We, as humans are a nostalgic breed, our memories are very important to us; we live to tell and retell our stories. These secure our futures and anchor our pasts. There are, or seem to be, three types of memory. Firstly there are our treasured memories, polished pearls glistening just beneath the surface of our thoughts. These are often taken out and admired and then put back on the shelves of our minds like well thumbed books. Then there are the thoughts we don’t like to think, our deepest regrets, our most horrific horrors. These are locked away in strong dusty trunks in the corners of our minds and when stumbled across they can have devastating effects. Finally there are the memories that seem to take us back in time; these make the old feel young and the young feel old. These memories aren’t organized or filed but find you when you least expect them; they are always lurking around dark corridors in old houses, hiding in the notes of songs, creeping through words of poems, trapped in bottles of perfume waiting for the perfect moment to jump out and throw you.
I am fortunate enough to live mere minutes away from the house I lived in till I was seven years old. Being, as I was on that particular cold and dizzily day, very early for a doctor’s appointment and with an hour to kill, sixty minutes of potential, three thousand and six hundred seconds of my time on earth which I needed to waste, I decided to visit the street on which I used to live.
To reach the quiet tree lined street I first had to walk through Kentish Town, along the grey high street with the tawdry glow emulating from the large cash converters towards the end of the road. As I perambulated along the chewing gum laden pavement I pondered how I would feel after my saunter down memory road, what my voyage of discovery would gain me. Perhaps I would be inspired, possibly long forgotten memories would rise forth and flow from the depths of my mind like a powerful thundering waterfall of thought. But what if this would have a pernicious effect, maybe I would remember all that had been and wish that nothing had changed. Would I grow to hate this ill fated journey into my past? detest this foray into what was? No. I calmed my fears. I am a different person now. The girl who lived in that house was not me. She was a little child with my name, my family and who possessed a striking resemblance to me.
Most likely nothing would come of my adventure. Nothing. Nothing would change. Nothing would move on. Yet I still carried on walking.
As I neared my destination it struck me that I would have to walk along the more dangerous stretch of paving tiles and asphalt. This was good. I liked the pound shops and run down greasy spoons. This is what London should feel like. I traversed this section slowly, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells. I know that this will all be soon gone. The up marketisation of Kentish Town would soon stretch to even the greasiest, darkest edges and take over.
I hadn’t far to go now. My old road falls in the stretch of land lying peacefully between Camden Town and Kentish Town. Although the division between the two areas is anything but clear my mother always maintains that we never lived in Kentish Town. That was her truth and she told it to anyone she could. I always liked the no mans land between the two districts. For me it is full of memories, memories in each paving stone, each front door opening to reveal memories I didn’t even know I had.
The road is closed to traffic and when I stepped into it I was presented with an eerie calm. Coupled with the influx of memories this made me feel light headed and gave the situation an unearthly feeling.
I stood still, in my mind hours passed. Memories rushed over me like waves breaking on the shore; skipping along the pavement. Squinting at street lights to make them appear like fire works. The journey to my first day at school. The smell of a winter morning. Christmas. Standing on chairs to hang up paper chains I had made. The first book I ever read. My school uniform laid out, ready for me. Racing my brother along the road. When my mother broke her arm. The fridge. Having milk heated up for me. Getting ready to go to Hampstead Heath. Thousands of relatives visiting from all over the world. Pictures I had drawn. My old bedroom. The old sofas. My old hopes and dreams.
I was overwhelmed, engulfed by these memories. My legs started to shake. I wanted to cry. I wanted to laugh. I felt tired. I felt very much awake. I was as old as the world. I was as a young as a newborn baby. This was everything. This was nothing. I was alive.
I soon became aware that I was not alone. An old woman, dressed in drab grey clothes with drab grey hair looked at me with worried, tired eyes. “Are you alright dearie?” she asked, her voice saturated with pity and concern.
“I’m fine. I don’t know what happened to me just then. Thank you.” I said, mustering up my friendliest smile. She smiled back, nodded and walked off. I looked down at my watch. I was late.