Smells like film

At the weekend I did a thing I have never done before. You’ll think this is madness, but I had never been into the loft until this Sunday. Not just this loft either, but any loft. I have stuck my head through hatches over the years, so I had an inkling of what the terrain looked like. I had just never actually finished the climb. There were always other people around to do that kind of thing.

It started, as so many things do, when I was a kid. Kids were not allowed in the loft, for lots of very good reasons, such as stepping on the wrong bits which would result in not being on the loft any more. The loft in my parents’ house was not boarded, and Dad would wobble from beam to beam as he negotiated the piles of junk he hoarded up there. There were teetering towers of old 78 rpm records, broken televisions and radios, old furniture, Christmas decorations, and probably Shergar hiding out with Lord Lucan.

Our own loft was not very different. So, as previously advertised, we have been decluttering. In order to be efficient, Sigoth suggested I go up into the loft and we could decide what needed to go and what could stay without him having to shout down the hatch at me all day. I was sceptical. The loft entrance is a bit tricky and I don’t like ladders. Besides which, lofts are a man thing, Lay-dees don’t do lofts.

Sigoth persuaded me that Michael McIntyre was not presenting a documentary, and that the loft whores were actually very welcoming.

I climbed the ladder and the damage was done. I discovered a magical new world and today I even went back up on my own while Sigoth was at work. His last refuge is utterly destroyed.

We went through endless boxes and crates, and found all kinds of exciting things from our childhoods. In particular we found my Dad’s old projection screen for watching cine films. I remember that screen. It had a smell to it. I’m not sure what it was, but it was not unpleasant. It wafted about the living room while we sat huddled together remembering holidays or even watching cartoons (you could borrow them by post, a kind of precursor to video or DVD rentals). Dad used to splice the films together and add captions, and even experimented with music. He had worked in cinemas in his earlier days as an engineer, where he looked after the Nevelin’s rectifiers.

Back to the smell though. Isn’t it amazing how smells evoke memories? For a few happy moments I was back in our room, squashed between my mother and grandmother, reliving whatever antics Dad had filmed. The curtains are drawn, the projector is buzzing away from its precarious perch on the ironing board, and the screen is leaning drunkenly in front of the sideboard while the grainy footage shudders past.

Similarly if you waft a ham sandwich in front of me, once I have explained that I am vegetarian, I will soon be listening to the football results on Saturday evening while I wait for Basil Brush to come on. We had fresh ham cut from the bone on Saturday evenings as a treat. Mr Knight in the corner shop cut it with a scary-looking machine, while his Dalmatian dog, Dotty, sat on my foot and panted in my face. She was at least as tall as me, and terribly friendly, but a bit heavy on my toes. I preferred her to their corgis though. They could be a bit snappy.

Those football results were great fun too – does anyone remember? I had no idea what the man was going on about; it could have been an incantation to the hordes of Satan for all I was aware. We were not a footballing family. But the announcer made such enormous efforts to make the results interesting. His voice would rise and fall with excitement as he read the scores out breathlessly into the microphone and the viewer watched the ticker tape coming through with more scores as matches finished for the day. They never finished fast enough for me. I wanted Basil and Uncle Derek.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who has these flashbacks when I detect a certain smell. What are yours? Are they as vivid as mine still seem to be?


Go on then, it's your turn

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