As I get older, I seem to spend more time looking back on happy memories. My grandfather used to smoke a pipe with Old Holborn in it. Even now, almost 50 years later, I only have to catch a whiff of it and in an instant, I am eight years old again. Much in the same way, there are pieces of music that take me back to people and places. My mother explaining Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, with the sound of the waves washing in and out of the cave – I think I was about five at the time. Music has been a huge part of my life and I seldom sit down to write without something playing softly in the background.
What else? The silky softness of our first labrador’s ears, a joy that has stayed with me throughout my life. I am now on my fifth golden retriever and his ears are especially soft – matching his brain. The first sight of glorious scenery or a seascape, you all know the ones I mean. They take your breath away momentarily. There is a road leading from Dore and Totley near Sheffield to Hathersage, the place where, allegedly, Little John is buried. As you drive round the corner, you see the entire valley laid out in front of you and it is stunning, something I shall never forget. And will I ever forget the taste of Nicky’s warm homemade wholewheat bread spread with her just cooling homemade blackberry and apple jam? Doubt it. I only have to close my eyes.
Memories are made of this, so the song says and it’s true. The senses are what keep us connected to the world, so that we are part of it and not just spectators. How much does a hug mean when everything looks bleak? Beyond wealth.
The senses are also a valuable weapon in the writer’s armoury. So frequently, we read of what characters see and hear, but how often does the writer evoke scents or tastes? When Keats talks about ‘beaded bubbles winking at the brim’, can’t you just see and almost taste the delicious water from the fountain of the Muses?
At the moment, I am trying to write a love scene, something I have never before attempted. Part of me wishes I had left it that way, but the story needs it and so I must gird up my loins as it were and write something that must be slightly more than real, but not so beyond it that it tumbles into comedy. How will I do that? I shall start with the senses of touch and taste, action and reaction and go from there. The final judgement will rest with the feedback from my writers’ group should I ever have the courage to read it to them. I’ll keep you posted.