Wednesday 18 September 2013

Smelly Memories

I’ve been thinking about smells today. My main character in Glass Houses spends time coming out of a coma and is tickled when the whiff of her mother’s stale coffee breath is the first sign that her sense of smell is returning. All she wants to do then is smell and takes a good drag on a host of items from her mother’s handbag. But it’s an old book which she stays with for the longest. The pages squeezed against her nose remind her of childhood memories – good and bad.

When I was growing up my father often had a book pressed to his nose. First-hand, and he wanted to imbibe the book’s newness, the printing process, the excitement of the story to come. If it was old, a good inhalation took him back to night time reading under the covers with a torch. That’s what he told me anyway.

I am not as cultured as my main character or my dad. If I’m asked what smells conjure up my early years then I am compelled to mention Shock Waves hairspray. My friends and I used to buy huge bottles of it from the ‘cheap shop’ (we didn’t have pound shops then) and I don’t particularly remember noticing the smell at the time. I was far too busy back-combing and choosing the most appropriate ribbon or netted scarf to lose in the tangled pile of hair to notice.

But when my children happened upon a bottle a few years ago, I couldn’t get enough of it. You’d think it was Chanel no. 5 – which takes me back to my twenties but that’s another story. One puff of the horribly environmentally unfriendly aerosol and I was back with Madonna and the school disco on Wednesday nights, even though I wasn’t allowed to go until I was in the third year - year nine to the uninitiated – much to the outrage of my friends. I’m not sure I was that bothered, more worried I wouldn’t know how to dance when I got there. It took me back to boyfriends and Adam Ant and make-overs with Rachel which would take us all day just for the before-and-after photos. Where did we get the time? 

It took me back to my yellow bedroom, to tennis in the garden which was way too small and to the breeze block garage we painted white one year much to the total humiliation of me and my three sisters, broadcasting to all our friends our parents’ embarrassing flirtation with the Mediterranean. Oh the shame of the white garage!

But most of all the smell took me back to the holiday in Majorca when my five foot four grandpa with size three feet drove us to the airport and had to take my hairspray home again because they wouldn’t let it on the plane. He hadn’t got a bag with him and we were amused at the prospect of him walking through the airport back to the tiny car (in which we’d crammed six of us including the driver) with an excessively large tin of pink hair spray; particularly as he only had one of those white rings of hair which orbited a bald head. He died soon after the airport lift. This tiny man with a huge bottle of hairspray is one of my last memories of him and it does make me smile.
My bottle was definitely pink!
Thanks to Helen nee Dion for
remembering the name :)

So, what I want to know is, what is it that takes you back? What’s that smell which propels you into your past? Is it a book or is it something less cerebral? Please share! 

Tuesday 10 September 2013

A Walk down the Aisle

My short story, A Walk down the Aisle started life as a play on the Grease idea; Danny and Sandy having a bit of a make-over when it finally dawned upon them that they were meant to be together, whatever it took. Somehow, the plot ended up more Green Card then Grease albeit with my main character, Isaac, more of a Lancashire, Colin Farrell (swoon) in my eyes than a Gerard Depardieu (great accent though, G).

That’s story writing for you, when those keys start tapping, there’s no knowing what will appear on the page.
I wrote the story for a competition, pressed send, had a moment of euphoria that I’d hit the deadline, a couple of hours of doing some ‘proper’ work (ie slightly less enjoyable but slightly more profitable) and then the inevitable panic that the story was muddled and dull and how on earth did I have the audacity to send it?
It didn’t win the competition.

But, the words of the everso lovely and extremely amusing Katie Fjorde at the first York Festival of Writing forever ringing in my ears - you’d take your baby to hospital when it was sick but you’d give up on a story when you could make it better? - I did some more work on it and submitted it instead to Chase magazine.

And, I’m very happy to say, that’s where it appears this month. I’d love you to take a look, Click Chase – pages 92/3 (tip! Click 'last' and then flick back three pages) to read the whole story.

I hope it makes you smile :)