire men had spotted the scene and raced to be of assistance. She was given mouth-to-mouth and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and was eventually taken to hospital. To this day, I do not know whether she survived.

And what about the time I was stabbed in the neck by leather-jacketed thugs? Almost went through the artery. That brings back a shudder.

Oh yes, adventures, romances, disappointments, triumphs, tragedies, mysteries, fights and illnesses. They’re all there in the biological RAM but it’s not a territory I am keen to linger in for long. Except, perhaps, for that Peach Melba.

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3 Responses

  1. Teen memories eh? Oh yes, I remember it well and I am just so grateful that I was such a layabout, rebellious little sh!t with it because they are the best memories when you’re looking back as a graceful all grown-up type of person (no sniggering at the back please). A lovely trip – thank you.

  2. That is a lovely trip but not very Orchid Room. Can we kinda set the pieces in or around the Orchid Room and try to pick up themes or so forth from the posts before. Maybe a quick read of the suggestions in The Dressing Room page. But as I say, a cool story, just not very Orchid Roomy.

  3. Memories, memories. I myself have been trying to write from memory, as a cure for hopefully temporary writer’s block, and transient depression.

    Did a post a few days ago on a happy memory, quite like the one like your Peach Melba.

    But I don’t have too many memories half as fascinating as yours. Or maybe perhaps I do and just don’t want to remember?

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