It’s windy and wet again. Which does seem to make me feel nostalgic and full of memories.
But content. The air is warm, and has not a hint of draft inside here; there is a coolness on my arms coming from downstairs, so I won’t overheat. I am warm inside the bedclothes, my legs crossed within them. Laptop humming with me here. The duvet tangles about me, and I watch the leaves and the rain. And slip away into the past.
Ever since I was small, I loved the sensation of being indoors when it rained in autumn and winter – the contrast of the harshness of the Cailleach outside, cleansing and moving through the land, understanding the need to sweep away all that was done…and the softness of watching it from inside. The feeling of being safe, somewhere warm, oh so warm, and soft. Curled in a bed, or on a sofa, under the arm of someone I loved, or by myself, with a book open on the edge of a chair, its spine broken, and my hands warmed by a mug of steaming hot chocolate or ginger tea. The atmosphere of it. I can no longer tell what was atmospheric suggestion from TV seen when small, or books read over the course of a lifetime (the same brainwashing that gives so many of us the notion of a Dickensian Christmas).
All I can remember, very clearly, for it was all snatches, was an afternoon long long ago. Maybe I was five, or six. I was in my maternal grandfather’s shed in the back garden. It was coldish, and dank, and smelled of earth and spiders and wood not stored properly. But it was a good smell. There was a hint of boiled sweets in there too, orange ones, green ones. The shed windows were tiny and grimy about the edges, though plated with real glass. I remember sitting obediently on the floor, possibly on some sacking, as I remember a sensation of sitting on something that mediated between me and the wooden floor. I was watching my granddad, who was facing away from me, pottering. He had false teeth, and would suck the corners of his mouth, his sweet, thoughtfully while busy. The teeth didn’t fit quite right. I associated this slurpy quiet thinking noise with him, always. He had a hearing aid too, an old fashioned one. He would let me put my hand up to his ear, so the little mechanism would make an ‘eeeeeeee’ noise at me, often. It made me laugh. What he was doing in this memory I have no idea. Planting something in a pot; making me a cot for my Sarah doll? He used to make me furniture for my dolls, sometimes. Always sturdy and basic and varnished lightly with a dark brownish stain.
I only really remember the smell of the shed that day, the sitting down so low, the half light. Not at all spooky, just that half light of an overcast day in a small space with a small window – and the incessant patter of rain on the corrugated metal roof. The sound was beautiful, entrancing, hypnotic. I felt so safe there, with my granddad close by, and me enclosed in a small space, warm and dry and contented.
This image switches to one of being in the car – I don’t know who drove – my mother, my granddad – the only two family members who could. Me laying down on the back seat. Possibly my head was in someone’s lap. Possibly just the seat (the memory included no one in the back seat with me, or no one important to the memory). I was looking out the side window on the right of the car, high up, and we were whizzing past trees. Trees with no leaves on, pointed and frozen. Watching them fly past at that angle was amazing; an upside down world filled with sky, decorated at the bottom edges with those pointing branches. It was lightish, but again that half light, of autumn or winter. The glass was streaked with rain, and droplets zigzagged excitedly down the window, one after another, chasing, chasing, happy to be moving. I remember finding them to be quite alive and very spirited. The rain puckered the view, trees swollen and eclipsed by a million small drops when there was a flurry. They slowed and whizzed and moved onward, depending on the speed of the car. Which smelled of French Fancies cakes, by Mr Kipling, my nan’s favourite. No idea where we had been going or coming from that day, no recollection of conversation or anything.
Just a frozen moment of contentment in the back of the car, where I was alone, for a second, with the element of water, the element of air – the odd perspective of looking out the window upwards (that change of perspective children do so well: laying on the floor and looking up at the ceiling of a room: imagining THAT is the floor and all the furniture – and yourself – hangs off the ceiling – how empty and bigger the room is, without these things in the way of its space and edges).
These strange half chinked into light memories always wash themselves over me when it is a day with rain, and I have a few minutes to myself. I am still that child. The world is just more complicated now. Not so much time to watch the raindrops in their races.