27 June 2009


Nothing unusual in itself, but I'm taking this one personally.

All my life this little retail space at the bottom of Cleeve Hill has been an off-licence. My dad used to come in here to buy his cans of Hoffmeister and packs of Marlborough. Sometimes I would go with him and wait obediently and patiently while he chatted with the ever-jovial proprietor about the football results, hoping that he might feel inclined to buy me a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar or maybe some Opal Fruits from the enticing selection of snacks on display at the counter.

Years later, having moved back into the area, I began frequenting the shop myself, to buy my bottles of Budweiser , Drum tobacco and Rizlas. Occasionally my children would accompany me and, if they were well-behaved, I might feel inclined to buy them a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar or even a packet of Starburst. But I never had any idea who the proprietor was. The counter was now a plexi-glassed fortress with a little opening where cash would be furtively exchanged with an ever-changing staff of young student-types who always seemed vaguely annoyed at my presence. Perhaps because I had disturbed them in the middle of some urgent text-messaging.

And you wonder why I keep going on about the past.

The atmosphere, lay-out and even the brand names might have changed, but there's one thing that's always stayed the same about that shop: the smell. I think it must be something to do with the wood. The shop has dark wooden walls and floors, and they secrete a particular warm, woody odour that is, in my experience, entirely unique to this shop. I've never smelt it anywhere else in the world. It's a lovely, comforting smell. Whenever I smell it I connect with a little 8-year-old kid, holding his dad's hand, happily biting into a Cadbury's Fruit & Nut bar. I hate the idea that, for the time being at least, I am denied access to that smell and the sensations it inspires.

1 comment:

  1. The old Green Dragon pub on St. Michaels Ave, Yeovil, had a seperate offie door and my dad used to take me up there on sunday mornings - I was only about 3, but I still remember it vividly - he'd get a packet of fags and buy me a bar of chocolate ("don't tell mum")...pubs still there, but no offie - no pubs have offies any more! - I remember this as vividly and for the same reasons as you. The idea that we are physically denied access to our own Past is one of the great tragedies of being human.