Buried treasures

My cousin Mike is a year younger than me. He has a 1st class degree in History, a Masters in Journalism and a PHD in something to do with Al Jazeera…(I’m not being flippant, I literally can’t remember it’s title despite him telling me seventeen times. It’s long.)
Me, suddenly covered in Stella-vom: Gah, Mike, chuck me that muzzy would you? (Muzzy – muslin. It’s cutesy and annoying but it’s stuck and so that’s what we call them.)
Mike: *blank face*
Me: (Shrieking a bit) MIKE! The muzzy!
Mike: *blank face, looks a bit panicked*
Mike: Ohhhhhhhh. You mean the noo-noo?!
Me: *blank face*
And then we cracked up laughing and couldn’t stop for 20 minutes. Turns out, Mike’s paternal grandmother calls muslin cloths ‘noo-noos’ and despite not having seen, heard of or used a noo-noo for 25 years, in that instant his brain just remembered. I am under strict instructions to tell absolutely no one that the word ‘noo-noo’ passed his lips, so here I am. Also, I really like typing ‘noo-noo’. Strangely addictive. 
My point though, I think, is that it’s amazing what our brains store, isn’t it? After the muzzy (can’t legitimiately say ‘noo-noo’ anymore. Oh wait.) episode I got to thinking that I’d love a proper old AOW chinwag about the funny memories that pop up from nowhere now and then. And then as if the universe had decided that yes, we absolutely should be having this random chat on a Wednesday morning, something incredibly sad and so very beautiful happened.
Two weeks ago I was in a minor car accident. Humans – fine. Car – less so. Off it went to Car Hospital to get some stitches and a plaster. Today (Tuesday) it was declared all better and I sat at home at 4pm, patiently waiting for it to arrive home. It did, at 4.15pm. I was getting a little antsy, I’d been at work since 6.30am and Stella was with my mum and the hire car people were coming to collect it and and and WHERE IS MY CAR? The truck pulled up and out I went, ready to be polite and a little aloof, they were 15 minutes late after all. The driver opened the door, said ‘I’m so sorry I’m late’ and promptly burst into tears. A 50-something man in overalls with decades of engine oil engrained into his proud, calloused hands began to cry in my driveway.
‘My best friend’s son just phoned me to tell me his dad is dead.’
Oh, my heart.
Suddenly I wasn’t tired. My car didn’t matter, Stella was safe with my mum and everyone would survive if I was a bit later than planned. I invited John – Big John to his grandchildren, his 2 year old grandson is called John too, ‘Little John’ – in to have a sit down and a cup of tea whilst he gathered his thoughts. Big John stayed for an hour, though honestly it felt like minutes. He told me all about his best friend and their life together, a friendship spanning four decades and more adventures than I could keep track of. What kept breaking my heart, over and over, was the surprise in John’s voice when he recalled Steve’s favourite episode of Only Fools and Horses, or how he stuttered over the name of the resort in Spain where they’d taken their first holiday together and was then as proud as punch when he remembered. It was the seemingly insignificant memories that bought the colour back to his cheeks as he spoke, it was the tiny moments they shared that calmed his nerves and steadied his hands. I was thoroughly humbled and honoured to share those moments and memories and when Big John left, after giving me a big hug, I was so very sad for Steve’s loved ones and yet so incredibly uplifted – I feel like I know this clearly wonderful man, just a little, simply through the handful of stories that were shared in my sitting room.
So apparently this week, Matthew, I am going to be nostalgic. Join me, won’t you? What are your buried treasure memories? Dig deep, think back. I’ve been googling like a mad woman this afternoon after remembering a special collection of dolls my grandma used to let me play with whilst my brothers were napping, just the two of us with no smelly boys to get in the way. What looked like a normal-ish flamenco doll, when you turned her upside down and pulled her skirt up over her head – stay with me – became a completely different doll altogether. Like magic! Does ANYONE know what I’m talking about, or what they’re called?! Answers in a comment box…
Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships
17 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted February 19, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Oh god, actual tears, that poor man. I’m sure hr will remember your kindness for a long time to come

    Back latrr when I’m a bit more conposed

  2. Sharon
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    That man will remember your kindness always. Songs keep bringing memories back recently- have the radio on loads as it helps Phoebe sleep in the day and every now and then a song comes on, brings back a rush of memories and I end up wiping away a few tears. Today’s was stranger on the shore! Random!

  3. Fee
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I will be back later to comment properly but just wanted to say I HAD ONE OF THOSE DOLLS!

  4. Posted February 19, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Ok. Slightly more composed now.

    A lot of my treasured memories involve my Nana. I loved the story of the Princess and the Pea as a child, and my Nana used to layer up duvets and blankets, pop a ‘pea’ in there then play along when I woke up all sore, proving I was indeed a real princess.

    She had a gold Mini Picadilly and we loved going on trips in it, sat on newspapers to stop car sickness. And going for walks across the fields with kittens in our pockets, mummy cat following closely behind l, stopping for the odd belly rub. So many happy, happy times.

    Oh, and does anyone else remember wee willie winkies?!

  5. Posted February 19, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Aisling you are literally the nicest person ever. How sweet are you?!

    My best childhood memory is my mum taking me to see the Mr Men show when I was about 3-4; it was the first time we’d been to an actual theatre, I was TRANSFIXED. Loved the characters and even now can still remember some of the songs. However what my parents remember best is that a boy in the row behind us was making a noise and I turned round and said ‘Shush!’ very loudly…. (Some things never die. I still go to the theatre frequently and I still hate people being noisy there…)

  6. Posted February 19, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Aisling you are a wonderful person. Also, we call them muzzies too. Got it from six year old niece who later claimed she’d never used the word before. Weird.

