Monday, 2 January 2017

Forgetfulness of things past

The thing about Tweed is that it never goes out of fashion. Of course, you might think that was because it was never in fashion in the first place but, hey, that doesn’t make the statement any less true.

I’m deeply attached to my fine, old Tweed jacket.

I say old because it is old but, to be fair, it was probably old when it was new.

And by “attached” I don’t mean I’m sufficiently fond of it to wear it. Every year or so I go through my wardrobe picking the clothes I never wear and chucking them out. Or rather, this being England where the only thing in constant growth is poverty, not chucking them but recycling them through a charity shop.

Each time I carry out this culling exercise, I come across the tweed jacket and I think, “I shouldn’t get rid of that one. I should wear it a bit more”. It’s a thought that comes with a pang of guilt, since each time I realise that I haven’t worn it, even once, since the last time. It continues to hang in my wardrobe, seemingly immoveable because I’m no more prepared to part with it than I am to put it on.

Today I was preparing an expense claim and realised I’d mislaid a train ticket. Whenever this happens – and, alas, it happens more often than I like – I always check through the breast pockets of all my jackets, since that’s an obvious place to stuff a ticket which you’re going to need at a barrier in a short time.

What prompted me to look in the tweed jacket I can’t imagine. There was no chance the missing ticket would be in a garment I hadn’t put on for years. But what I did find was something even better, a discovery that opened a door to a trip down Memory Lane. Except in my case Forgetfulness Lane is far more apt.

I found two boarding card stubs (remember when airlines used to have those? Before you could use a phone?) They were for a flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Barcelona, one 12 November. The outward flight was at 7:30 am.

The last time I lived close enough to the airport at Roissy to catch a plane there at 7:30 was 1998. We’re talking about a trip that happened up to two decades ago (you might spot the fact that my seat was in the ‘no-smoking cabin’ which certainly dates things a bit).

The trigger for a flood of memories.
Or in my case none at all
Sadly, I have no memory of the trip at all. Which seems a pity, since Barcelona is one of my favourite cities.

Was it the 7:30 start? In November? Maybe it was sheer trauma that led to my memory failure. A kind of act of mercy by my psyche. Particularly as I notice from the return stub that I flew back the same day, on the flight that left just before 6:00. I can only have had about six hours in the city itself, making it an experience to bury rather than relive.

What can have possessed me to wear tweed to Barcelona? It’s true that it’s cold in November. Even so, the Spaniards dress so well. Was I trying to make a point of my Englishness, it being a profoundly English tradition to wear that quintessentially Scottish cloth?

Lots of fascinating questions. Speculating on the answers is almost as pleasurable as reliving the lost past. It’s a kind of non-nostalgia.

For Proust, it was the taste of a Madeleine cake. For me, it was the rough feel of tweed. Of course, for Proust the experience triggered an avalanche of remembrance of things past. In mine, it merely reminded me of my forgetfulness.

Where I have the edge over Proust, though, is in my succinctness. He used a million and a quarter words on recreating his memories. I’ve taken fewer than 700 on the failure of mine. 

A small mercy, dear reader, to be thankful for.

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