would include the corner honeysuckle hedge and two houses with high walls. Not ours, at first. When did it change? A pink hibiscus in the corner bed is where the hiding-place might be. Two white-yellow oleanders each side of the gate, their seeping white sap not safe. The wet path, too, when it rains the tiles can crack your head if you don’t walk carefully. For a photo we stood on that path: Granny, Grandpa, Dad and me
Lately, like yesterday near Regent’s Canal, I have seen honeysuckle all over the place. If I am able to I’ll sniff it to gauge the strength of scent and see if it will take me back to a lost time.
One’s childhood home inevitably is the site of full-bodied memories (1). And these memories often include the senses beyond sight. The weight of holding my sister as a baby with her bald, slighty fuzzy head beneath which there was a hole where her skull had not yet fused. Fried fish fillets and Smash (processed mashed potato from a packet), Margaret’s chicken and vegetable soup, sharp Granny Smith apples (I can’t eat Granny Smiths anymore). The endless soundtrack of Umhlobo Wenene (the isiXhosa radio station), yet still not understanding most of what was sung or said, piano students playing Dozen-a-Day or that unmistakeable opening of Für Elise, but never the (more difficult) middle section. And then there is scent.
When I was five or six, I used to play under the honeysuckle, or in the nook with the hibiscus tree on the opposite side of the garden. Back then, I wanted to capture heady, sweet fragrance of a happy summer. For some time, I was determined to make honeysuckle perfume and tried milking the flowers for their sap. The next attempt involved fermenting brown flowers in tiny bottles. (I have subsequently found out from friends that they, too, tried perfume making in their childhoods. Perhaps it is a right of curiosity passage like school volcano projects in sit coms.)
None of the methods worked and I have not yet found a commercial scent of honeysuckle that matches my memories. Instead, I must wait until the summer when nature makes a limited season available, not unlike that lost time.
(1) A friend kindly gave me a copy of Giuseppe Tomas Di Lampedusa’s “Childhood Memories and Other Stories” to share the vivid memories of his family’s old palazzi. This nostalgic read will surely conjure your own memories of first places.
This poem will be included in ‘Necessary Work’, a forthcoming collation of poems. In the meantime, have a look at Jangle between Jangle This a collection of verse was written while jangling to-and-fro across London during the commute in 2018. Follow BQ on the gram (@beadedquillwrites) and Facebook. Find BQ’s books for sale via Blurb.