I've just been given a free smoothie - apparently Innocent Smoothies are trying to smarm up to Kew, or Kew is trying to smarm up to them (it wasn't clear which from the cheerful colleague who brought them round). It's Mango and Passion Fruit and is cold and delicious. But the taste conjures all sorts of odd memories, running in loops and swirls through my mind, their many different colours and nuances twining like oil-paint on water, floating over one another, blending into queer new combinations...
The tang of passion fruit takes me back with enormous intensity to a winter holiday in Madeira a few years ago. I had been quite unwell the preceding summer and autumn and was awaiting an operation; I got tired very easily, slept to all hours and did very little except stroll through the beautiful streets of Funchal, sit in the sun, and eat too much (Madeiran cooking was uniformly superb, even in quite touristy places). I became hooked on freshly-pressed passion-fruit purée and probably drank several glasses a day, and also on the gorgeous pudim de maracuja, something like passion-fruit blancmange only delicious in a way that the term 'blancmange' would seem to render pretty unlikely, which my favourite rather scruffy neighbourhood restaurant, the "Tangerina", served. Now the sweet yet sour flavour always takes me straight back to Funchal, sitting on the pebble-mosaic'ed terrace of a café in the cathedral square, shaded by huge acacias.
The taste of mango, on the other hand, brings me back to making my own smoothies, two years ago, and that is a weirdly but acutely painful memory, for all sorts of reasons I am not proud of or happy about; reasons, in fact, that I probably shouldn't be writing about here. When something you have been very, very happy about goes belly-up in a really unpleasant and irretrievable way, it is an altogether different kind of sweet-yet-sour experience looking back on it - as in, it was (or seemed to be) so good, and then it All Went Wrong. And two years later the taste of mango conjures all the delight and excitement, and all the grief and loss and the pain of rejection.
The colours and blurs that that memory conjures are too complex, and too self-indulgently unhappy, to write about, even obliquely; even now.
Let's put it aside, then, since it is still too raw to contemplate. One has the right to make one's way through any grieving process at one's own pace and in one's own way, after all. Let's think about beauty again: Today's number one beautiful sight was a single orange-yellow flower petal, slightly dried and creased, swinging from a thread of spider silk beneath a tree. It looked like a fairy, for a moment, dancing before me in mid-air as I came up the path.
One other thing; I have a bad habit of playing "Dream Cast My Novel" - do all tyro writers do this, I wonder? Characters come to me in a very visual way, and there is a certain mad fun in trying subsequantly to spot actors who have, if not literally the right looks, then something of the right quality, so that one can picture them conveying the character as a person rather than a performance of a person. So I have a mental list of actors who'd be good as my protagonist Simon, actors who'd be good as Anne, actors who'd be good as Gabriel Yeats and actors who'd be good as Rose. Only one name on the latter list, actually, that of the wonderfully-named Honeysuckle Weeks, who is so nearly perfect-for-Rose as to be slightly uncanny.
Anyway, last night I was tired and sleepy and I slummocked in front of the tele, channel-hopping (we have freeview - yay, more than five channels, at last channel-hopping really means exactly that). I found myself watching a show called "The Mentalist" - rather good in the way of US tele series with lightweight content skilfully done, and better actors than the material needs giving it backbone and humanity and a powerful illusion of substance. The leading man, an Australian called Simon Baker, is almost indecently good-looking, and manages to convey a mixture of insoucience and bottled-up tension that is oddly powerful. He's not tall enough, his eyes are blue not grey, and he's an Aussie, but he'd be a great Gabriel Yeats, because he is seriously handsome and can do both charm and inwardness.
My Dream Cast list gets slowly but surely more ambitious!
Simon Cenarth: William Houston. Or, at a pinch, Damian Lewis, another very fine ginger British actor of about the right age.
Anne Hope: Naomi Watts, provided she would dye her hair for it (I said I was ambitious). Or, if only time travel were possible, the young Eleanor Bron.
Gabriel Yeats: JJ Feild, or Simon Baker, or Tom Hiddlestone.
Rose Leland: Honeysuckle Weeks.
What one does about the casting of Felix Angus or Thomas Rosenau I don't know. Fun with CGI, anyone?
well, a girl can dream...