The coffee table in my living room belonged to my grandparents. It’s nothing special – just a low wooden table that could probably do with refreshing a bit – but I’m very fond of it. Mostly, I take it for granted. I put mugs of tea and glasses of wine on it; I might put my feet up on it from time to time when I’m sitting on the sofa. It’s very much a part of the furniture. But sometimes, unexpectedly, I see it with different eyes. I see it not as my coffee table, but as Grandma and Granddad’s table, in the context of their living room, sitting snugly on a thick red carpet with the flames of an open fire reflecting in the varnish. Inexplicable associated memories pop up around it: a tin of Quality Street being passed round; sitting on the floor and leaning on the table to colour in; a biscuit tin with a canal-boat-style rose design; a tin of felt tipped pens; a cat calling to be let in through the window; my Grandma’s feet in slippers; coffee in floral cups with saucers; a half-finished crossword puzzle; a tin of tobacco... These snapshot memories can floor you sometimes, bowling a chill of nostalgia through your blood. But I’m grateful for them. I think they’re the main reason I form such strong attachments to objects.
Entries in See No Evil (32)
Even if I didn’t love prawns, the pleasure of cooking them would take me a long way. I love the speedy transformation of those unappetising grey lumps of flesh into bright pink curls of flavour. The moment they hit the oil in the pan, with that first sizzle, the pink starts to creep in, as though they are slowly warming up and coming to life. I love watching the blush of colour spread through them, the tightening of the flesh, like a closing fist, as they cook through. I love how quickly it happens, how every moment you’re stirring is significant. Cooking prawns is such a small and fleeting task, but it rewards so deeply. It is all the pleasure of autumn condensed into a few moments and thrown into a pan. And what’s not to love in that?
Monkey by Clive Wesley Dennis
I often fail at baths. Dave usually groans when I announce that I plan to have one, because nine times out of ten, I get over-excited about the concept and then end up getting out early with red skin and a headache. But when I get it right, a bath is a glorious thing. If it’s cold outside and my muscles ache; if the temperature is just the right level of warmth and the bathtub is as full as it can be; if the bubbles are generous and creamy and I don’t have to worry about the time, a bath is a luxurious kind of comfort. I like it best when dusk is falling but it’s not quite dark, when I have candles lit and the reflection of their flames twinkle in the bubbles. I like it when the house is quiet and I can hear the reassuring clicks of the boiler and soft splashes of water around me. I like it when the bubbles smell delicious (pretty much anything herbal works for me but rosemary is particularly special) and I can smell dinner in the oven downstairs. There’s something about the whole thing that takes me back to childhood, when I used to have to wash my hair on a Sunday evening and come down to dry it by the fire while my favourite meal was cooking: it’s that safe, comforting feeling, and I think that’s why I find it frustrating when I don’t enjoy a bath. It’s like I’ve broken comfort.
Monkey by Clive Wesley Dennis
There’s nothing more inviting than the comforting sight of your own front door at the end of an exhausting day, when the dusk’s already settling in the treetops and you’re laden down with bags. Sometimes I don’t think a lot of arriving home; it’s just one of the many things I take for granted. But there are times – when the day has been stressful or busy or long – that I really feel the pleasure of coming home; that I really appreciate the friendly green door that calls me home every afternoon. On those days, I love the relief of putting a shopping bag down while I find my keys; the familiar clunk of the lock; the sound of the post shunting along the mat when I push the door into it. And the greatest pleasure of them all: closing the door behind me and knowing I won’t have to open it again until the morning.
Monkey by Clive Wesley Dennis
I’d forgotten how pleasing acorns are until yesterday. Dave and I spent the afternoon wandering around Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery, surrounded by the early signs of autumn. The oak trees were laden, and dropping nuts to the ground with satisfying thwaks. I kept one in my pocket all day, running my fingers round the smooth shell and rolling its weight between my fingers.
Acorns remind me of being a kid. Autumn was a time for collecting stuff, the indulgence of a sort of primal instinct for gathering produce, despite the fact that an eight year old has little practical use for an acorn or a conker or a beech nut. At that age, I liked stories about human-like animals: the kind that baked cakes and visited each other’s trees and warrens to sit by the fire and warm their toes; the kind written by Beatrix Potter or Alison Uttley. Those animals were always gathering things and storing them for winter; turning them into edible goodies and gifting them to their friends. They lived safe and cosy lives which I envied; collecting autumn nuts was one of the ways I pretended I was like them.
Acorns were a particularly satisfying find. My favourite thing about them was the way they felt: smooth and rounded and hard. Then there was the colour – either vibrant green or woody brown depending on how ripe they were – and the shape of them, perfectly smooth and oval. And finally, the cup: so full of potential, so separate from the nut. In the stories I read, animals would drink fresh dew from acorn cups, a pleasure I envied.
Now, as well as being a sign of a healthy and fruitful autumn, a laden oak tree takes me back to those stories and to the simple pleasure of collecting things. It’s something I never remember until I see one, but the sight of an acorn, for me, is surprisingly soul-nourishing.
Monkey by Kieran Hazell (www.ownbeat.co.uk)