The things that re­mind us of loved ones

A tweet about an M&S jumper trig­gered a flood of Prous­tian mem­o­ries. We asked con­trib­u­tors to share theirs Tele­graph

The Daily Telegraph - - Features -

‘Nowhere and no time do I miss my dad more acutely than in the men’s depart­ment of M&S at Christ­mas,” Rachael Prior wrote on Twit­ter at the week­end. It had been a red jumper, to be pre­cise, that had stirred pow­er­ful mem­o­ries of her late fa­ther, Lyn­ton: “It was the sort of thing he would love,” she said. “I’d have picked it for him and I could imag­ine his face in that mo­ment.”

Shar­ing that sim­ple thought has led to an out­pour­ing of sim­i­lar sto­ries on so­cial me­dia, with mov­ing tales of ev­ery­day re­minders of griev­ing for lost loved ones be­ing traded. Here, Daily

Tele­graph con­trib­u­tors share the lit­tle things that make them miss the ones that mat­ter most.

Tom Parker Bowles Food writer and critic (right)

The scent of El­nett hair­spray im­me­di­ately trans­ports me back to my child­hood, sit­ting in my ma­ter­nal grand­mother’s bed­room in Sus­sex. She was Ros­alind Shand, and she died when I was 19.

As a child, I would hang about talk­ing to her as she got ready to go out in the even­ings and I thought she was very glam­orous and cool. When­ever I catch a glimpse of the dis­tinc­tive tall gold El­nett can, I al­ways smile.

Libby Purves Jour­nal­ist

It is a priv­i­lege to know some­one in their last months and be­come closer friends than you were be­fore. It was through her pa­tient project, healthtalkon­line, that I got to know Dr Ann Mcpher­son, an Ox­ford GP who spoke out about as­sisted dy­ing for ter­mi­nal pa­tients. The irony is that not long after­wards, she had a fi­nal can­cer her­self. We used to have break­fast to­gether once a month. I got her special order by heart – milk and hot wa­ter, soft scram­bled egg. And as she be­came weaker over the year, her spirit be­came greater.

We talked of plays and books and the news, laughed a lot. I had my own trou­bles – fam­ily be­reave­ment, my husband away a lot, the usual frets – and ev­ery piece of ad­vice and in­sight from Ann was gold. She made me see that life was OK. Even though for her it wasn’t. I shan’t for­get our last break­fast: weak, brave,

she could still laugh.

Vanessa Feltz Broad­caster

When­ever I see the colour turquoise or smell Lily of the Val­ley, I am flooded with a rush of loss and sad­ness. They re­mind me so strongly of my mother who died 22 years ago, aged just 57, and I feel such long­ing it pulls me up short. My mother was a hugely in­tel­li­gent, enig­matic char­ac­ter who was al­ways com­ing out with snip­pets of re­con­dite in­for­ma­tion and I miss her ev­ery day. My daugh­ter Saskia had Lily of the Val­ley in her wed­ding bou­quet be­cause that way my mother could be part of her happy day.

Mar­garet Mount­ford Busi­ness­woman (right)

When­ever I hear the Sal­va­tion Army band, it im­me­di­ately con­jures up a won­der­ful Christ­mas feel­ing and takes me right back to when I was a lit­tle girl grow­ing up in North­ern Ire­land. My fa­ther was a cler­gy­man and my mother loved Christ­mas so it was a re­ally special, happy, im­por­tant time. Back in those days the band would come round all the houses and we would gather on our doorsteps, en­joy­ing the mu­sic, and then give them a do­na­tion. In my mem­ory it was al­ways crisp and snowy rather than grey and driz­zly of course, but that’s the joy of nos­tal­gia!

Su­san­nah Con­stan­tine Nov­el­ist and makeover queen

I can scarcely de­scribe the emo­tional im­pact the first win­ter snow has on me; the si­lence, the ex­pec­ta­tion, the crys­talline chill. I am sud­denly a child again feel­ing lib­er­ated be­cause the nor­mal rules of ev­ery­day life have changed com­pletely. I used to sit on the win­dow seat in my nanny’s room, drink hot choco­late, eat treats and watch the flakes spin­ning down to earth, all the while imag­in­ing the ad­ven­tures that I would have. I named my first novel Af­ter the Snow be­cause I loved how ex­hil­a­rated those flur­ries made me feel. Even now I chase every­one out­side when it snows; I want to pass on those as­so­ci­a­tions of free­dom and reck­less­ness to my own chil­dren.

