Have you ever returned to an old haunt, decades later, and found yourself bathed by memories you’d forgotten? And as a writer, do these events influence your work?
This week, I wound up in the city of my birth with my parents, who live abroad, and an uncle I haven’t seen since, well, the last family funeral.
The specific place in question was a Cypriot restaurant on the fringes of the town centre. It had never been the most upmarket location but the approach looked even more distressed than I remembered.
A row of shops, once home to a busy chip shop, joke shop, pet shop and jewellers, amongst others, was all but deserted. The entire, crumbling street as if in respite.
So much of the area has been, or is being, rebuilt that turning the next corner was like chancing upon the result of a bloodless aerial assault. Here stood the same old restaurant building in the same old spot; the sole survivor now utterly detached from the adjacent, modern cityscape.
Once inside, precious little had changed. Plastic grapes still hung from the ceiling. The menu made scant effort to keep up with culinary fashions. The music may have been the same C90 tape of standard Anglo-Greco tourist tunes it always was. The restaurant owner, still ensconced in the kitchen after 28 years, recalled us by name despite our extended absence.
And as I sat there, it all came rushing back. The family meals out. The laughter. The farewell party in the function room. The permitted, underage, glasses of Commandaria. The honey-drenched baklava. My grandparents.
These thoughts returned with no narrative. They’re simply fragments, impossible to bind into coherence. And yet as dense, complex reminders of a time that rarely feels part of me anymore, it seems as if they’ll sit with me for some while.
Which leads me to the research question. Please do add your comments below.
RESEARCH QUESTION: As writers, our output is guided by thoughts and emotions so I wonder: to what extent is your work affected by these sudden, unexpected prompts? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? How do you maintain a dispassionate consistency across a long piece of writing?