Sunday, 23 September 2007

Souvenirs published Sept 23

It’s strange the things people remember. Recollections of white hot arguments, mad dreams, romantic interludes and hot sex are all capable of hitting us at the most inconvenient times, simply because we triggered the memory.
A smell or an object can bring it all back in living colour which is quite cool. Embracing your memory and reliving events in your head, such as hot sex as an example are an essential way of getting through a bus ride or that phone call which just won't end. And that is why some of us collect souvenirs. Not the snow dome, fridge magnet, shot glass type souvenirs, but the ones the French meant when they invented the word souvenir which means to remember.
And while some may collect these memory prompters and put them away in little boxes, I prefer to have mine with me. If someone were to pounce upon me and shake my huge handbag upside down they would find the following:
A silver button found on a street in Paris on the way to a special dinner in 1997.
A piece of King Arthur’s Tintagel castle which found its way into my shoe (honest) in Britain on a special holiday in 1995.
A child’s tooth. I’m not sure which child this belonged to but it makes me remember all their gappy smiles, which is always nice.
A religious picture of Mary given to me by an old lady outside Pompeii in 2006. It’s very pretty.
A shell from the beach my youngest daughter took her first steps on.
And numerous business cards from restaurants I have adored eating in. As I fumble in my purse for loose change or a lipstick I often find these cards in various states of disarray and think straight back to the sardine, pine nut, raisin pasta or the crayfish. Yum.
I often gaze at other women and their immaculate handbags with nothing in them except a lipstick, a mirror, a cell phone and a purse. All placed just so. What chance do memories have of surviving in such sterility?
Of course there are other souvenirs we do not welcome. The smell of Kouros aftershave wafting off a man in the street will cause me to double over in revulsion, such is the gloomy sexual memory I have associated with that. The scent of Charlie reminds me of an operation my mother had when I was young and worried. . Five inch heel, drop dead gorgeous shoes in my wardrobe remind me of the two years I have spent under the care of a podiatrist after one particularly energetic night out and the fact that I will never again be truly glamorous. Two inch suede courts from Kumfs, remind me that I’ve really given up, and my friend is still recovering from the shock that I actually went into a Kumfs store yet alone tried some shoes on and bought them. She’s now banned me from wearing them anywhere near her, she claims she can smell them coming from 100 metres away, such is her distaste for anything other than Miu Miu or Manolo Blahnik.
Gold wrapping paper has its own special memory associations. Mainly of shop assistants who take as long to gift wrap something as it took for you to drive to the shop, find a park, look around the shop, decide on you purchase and pay for it.
No wonder I keep a piece of old castle in my bag to give me something to look at as I resign myself to the fact that I’ll never get that half hour back again.
And then there is food as a souvenir. I’ve found this quite an absorbing pastime as I’ve determinedly lugged wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano back from Italy and presented them to the nice man at customs. Tins of pate and terrine, spices, jam and chocolate. I’ve brought them all back from far flung destinations, proudly lining up in the “Something to Declare” cue and smiling sweetly at the customs man who sniffs, and attempts to read the French or Italian on the package and then finally lets me through with my gastro souvenirs. All except the duck confit. Two whopping tins of it, lugged in my hand baggage. I think I might have cried at the waste of it. The customs man patted my shoulder and said: “There, there.” I’ll never forget him.

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