Proust could have done it. He would have remembered every taste of boiled swedes, or cheap oatmeal he had from the days before he even would accept a cup of tea. All the awful healthy flavours which were not in the race with lemonade and marshmallows.
Sometimes when the leaden soldiers were not battling well my brother and I would have a go at peanut brittle, Bulgarian Rock or even marshmallows. Most of our efforts were not worth keeping, although peanut brittle & Bulgarian Rock were hard to dispose of. They had an indestructibility that even our scones lacked.
Mother was probably collecting the rents or playing bridge. She accepted our beginnings of haute-cuisine with a great deal of grace – so long as we consumed or gave away the delights and washed up after the mess.
We didn’t seem to be pushed around too much to household chores – maybe we kept to a minimal area – easy to clean.
Yet it was laid down that on Sunday morning, mother was taken tea and toast to her bed three floors up where she read the papers in luxurious ease. Occasionally she would borrow a “Truth” which would be hidden under a cushion later.
On the way back from Union Street the warmth of the meal tucked under my armpit released urges which the smell of chips rendered irresistible. I never knew how many chips I pilfered on the way home from the newspaper bundle. Doubtless the greasy paper contained the latest news of the attack on Passchendaele or Gallipoli for all I bloody well knew – or cared.
Somewhere just down from King’s the chemist, was an empty house which should have been haunted, but was not. It was cracked and all the cracks weren’t just the hairline things you see in the footling little walls people build these days. These cracks had the nobility and the vigour of the Mississippi River network. From the front gate which had even then long since been locked into rusted immobility, it was never used, seeing that there was no fence attached to it and one really did not have to open the gate to an estate which was not inhabited, anyway.
From the locked gate, locked so irrevocably that even St. Peter could not have opened it against the sole remaining erstwhile staunchness of the fence its opposite style member had parted with the things in it. It spread the non-fence demarcated by chick weed and pee-the-bed.
Am I still alive in Paddington? I have lost the contact. The stream of sub-consciousness is receding from awareness. – I am not remembering – I am not helping my childhood or my sons. If I put it down, it is out of my system, – the agonies, fixed – classified, not to be endured again, exhibits. That much of the effort sucked from the memory – one less thing in the bucket.
What in that crazed house must be written down and commented upon from the memory of our blood? Windows awry, concrete cornucopias adrift from the brave façade.
Sunflowers growing through the gasbox and behind the windows a suggestion of life becomes sometimes the grey sun drapes were not so fixed as there had been a week before. In the garden the long johns wart bent and withered in its maturity: the paspalum only just held its own with the buffalo because Glenmore road was kind in buffalo and greeted it. It grew in such great clusters as only a motormower salesman could envisage. Not that it was in any danger then, for the only pair of hand shears within blocks was regularly borrowed for the necessary training of the tiny lawns at Waverley Cemetery, wherewith monstrous regularity, our neighbours made their abode.
I’ve had this house – It hasn’t come to life—I have started off to say something and it has died in my throat. I don’t like that house now – It is not amusing, and if I think of it, I feel pretty near like it looked. Some other day we will both go down to Glenmore Road and throw a stone at its memory.
[W.E. Pidgeon c.1971]