Memory is a funny thing. How a smell, or song or phrase, can transport you instantly to another time and place. As I shuffled through the pale, dry, papery oak leaves on Wimbledon Common this morning, a light spring breeze making it not quite warm enough to go without a coat, a Lightning Seeds song came onto my iPod, I can’t even remember which one, and instantly I was somewhere else.
I was on a not very new bus. Winding speedily along the perilous mountain roads of Northern Thailand. Outside, portentous, heavy, grey, rainy season clouds promised an afternoon of downpours, and the humidity made any exertion bothersome. We took a number of such journeys. The buses were always in the twilight of their years, always crowded with orange robed monks and grannies weighed down with shopping bags, and always surprisingly reliable.
On these journeys the children watched endless episodes of Horrible Histories and I watched Pride and Prejudice on my phone or listened to music, as the straggly emerald jungle raced by outside the grimy curtained windows.
The Lightning Seeds will always be the soundtrack to roadside shops selling wooden spirit houses and Buddha statues. To small rural bus stations with rows of plastic chairs, kiosks selling lottery tickets and a lady doing foot massages. To pickled fruit, sticky rice in bamboo tubes and warm mineral water in crinkly plastic bottles. To huge gilded temple buildings, rising unexpectedly out of the jungle green, glinting dully in the stormy light.
Memory is a funny thing.