Sights, Smells and Sounds: Memories are made of these

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Sights, Smells and Sounds – Memories are made of these
The name of this site is East Leeds Memories, well sights smells and sounds – memories are made of these.
My old school teacher, should she be trying to put over a difficult concept to us, would say; ‘See it in your mind’s eye.’ Well even today I still try to see things with my mind’s eye. I tend to see different places in two separate states, as they are today and as they used to appear in the past. For instance: when I think of Knostrop where I spent my childhood I see it as a semi-rural ideal with its fields, farms, ponds, rhubarb, woods, Grand houses and pleasant little lanes. Not as it is now a concrete industrial estate with barely a blade of grass.

Similarly when I see the former Snake Lane playing fields, now cut by the East Leeds Express way and dominated by a builders car park. I see in my mind’s eye how it used to be: A football pitch with its two terracotta dressing rooms and us playing football twenty a side, three grass tennis courts, a prize winning bowling green complete with drinking fountain and a grove of poplar trees. We remember these sights but when we are gone who will remember them then? Sometimes I turn a corner and expect to see a familiar friendly old building but it’s been swept away and something new and unfamiliar is in its place. I suppose those who were custodians of the area a hundred years before us would have seen an even more rural scene I wish I could look through their mind’s eyes and see what our area looked like in the 19th century

And folk: I see them as they are now with the age of years upon them but in my mind’s ye I see them young and virile, handsome or pretty
There are other sights our generation experienced good and bad that are etched into our memories and although we didn’t realise it at the time they were special occurrences and unlikely to be repeated in the future: for instance the sky filled from east to west with winking Lancaster bombers off on a thousand bomber raid, a special sight for us but not a happy outcome for their destination. The liberation of Paris, Good but awakening awareness of the concentration camps, not good the mushroom cloud, bad, our lovely old paddy engines: Kitchener, Dora, Jubilee, Antwerp and Sylvia, dressed in their green livery, lovely. Fond memories of congregations beneath mellow gas lamps great.

I find it amazing how much the memory has stored which you thought you had forgotten: a film you thought you hadn’t seen until a scene comes up and jolts your memory and you realised you had seen the film before after all, I remember coming across a type of stile I hadn’t seen or even thought about for years but I was reminded where it was that I had seen a similar stile years before.
And have you noticed the amount of folk you dredge up in dreams. Folk you have not even thought about for years, where had they been hiding?
Now we come to smells: The smell of worked pine has me back in Cleggy’s school woodwork department at Victoria School.
Cattle smells and chicken bran and I’m back at Aunt Nelly’s cottage on my short wartime evacuation.
The smell of the ‘dope’ used in powerful motorbikes and I’m back at Odsal Speedway in the 1950s.
The special smell of wartime chocolate (which due to shortages had to be made without sugar), and the delicious smell of fresh wartime green paint and I’m back in wartime.
Chalk dust and sour milk smells, it’s Monday morning at primary school.
The smell of engineering soluble oil reminds me of my overalls hanging behind the door. I’m an engineering apprentice and Monday mornings is approaching.
Finally Sounds: they waft you back to places where you used to hear them.
The ‘All Clear’ siren – it’s safe to come out of the air raid shelter.
‘Moonlight Serenade’ by Glen Miller – introduced me to grown up music.
‘Jumbalay’ (and a cod fish pie etc.) waft to back to my first job where a lad sang it from dawn to dusk.
The beautiful purring tone of a Spitfire’s Rolls Royce Merlin engine, I’m looking up into the sky while at play.
‘I talk to the trees’: a song I would sing to myself, walking my bike up the hill to ‘Miggy Clearings’ to play cricket. I was very happy.
‘Volare’: a holiday with good old mates in Austria.
‘Every day’; sung by Buddy Holly: ‘Every day it’s a getting closer going faster than a rollercoaster’, winding down to demob from National Service.
Fifties ballads and I’m back under the glitter ball at the Scala Dance Hall
Last Night of the Proms: is still ongoing: Nimrod, Jerusalem, the Maritime pieces, Elgar, Rule Britannia. Their magnificence has an enormous capacity to lift the spirit to a higher plane. I’m proud as a nation we still seem to be able to do these grand ceremonial occasions so well. I suppose the generation before us: the greatest generation – would have looked back to the sound of horses hooves on cobbles, miners clogs, factory hooters ands steam train whistles.

And not forgetting unique statements: sounds that we heard for the very first time they were ever spoken:
‘One small step for man, one giant step for mankind.’
‘Never Before in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.’
‘They think it’s all over – it is now!’
‘Mafeking has been relieved’, no not even I can remember that one but the staid Victorians let their hair down for once when they heard the news in 1900 and it’s a statement that rings down the years
I hope by substituting your own sights sounds and smells you can empathise with mine.

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11 Responses to “Sights, Smells and Sounds: Memories are made of these”

  1. Doug Farnill Says:

    Brilliant Peter. I travelled with you through each of these sensory modalities. Smell was the most vivid for me. The smell of the U-Like-Um pickle factory on East Park Road. The smell of the infants school at Richmond Hill – it was some kind of oiling of the parquet floors. I also remember the cold touch of one of those Wall’s triangular frozen fruit bars from the man who pedalled a bike with a big cold box on the front. Smell, sight, sound, touch, and the taste of a macaroon cake from Calvert’s at the top of Kitson Street.

  2. John Holloway \(Stronsay\) Says:

    Thanks Peter/Eric – will take a look at the ‘new post’ later today. John & Sue. A very mild and relatively calm winter here – very unusual! J

  3. Eric Says:

    Absolutely brilliant Pete. Worthy of much wider publication.
    From a certain perspective , you could take these tropes as a form of eternal life. Even after people , places , events etc have passed on, in your minds eye they remain in their pristine status in your memory. So you could say that in that sense, they are everlasting .
    Doug , I also remember the U-LY-Kum pickle factory aroma permeating the surrounding area & can still picture it in my mind’s eye. and many of Pete’s recollections stirred memories as well.

