I remember only just being able to see over the dashboard of the maroon VW Passat estate which my grandfather used to drive. It had an extremely distinctive smell, one which will stay with me for a long time, a uniqueness promoting fondness on reflection. We always drove with the window open, so my grandad could smoke his pipe as he drove, looking at me smiling, as I smiled back, thinking he’s the coolest person on Earth. I remember the smell of his tobacco, it didn’t linger anywhere, but only in the small green pouch with German writing in which he kept it. The small bungalow always smells of cooking, fresh jams and compotes, soups and baking. He’s a chef.
We parked in a side-street of bustling Manchester, on double yellow lines, not that my grandad minded, he can talk his way out of anything in his classy, laisses-faire attitude. He opened the boot wide, and we sat there and ate our sandwiches, listening to the streets of the late 90s roar of the capital of brit-pop; the occasional horns and sirens mixed with birds and shouting in the midday sun. It’s amazing what a twenty three year old remembers of his life as a four year old, as clear as the day.
After we’d eaten, he moved the car a mere twenty metres so that the dreaded parking-officer wouldn’t mention a thing for being on double yellow lines. We crossed the street and went through what looked like a fire-escape. It was the back entrance to the best museum in Manchester, at least, I thought so. The science and transport museum. Cars and gadgets galore – but still something that wasn’t worth paying for. A crafty, wise fox, some might say.
At this stage in my life, everything was taller than me. Planes looked ginormous, even telephone boxes and cars looked too big to be real, especially inside. How did they get there? I remember thinking. Though, as we were wandering around, nothing quite mesmerised me like the bright orange and multi-coloured Kinect ferris wheel, spinning and spinning. I was totally in awe, just as I was about that whole day, a sensory experience that has lasted eighteen years in my memory so far.
Thinking back now, too, I feel that I’ve shared a close affinity to car rides back in the sunset. Even prior to this trip, I have vivid memories of putting on Dire Straits with my father in his silver Audi A4 as we set off for my grandparents on a Friday evening, the sun a deep orange, mixing with the intense pink of the skies. People often say that your memory isn’t you thinking about the time itself, but the last time you thought of the memory. I don’t know how much that holds true, or how much my imagination has taken hold of the trips I went on with my grandfather. Alas, it makes the memories nostalgic, and magically inviting to occasionally think about on a midnight bike ride back from your evening job. In these moments, you manage to remain very much aware of how your life has turned out, and conscious of the foundation which allowed you to pursue the life you want to.