Sometimes we only need a ‘trigger’ point memory to retrieve something we may have ‘lost’ in our past. At the Phoenix Writers’ Group in Horwich Bolton, we often explore different ‘triggers’ through workshops.
Here’s a simple trigger using a famous cordial- RIBENA!
I remember being rather envious of houses where ‘ribena’ was readily available. It always semed an expensive drink that was for other people rather than for my brother and me. So when I thought of ‘ribena’ I found a short series of glimpses that had been tucked away sleeeping in the recesses of my mind.
The act of recollection reminds me of the movement of dominoes. ‘Ribena’ was the first domino. This memory anchor then ‘nudged’ different domino memories, so everything reanimated once again: my Aunty Joan, Shandy the dog, the cold kitchen in Hale; Oxford Road’s greatest clairvoyant, who had the the bluest of eyes and Aunty Joan’s Sunday evening ghost tales told over a steaming hot iron.
There was always Ribena in my godmother’s house and sometimes chocolate biscuits. My godmother made a soft rustling sound as she moved about as she always wore pinnies and always claimed to have ‘something baking in the oven’. We called her Auntie Joan Jude to differentiate her from my biological Aunty Joan who lived in Manchester and ironed every Sunday night. If I stayed there in Manchester, then I would sit in a chair in the steamy kitchen whilst my Aunty Joan tried to scare me with her ghost stories as she ironed. It was warmer in her kitchen than anywhere else and Shandy the dog would sit in her box listening, so she wouldn’t be called ‘that daft dog’ by my Uncle Norman.
Perhaps I was a disappointment to my Aunty Joan as she did her best with her ghost stories, but I had an immunity to her tales probably brought on by a trip to see the greatest living clairvoyant ‘Ribena’ who lived up some wooden stairs on Oxford Road. Once my brother and I had been pronounced ‘special ‘ by the famous predictor of fate, then no tales told by my Aunt were going to unsettle me, however macabre.
The only exception to my immunity lurked in the Whitworth Art Gallery, where I was horrified to see John the Baptist’s head held in triumph by Salome. Now that image haunted me for years! Chapel en le frith’s winter fog, the musty train seats that pricked and the long dark lane home from the station with my mum and brother, ALL get mixed up somehow with the bloody head of poor John the Baptist! What a coalescence!
The Woman in Black
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