An Irish colleague complained at the lateness of the English summer holidays, feeling the best days were past before children had a chance to step into the weeks of freedom on 21st July.
The delight of the summer holidays in my childhood days was the indeterminacy, the loss of a sense of time or date. Days could last forever, memories accumulate in a single afternoon.
Indeterminacy always seemed a good place to be.
In times travelling south through France on summer holidays, there were stops at service stations that were nowhere in particular, but inspired a sense of irrational exuberance. Destinations frequently did not match anticipation, but that never detracted the following year from a sense on the southward journey that the indeterminate places were special.
One year, the thought occurred that upon retirement a journey through the indeterminate would capture a sense of being free at last. The contemplation progressed to the point of silliness, there would be a drive back to Ouistreham for the ferry and then I would say, “No, I don’t want to go home,” and the car would be turned around to southwards again to revisit the anonymous places that had so filled the mind with contentment and expectancy.
Perhaps a fondness for the indeterminate is indicative of some deep rooted insecurity, but there are smells and tastes that capture and convey that sense of optimism. Wright’s Coal Tar Soap, immediately conjures the summer of 1976, but also many other summer moments since. Its smell brings thoughts of holiday time and sunshine and friends and days that were endless. Unplaceable moments from years long past become yesterday; their indeterminate nature allowing them to become any time the mind might wish.
The taste of vinegar on chips could be any moment in fifty odd years of remembered summers. Sarson’s Malt Vinegar was the taste of seaside cafés with formica topped tables and aluminium teapots. Ask which café in which town, and the question is unanswerable; a handful of possible places arise, but to be definite is not possible.
Trying to recall when places were visited, it becomes clear that even the memory has its own indeterminacy, places visited in one year are filed by the mind under another. Remembered sequences are not possible.
Perhaps it is the beauty of indeterminacy that certainty of time and place do not matter; it is not what is on the outside that is important, it is what is felt on the inside.