Our son’s 23rd birthday – a bag filled with food from the Chinese takeaway – the smell of chips merging with the scent of turf smoke on a damp October evening. The neural network connects the aroma with long term memory. Chips went with special occasions.
An August evening outing to Charmouth, three or four cars filled with family members going to walk on the beach of the seaside town; an amble down the riverbank before reaching the sea. Chips in newspaper being the treat at the end of the evening; during the the journey home in my uncle’s van he points out how to spot the Somerset cars – the registration letters YA, YB, YC and YD suddenly seem everywhere.
The village Sunday School outing to Weymouth (going to Sunday School was not a requirement – in fact, I’m not sure there was a Sunday School). The day was rounded off with tea in a café – fish and chips and peas and bread and butter. There were family trips to Lyme Regis where the taste of vinegar blended with the salt of the sea air, and the smells of fish landed on the harbour wall mixed with that of the diesel oil of the solitary fishing boat.
In university days, chips meant Friday. The uncle, in whose house I lodged, would bring armfuls into his London home at teatime. ‘Now, who’s for what?’ he would say; pretending that he had forgotten the order on his way home.
In theological college days, food served in the college on Fridays was so bad that the extravagance of going to the Wimpy could be justified. The fish and chips came with tea served in battered aluminium pots and with slices of white bread thinly spread with butter. The food left you feeling full for hours afterwards.
The years passed and chips came from a takeaway each Christmas Eve, there not being time to cook. The opening of the wrapper became part of the annual rituals; it did not seem Christmas when moving to the country brought an end to a custom that had lasted more than twenty years.
Chip became a too frequent occurrence in more recent times. A cardiologist wagged his finger and suggested that it was time they disappeared from the diet, along with the over plentiful supply of cakes and buns that filled the days of clerical life.
So chips now only on special moments. Even a strict doctor could not object to them on one’s son’s birthday.