There is something powerful about the layers of meaning that build up around certain places and things. Smells that hurtle you back to a place, or a place that recalls a hurricane of smells. This evening when I sprayed an ancient bottle of Body Shop ocean spray, Becky’s room skewed sideways and straightened itself into our twelve year-old selves when we’d drape glittery scarves round it, spray this bottle and transform it into a wonderland. I had two bottles of Impulse sprays (iconic artefacts of the year 7 to 8 period) which teleport me back to classrooms and navy uniform.
These talismans, when stumbled across by accident years later, have grown more potent. The layers have settled like thick leaves heavy with memories, associations, feelings; I’m assuming these to be the thick pillows of nostalgia. It is the same-same but difference of these memories that pinches slightly: Becky’s room has not changed over the years, with the exception of a laptop and some different clothes, I realise the extent to which I have changed enormously and irrevocably.
I went into Café Africa in Amersham today. On walking in I was assailed by my last memory of the place. Wait for it: I had a mint hot chocolate here. It must have been around year 10 – how the time flies, yet I remember the drink like it was yesterday. Only, it turns out, not only have I changed, but the café has as well. They’re now serving breakfast, and an array of sandwiches and salads! I noticed an assortment of flavoured syrups too.
My friend and I sat down to the soup of the day that consisted of tomato, basil and parmesan with a whole grain warm crusty roll. I had a rooibos tea and she an enormous flat white. The soup’s juiciness and tomato lumps squashed onto a warm roll with threads of basil in it was fairly fabulous. My rooibos was delicate and we were both round-eyed with glee at our free mince pies. All this left a particularly scrumptious taste in my mouth because it is an independent, conscientious café. Their focus on local, fair-trade and homemade is admirable without being pretentious.
I often think (is this morbid? You decide) about when I no longer call Amersham my home. Will I walk along the high street and be submerged beneath waves of nostalgia from the newsagents where I bought so many sweets and delivered papers to the wrong houses, the charity shops I combed, the Waterstones I lost myself in? Whatever happens, I hope Caf Af sticks around for a while. I’d like to have some more memories from there.