I’m back from the North, where it was cold but sunny. Meanwhile, Hertford was struck by icy blizzards and resembled Omsk, or perhaps Irkutsk, when I got back last night. Thankfully, Bolly was nice and warm, as my friends had kindly left the heating on.
Yuletide began yesterday here in Hertford. Miniature Christmas trees sprouted magically from the sides of buildings. And picturesque wires appeared on Fore Street in anticipation of neon snowflakes – dangling harbingers of the jollity which will delight us all for months to come.
It would be curmudgeonly in the extreme to observe that we’ve still got three weeks to go till Halloween, seven weeks to go till the start of Advent and several months to go till Christmas and so I won’t say a thing.
I’ll just marvel at the wondrousness of it all and think happy thoughts of reindeers.
I’m normally a sucker for Cillit Bang and like nothing better than going berserk with it in the bathroom. But I’ve recently discovered Tesco Bathroom Cleaner and realised it has a mystic property.
Every time I use it, I’m instantly transported back to Heilbronn in Germany, on a school exchange visit in 1977. Saturday Night Fever is the latest hip movie. Plastic Bertrand is in the charts. My friend Johannes is still at school and isn’t yet a famous doctor.
It’s quite simply the perfume they use in the cleaning fluid. I’ve no idea what it is, but it smells exactly the same as the detergent Johannes’s family used 31 years ago. And it takes my brain straight back.
It’s always weird how smells can transport you so rapidly and vividly back to the past. But there is a scientific explanation. The smell part of the brain is right next to one of the main memory retrieval parts. They both live just a few synapses away from each other in the limbic system. They can virtually hear each other through the wall, like neighbours in a semi. That’s why smells fire off memories so effectively.
I’m making a programme about this for Radio 4 (going out some time in 2009) and will keep you posted.
I’ve always been fascinated by Iceland and occasionally check out Icelandic websites. Today, I had a look at Reykjavik Vinviour which is a bit like Time Out, and this was the gloomy, saga-style message on the homepage, which kind of says it all about the so-called Credit Crunch.
The Icelandic economy has crashed. The government has nationalised all three of the major banks in Iceland and most Icelandic financial institutions are bankrupt. The global credit crisis has hit Iceland like a natural disaster. During a two-week period, our economy was wiped out and this has left us in ruins.
There I was, innocently paying for my Tesco Finest fish pie, when there was an outburst of screaming and customers ducked and ran for cover. Security guards appeared from nowhere and the 12-year-old scanning my stuff sighed, ‘Oh not again!’
Then, on the PA system, I distinctly heard a tense announcement – ‘WOULD SOMEONE FROM VEGETABLES BRING SOME WET SPINACH TO THE INSTANT PHOTO BOOTH!!!’
And then, on top of the photo booth, tucked in the corner and looking distinctly ruffled, I sighted a pigeon. It was like Hitchcock’s The Birds. ‘We’ve had quite a few today,’ said the 3-year-old serving me. ‘Do pigeons drink milk? I think we should tempt it with a saucer of milk.’
I ventured that it was cats rather than pigeons which liked milk and suggested to the security guard that he could gently place a shopping basket over it.
When I left, the pigeon had calmed down, a small crowd had gathered and the security guard was approaching it like a hostage negotiator.
Hertford’s just too dramatic. I’m not sure I can take it.
I’m watching Channel 4 News. John Snow has just told me the economy is in a Death Spiral. What next? It’s all very depresssing. Keep your pecker up and have a nice weekend.