- Listen to an album of your choice at least twice a day for a fortnight. 4-6 weeks is better. Studies have shown that this is most effective when the album is a new release.
- Avoid all contact with photographs and film from the time, as those will dilute or overwrite any images in your head with theirs.
- After at least a decade, listen to the album again. If too intense, it may be possible to acclimatise with the Greatest Hits album. Occasionally, it may have fermented into regret or bitterness, so it is advisable to repeat step 1 little and often.
- The listening process cannot be skipped by the purchase of mint in box. This sterile environment will not marinate your emotions successfully. Reunion tours whereby an album is played in its entirity are also poor substitutes.
- Side effects can include but are not limited to: sadness at lost youth, ill behaviour, memory lucidity, increased motivation, crying, strains from dancing, anger at acoustic cover versions, the booking of concert tickets or purchase of band t shirts. Very rare side effects include a haircut, the purchase of a guitar or a camper van.
- Please enjoy nostalgia in moderation.
blue is the colour
A series of four flash fictions on the same theme.
Alex remembered when she used to get a big bag of those sweets when she went to the cinema. No, it wasn’t a bag, it was more like a big paper coffee cup, with a plastic lid. They were banned at school because her friend would die if she ate just one, or even if she kissed someone who had.
The last time she’d had any was for her birthday the year before last. She’d gazed at the unopened crumpled, yellow packet with the same adoraration as she did her newborn. After a week, she’d added one sweet to her rations every day. Twenty three peanut chocolates. Six red, four orange, four brown, four green, five blue. The packet was faded and squashed, with an eat-by date of six years ago. Some of the peanuts tasted bitter and the chocolate was greasy with a white bloom on it.
That was her first proper raid. She’d been desperate for so long, but teenage girls were too valuable to lose. It felt odd that after she’d birthed, she was allowed to go on a run, but when the day actually came, she didn’t want to leave him. Two day’s travel there, two back. Seeing places with her own eyes that she’d only ever heard of. The journey home was when you had to watch out for bandits. Why take all the risk when you could just tax someone else?
“Mummy? Mummy? Where are you? I’ve found the cake I want.”
“Just a second, darling.”
Alex’s mum entered the room, drying her hands on a teatowel. “Show me?”
As soon as she saw the photograph, an almost imperceptible flicker of disgust wrinkled across her lips.
“This is the one you like best?” She asked, holding the phone out to her daughter.
The screen showed a photograph of two circular cakes in the shape of a number eight, with smooth, creamy white icing and the number holes filled with bright blue sweets.
“Yes, I’ve looked at hundreds and that’s my favourite one. Please Mummy, can I have it?”
“Let me send it to myself and I’ll have a proper look later.”
Alex’s mum already knew that this wasn’t the cake her daughter was going to get for her birthday. It was far too ordinary. After all, a person was only as good as their last event. She couldn’t afford to slip down the rankings. Not now. Her daughter would have lots more birthdays to have average cakes. This party had to be picture perfect to maintain her benchmark of 400 likes.
“Alex, this is important. You have to pick out all of the blue ones. Every single one. I’ll have to check it before their tour manager sees it”
“Why? Is it because they are a red pill kind of band?”
“No. Well, that’s one rumour. There’s a clause in the contract that if there are any blue sweets in the bowl, the band can cancel at no cost to them. It’s to see whether the promoter has read the terms and conditions properly. They were sick of not being taken seriously and getting ripped off because they were women. Now they get called divas, but at least they’re getting paid. What can you do, eh?”
“You’re not going to choke. I promise. But you have to take your pills. Look, why don’t you practice with these? They’re about the same size. Watch me.”
Alex swallowed a small sweet then said, “Easy. You eat bigger pieces of food than these every day. You can do this.”
The woman’s eyesight wasn’t what it was. She would never have noticed that her nurse had swapped the sweets for her sleeping tablets. They both had the same sugary, crispy shell. They practiced with four now, then a few minutes later, Alex came back into the room and did the same speech again. The woman had either forgotten, or was easily convinced that she was confused because of her illness. About ten minutes later, Alex’s watch beeped. “Tablet time!” she said cheerfully. It was nearly bedtime so the woman was due two sleeping tablets.
“That should do it,” thought Alex.
I was always bored at my Nanna’s house. She didn’t have any good toys and her felt-tips were all dried up. I liked it when we baked. If I stood on a stool, I could reach the top shelf where she kept a tiny tub of silver balls to sprinkle on top of wet icing. It was only water and sugar, but it was important to get it just right. There was another little pot with lemon and orange slices that were small enough for a dolls house. When I used those for decorating my buns, I squeezed a drop of juice from a plastic lemon into the icing sugar instead of water. Mummy said the baking ingredients were “out of date” but Nanna said that people worried about far too much these days. She had seen a programme about someone eating honey from Egyptian times, and that sugar didn’t go off. I thought it was strange how when she wanted to read something she held it out at arm’s length. Surely it would be easier to read if you looked at it close up? One day, Mummy took out all of the tins and jars from Nanna’s cupboard, then put most of them back in again.
Nanna said her fingers were too old and stiff to play the piano anymore, but because I had just started to learn it, I was allowed to practice my scales and play some tunes. I liked listening to her telling me of her concerts, and her stiff, swishy dresses. People used to stand up and throw flowers at her and she was in the paper once.
Sometimes in the afternoons, she would fall asleep in her chair to “rest her eyes” but I heard her snoring. I only peeped in the drawers in her dressing table once, but then my face felt hot and I got a stomach ache. Nanna said my tummy hurt because I’d done something I shouldn’t have, and it was my body’s way of telling me not to do it again.
On day, Mummy and Nanna were having a cup of tea and talking. They were crying and holding hands and saying something about it being twenty five years ago today. I wanted to make them feel better, so I played my new song on the piano that Hannah Ruth had taught me. I tried to not make any mistakes and so I was a bit slow. They didn’t clap afterwards like they usually did. Mummy asked me if I had heard that tune at school, but when I told her, she put her hand over her mouth and stared at me, which scared me, so I went and cuddled up next to Nanna, who stroked my hair and kissed my head.
Mummy went into the spare bedroom and took down a dusty old suitcase from the top of the wardrobe. Inside were shoeboxes, a fur coat and some photograph albums. I had never seen those photos before. I pointed to a picture of Hannah Ruth and another girl, who were both wearing yellow checked dresses and straw hats. Mummy said she didn’t know who the other girl was, and then started to cry again.
The next time I went to Nanna’s house, she gave me a gold necklace with a little cross on it from her jewellery box. She told me that Hannah Ruth said she wanted me to have it. I was pleased and felt grown-up, because Mummy wears a necklace just like it.