Ben Fogle Ad­ven­turer (be­low)

I’m a smelly per­son. Not in a stinky kind of way but in an emotive way. Smells cat­a­pult me like a time ma­chine to my child­hood. The smell of sweet shops al­ways re­minds me of my late grand­mother, Jean. She lived alone in Brighton in a tiny lit­tle place called Smug­glers Cot­tage. My grand­fa­ther (her husband) died when I was al­most too young to re­mem­ber, so it was al­ways Grandma and her lit­tle Nor­folk ter­rier.

We would of­ten visit for the week­end and, as a treat, she would take my sis­ters and me to the small corner shop near her house, lined with jars of mul­ti­coloured sweets like some­thing out of Willy Wonka.

That smell takes me back to that shop. The de­li­cious de­ci­sion. Which sweets would I go for? We would spend ages de­bat­ing the mer­its of each kind. Fly­ing saucers dis­solved on the tongue too quickly. Shrimps never ful­filled an­tic­i­pa­tion. In­vari­ably, I would go for the acid drops or some pink ball that left pink pow­der on my finger tips. I can still hear the clank of the sweets as they tum­bled into the me­tal weigh­ing dish be­fore be­ing poured into a lit­tle pa­per bag with blue stripes. There aren’t so many tra­di­tional sweet shops any more, but oc­ca­sion­ally we stum­ble across one as a fam­ily. I find my­self mes­merised and lured in by that un­mis­tak­able smell. It al­ways re­minds me of grandma Jean with her lit­tle Nor­folk ter­rier sip­ping a cup of tea.

Vic­to­ria His­lop Nov­el­ist

My grand­mother used to ask me for the same present ev­ery year: Yard­ley lip­stick in cherry red. I bought her one of these each year from when I was eight years old un­til 18, when she died in the early Eight­ies. By Christ­mas, the one she had was worn down to a stub, so in the nick of time she un­wrapped a new one and ex­claimed with sur­prise.

The cas­ing was heavy and gold and the lip­stick it­self had a sweet, waxy smell. It seemed like a re­ally glam­orous present (al­ways pur­chased from the same depart­ment store in Tun­bridge Wells) and I knew it would be ap­plied care­fully and fru­gally once a day un­til the fol­low­ing year. It’s a colour that’s very on-trend again now, and ev­ery time I walk past the shiny cos­metic coun­ters at Christ­mas, I think of her. ‘Cartes Postales from Greece’, by Vic­to­ria His­lop, is pub­lished by Head­line

Jenni Mur­ray Broad­caster (be­low)

It’s 11 years since the death of my mother, Win Bai­ley, and, while I think of her of­ten and miss her giddy chat­ter and ab­so­lute ado­ra­tion of my two sons – how she would have loved to see what splen­did young men they’ve be­come – it’s the phone that brings that pierc­ing sense of loss to my heart.

Not the mo­bile – she never called me on that – but on the in­creas­ingly rare oc­ca­sions the lan­d­line rings, just for a sec­ond, I still imag­ine it will be her voice on the other end.

She had a very par­tic­u­lar tele­phone tone and it’s one of those in­her­ited traits I recog­nise in my­self. When I called her, I heard a rather taut, stud­ied, posh, clipped “Barns­ley 291188, Winifred Bai­ley speak­ing”.

I would say: “Hello Mum, it’s Jen.” She hated Jenni, say­ing it re­minded her of a cow she’d known on her aunt’s farm as a child. I only ever got Jennifer when she was cross with me.

As soon as she re­alised it was me, she would slip into her warm York­shire burr: “Ooh, ’ello luv. How you doin’?” We would chat for hours, ex­chang­ing gos­sip, recipes, moans and groans. I will never hear her voice again, but, just for that sec­ond, as the phone rings, I will al­ways fancy I might.

Bells and smells: Jenni Mur­ray aged 14 (main pic­ture) is re­minded of her mother, Win Bai­ley, by the sound of the lan­d­line ring­ing. Other mem­ory trig­gers in­clude the Sal­va­tion Army band, El­nett hair­spray, tra­di­tional sweet shops and Yard­ley lip­stick

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