When I try to remember my Nana, the first thing I think of is food. I remember Pizza Express pizza, followed by ice cream, followed by a big bag of pick and mix. I remember the giant bowls of lasagne I always chose at the little Italian we often visited with her. I never failed to polish mine off, deeply rich and gooey with cheese. The restaurant was a shrine to assorted paraphernalia; photos, flags, toys. An eclectic array, even the four Teletubbies were represented, their little stuffed selves hanging from one of the dark wooden beams; purple, green, yellow and red. The owner was as ebullient as the decor, always cheery and chatty. On one occasion he presented me with a little, porcelain faced clown, which I secretly hated, deeply fearful of clowns.
I remember the glass jar of fruit pastilles Nana kept on the wooden cabinet behind her big blue armchair. Sugar crystaled and multi-coloured, they were the little treasures we could have if we were good. And I remember her chicken casserole, can still recall the smell, drifting from the kitchen into the living room as it baked in the oven, tomatoey and herbal.
And then there were the visits to the patisserie. Every time, my brother and I would search out the tray of marzipan animals in the shop window. We would stand with our faces right up close to the glass, peering in, deliberating over which one to buy this time; the green and yellow snake, the pale pink pig with its tiny curling tail, or my favourite, the blue elephant, with its big ears and curving trunk.
So many days, hours, minutes, moments that I’ve lived through and lost the memory for.
But some tiny fragments stick fast. Certain sights, smells, tastes; little flashes that linger on, shining out, when I try to look back.
And it’s those moments that I want to harbour up here; memories – like those of marzipan elephants – that I want to hold on to.
Here’s one of them – a crisp, bright November afternoon drinking hot chocolate on a beach in West Wales, and then watching the sun set….