  7. Rach M
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Oh how sad. You are so good and kind Aisling. Big John will never forget your kindness. How lucky that it was you he was coming to, he’ll never forget you.

    Re: nostalgia, I could go for hours on this but one strange thing that sticks in my mind was my Grandparents had a ‘backstratcher’ – a plastic hand on the end of a wooden stick to, well…scratch your back. It was creepy but us kids loved it and chased each other around the house with it. My brother bought me one the other Xmas just as a joke as it was such a ‘thing’ for us. Xx

  8. Becca
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I always wanted a Mr Frostie but was never allowed one because of the artificial flavourings (although strangely enough a soda stream was fine). We were having a conversation about soda streams last week and young juniors had never even heard of soda streams..not even the retro kind. LOSERS. The ones back in the day had a lever that you used to pull at a side.

    My other favourite thing was licking and sticking in the co-op stamps in those books to get £1 or whatnot off. That used to take me HOURS. My Nana used to save them for me to do because I was such a good licker and sticker. I should probably add licker and sticker to my CV.

  9. Siobhan
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I’ve got nostalgia that feels more like vertigo right now as a constant companion. I keep finding myself living in sudden and unexpected memories of the past, not all pleasant, but some utterly wonderful.

    A weird thing I have is that there seems to be a big line in the sand between different versions of me. Like they weren’t really me or happened to someone else? They seem to be alien to me now anyway, like I’m seeing them on a film but at the same time I’m in the film living it?

    One that keeps coming back is sunny days playing in the woods around the school field. Totally vivid running through the trees, running into a tree, playing grass, cutting my hands on the grass, chasing boys, finding weird green glass from the cemetary next door and the bluebells and how stunning the blue bells were. Totally like I am back there and making believe they are somewhere else but so glad they were what they were at the same time in a way I could not (at 6/7 years old) explain. Sorry, this is a ramble. I have no idea why I’m living in memories right now but this post struck a chord with me. I think I need to stop living in my memories and make some more. I’m only 30 (nearly 31) and hopefully have a lot more life to live.

    But yes – I get how you get drawn into a memory like Marcel Proust and his madeleine dipped in tea and right now I’m doing it all the bloody time. xx

    • Posted February 20, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      This keeps happening to me to- like a waking dream. Sometimes the memories are so strong I can touch/taste/smell them. Really odd things I thought I’d forgotten. Brains are crazy. I think it’s connected to sleep deprivation!

      A you are just the most compassionate person I know. Guardian angel.


  10. Sarah
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Oh Aisling! You are truly so kind. Big John will always remember you. Brought tears to my eyes. Nostalgia… I remember my dad used to take my brother & I to a big park in the next town every Saturday & we would always buy a bag of nuts for the squirrels & a cake from the bakers to have as we walked round. He used to buy us the “Farthingwood Friends” magazines as well – anyone remember them?! Becca we had a soda stream but no Mr Frosty too. I remember wee willie winkies too Vivienne! A random food from my childhood is crispy pancakes?!

    • Another Sarah
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      I loved getting my Farthing Wood sticker magazine! My Dad picked us up from school on Fridays and we’d walk home together, sometimes he’d bring my bike, and we’d stop by the corner shop – I’d get Farthing Wood and my brother would get Beano and we’d both get a Kinder Egg and make the toy when we got home. It was always sunny. (I guess we got the car and didn’t stop at the shop when it rained or maybe it only happened a handful of times?)

  11. Fee
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Poor Big John – I’m so glad you were there to comfort him.

    I am possibly the worlds most nostalgic person (I get nostalgic while I am still doing things – doofus) but many of my beloved childhood memories are of my beloved Nana and Grandad. My Grandad I remember smashing up humbugs with a hammer so I could eat them and always cheering on the baddie in films (Jaws was watched to shouts of ‘Come on Sharky’). My favourite memory of my Nana is her parting advice when I went traveling ‘Don’t let any men buy you drinks as that is how you lose your wits and end up signing something’. I wish I knew the story behind her learning that lesson!

  12. Katielase
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Bah, A, you are just the LOVELIEST.

    Nostalgia is funny. The weirdest example for me is me and my brother both have the exact same memory associated with the Queen song ‘Invisible Man’, and the strange thing is that it’s a really silly random memory of sitting in a car park in Cornwall waiting for my Dad to bring back fish and chips. We must have done that a hundred times, and we must have heard that song a hundred times, so it’s really odd that this one occasion stuck in both our memories so fixedly.

    Now I’m pregnant I find myself remembering more and more little details about my childhood, like the songs we used to sing when we were out walking, like the silly made-up games my Dad came up with, one of which was like Grandma’s Footsteps except with a million cushions and a lot of jumping on my Dad and running away. It was called Is the pudding ready yet?

    In terms of weird names for things, in my house dummies were also dooies (because … my sister was weird).

    KL x

  13. Mary
    Posted February 19, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    As someone who has been the ‘Big John’ in a similar situation, I can promise you, that man will never forget your kindness. The world sometimes joins us in fleeting moments and in the time that follows, the memories of a strangers kindness can bring much comfort.

  14. Beth
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Only this weekend I was pulling a tomato off the vine and the smell took me straight back to my Grandpa’s greenhouse. I wanted to ring my Dad to tell him but for some reason I didn’t.

    Thanks for this beautiful, evocative post Aisling. Helped me to think and reflect today. As others have said: big john will remember you.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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