    Pete, you’ve put into words an explanation of an important power that we all possess. That of appreciating that memories can in fact become a form of eternal life .

  4. peterwwood Says:

    Thanks for your kind words, Doug and Eric, I did not think it would promote such a response. I too remember the U – LY – Kum pickle factory (what a great name, incidentally) Trevor Hutchinson who played football with us at the Market District Boys Club and a former pupil of Victoria School was, I believe, son of one of the founders?

  5. Edward Blackwell Says:

    I agree with Doug and Eric, Pete a great piece of writing about an extremely interesting subject. I can certainly empathise with your sights, sounds and smells. I also recall the smell of the U-Ly-Kum pickle factory in East Park Road, I remember we used to recycle the glass jars there, and were rewarded with a few coppers for taking them back. I think like Doug smell is the most vivid for me. Whenever I smell tar, I’m back in the old cobbled streets playing football with a tennis ball on a hot summers day when the gas tar used to set the cobbles would melt and give off that distinctive aroma and the stone flags were warm to the touch. In my minds eye I can still see the posters on the outside walls of the Princess Cinema, telling you what films were showing that week, and I’ll never forget the aroma of those disgusting toilets. No disrespect to the Ladies that cleaned them, but I think more sewage came back into the toilet than was flushed away.
    I recall seeing a programme about an experiment with some school children and memory testing. Two separate classes were given a list of things to remember, class A was in a normal environment, and class B had a very strong citric fruit smell in the classroom. They were all then tested on what they remembered in a normal classroom environment, and the results were all about the same. Then the citric smell was introduced to both groups in the same classroom, and group B remembered considerably more than group A. The conclusion was that the citric smell had triggered more memory in group B, because they’d used more senses when they were learning, I’m not sure that’s conclusive, but it seems to be in parallel with our experiences Pete, and I thought it may be of interest. Thanks again for another great tale…

  6. Eric Says:

    It seems that smell appears to be perhaps one of our strongest senses & one which, according to scientific evidence, can distinguish between many thousands of odours. Strongly linked to our olfactory receptors is of course the one of taste, & Doug has referred to it by his reference to macaroon cake.
    Can you still taste that fresh apple pie covered in steaming custard?.
    Or the waft of freshly baked bread before slathering it with butter &, maybe with jam or treacle before enjoying every morsel ?.
    What about the first gulp of a cool, fresh pint after a long hard slog of one kind or another ?.
    In our mind’s eye , I guess most of us can vividly recollect those, & many other sensations so Pete’s philosophy will help us to relive those pleasures by simply reawakening our ability to use our fabulous , inborn, senses.

  7. peterwwood Says:

    You’re so right, Eric and so well put. I also seem to get an association between the sense, for instance there is a stall in Leeds market called ‘Lemon’ it doesn’t sell lemons that’s just the name of the owner but every time I see that sign I actually smell a lemon!

    Another thing, when I was in employment one of my jobs entailed doing lists of figures and every so often a flash of a pub came into my mind and I would think where did that come from? After this had happened a few times I tried to analyse it and came to the conclusion that on one occasion I had been thinking about that pub when those certain figures were up and that on each subsequent occasion those figures came up again it released that flash of the pub.

    I also find that if I have decided to have something for a meal I can smell that food even before I start to cook it. Funny old world isn’t it?

  8. Mark Wilson Says:

    A wonderful post

  9. Edward Blackwell Says:

    We’ve covered the five senses, sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch which bring back vivid memories of events that occurred or things they remind us of. Is there a sixth sense. That feeling that something’s about to happen, or that shiver people can get down their spine, and they say someones just walked over their grave, or the butterflies in your stomach when your all keyed up because things are not right but you don’t know what it is. Could these sensations and premonitions be a psychic sense, I don’t think there’s any scientific evidence to support it, but it seems some people do have abilities in this direction.

  10. Eric Says:

    Eddie , you’re so right, & your own recent “Ghosts of TempleNewsam along with Pete’s “Gothics” yarn , & even my own modest tongue in cheek punt at the supernatural lends evidence that such sensations, real or otherwise, exist, at least in the consciousness of some.
    Have you ever seen the film “Sixth Sense”, an interesting film about a psychiatrist’s involvement with a boy who claimed supernatural powers . It’s a powerful story with thought provoking conclusions. I myself have a far flung theory that a possible explanation exists within particle physics & superposition which I think I touched on in my little piece on “Poltergeists” way back in 2017.
    I suppose the “sixth sense” could also be classified as “Thought” & links with Pete’s recollections of word or image association. Such a sense can in fact be cultivated & harnessed to advantage by aiding the recollection of huge amounts of stored memory , recalling a word, a mnemonic , a simple image or even a montage where a complex recall is required. So is the supernatural merely a recollection of earlier, perhaps unconscious exposure to some long forgotten experience or image ?
    But yes, I agree Eddie that whilst the other senses can be rationally explained, the “sixth sense” largely remains a mystery.

  11. Eric Says:

    Re-reading your tale Pete , & the part about unique or well remembered turns of phrase , I must tell you of a recent enjoyable Sunday lunch pub experience. A group of 4 were asked how many such sayings they could quickly recall. It was astonishing just how many & how long the discussion went on for, far too many to reiterate on here. To be fair, we did broaden the discussion a little to include age old shibboleths like , “never cast a clout etc” ; ” well blow me down”; “that takes the biscuit” etc etc .
    It makes a change from commiserating over the Rhino’s latest defeat.

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