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‘And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine…’



The day the season’s second Atlantic storm

was due there was I – after a sausage

and bacon bap with brown sauce and an Earl Grey

in the heritage station’s draughty café –

celebrating my 74th birthday

with my small family in a British Rail

standard compartment on the Santa Special.


We journeyed from Llangollen to Lapland

(aka Carrog) with mince pies, miniature Baileys

for the adults and juice for our granddaughter,

who gave me a cartoon sestych entitled

‘My Grandpa is amazing – he does…’.

She appeared with me in each frame as I

talked, shopped, word processed, cooked, travelled and read.

We passed pastel shaded December fields,

empty copses filled with russet leaves,

and bleak hawthorn hedge rows festooned with a wild

clematis – Travellers’ Joy or Old Man’s Beard.


Someone, despite the notices, had left

a window open in the corridor,

so, as we went through the long Berwyn Tunnel,

it yellowed with billowing sooty smoke

that seeped under the compartment’s door.

It was a madeleine moment: crossing

sulphurous bridges, waiting on ill-lit

platforms amongst gouts of steam and fog,

shuddering reflections in carriage windows.


As we climbed, we left the river – by turns

meandering through meadows then white water –

to still slowly gouge the valley bed,

and we had a visit from Santa himself,

with Elves, bearing gifts. Our granddaughter

was appropriately shy and polite

though she is calculatedly and/or

patronisingly agnostic about

F.C. – and reasonably sure God is

imaginary and certain there is

no such thing anywhere in the universe

as zero gravity. I am certain

I still believed when I was nearly 7.

The world seemed an obscurantist place.


At Lapland, we queued to pose with Santa

et al for a photo op on a sledge.

It began to drizzle. In the waiting room

a coal fire was burning in the grate.

My grand daughter hugged me. I felt gravely

light of heart and head, warmly welcome

in the universe – and thought suddenly

of a world garlanded with Old Man’s Beard.




© Copyright David Selzer
1 Response
  • Mary Clark
    March 31, 2017

    Very evocative. I felt I was on the journey, though I’ve never been remotely close to these places, tasted Baileys etc.

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