December taste on Shrove Tuesday

If the sense of smell is deeply connected with memory, is there a similar connection between memory and the sense of taste?

Biting into a Cadbury’s Twirl, there was a moment of being transported back in time, perhaps more than fifty years.

It was one of those days at the dog end of the Christmas holidays. It was at a time when people had Christmas Day and Boxing Day off and the world then returned to work, so the school holidays that ran into January were a dead time. The imagined magic of Christmas was past, the decorations were looking tired, the Christmas card curled at the corners, the toys that had been greeted with glee on Christmas morning had already lost some of their sparkle.

Chocolate variety packs were a special treat, no more than one might have been expected at Christmas and the chocolate in my variety pack  had mostly been eaten. The bars were all of a miniature size and the taste of the Twirl revived the moment of biting into the Flake that had come in the pack.

The Flake was perhaps half, perhaps a third of the normal size of a Flake bar. The chocolate was in a yellow cellophane wrapper. There were crumbs of chocolate to be carefully caught as the wrapper was opened. Flake bars were not common and deserved to be eaten with relish, each bite being savoured.

But why should such a moment surface into consciousness some two months after Christmas?

Perhaps thoughts of Shrove Tuesday carries subliminal messages about missing chocolate. As someone who usually gave up chocolate for the season of Lent, a last taste of chocolate for forty-six days would have been a moment not to miss. More likely, it is the mood of despondency that was captured by the taste of the chocolate.

In those post-Christmas days, there was a sense of gloom as the winter stretched ahead. It would be weeks before the light and the weather permitted the outdoor life loved by a small boy. There would be weeks of going to school and coming home and there being nothing to do. There would be weeks of not being able to go out with friends.

Oddly, those distant year end days seem an anticipation of lockdown life. Fifty years ago, there would still have been the irrepressible optimism that fills the mind of a child. Now there is just a hope that sooner or later the times must change.

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