Even those who haven't read Proust know that a madeleine (cake) leads to the Land of Memory. But the novel includes a violin sonata, a local train service and a loose paving stone all with similar roles.
Images, sensations, echoes. Last week I was visited by a very strong image. A tin-opener with a stout wooden handle better suited to a stonemason's chisel. At the cutting end a heavy clump of metal shaped into a bull's head. A thick blade below the snout resembled an unconvincing prosthetic jawbone. Even more lurid, a squat spike jutting from the bull's head.
An artefact from an era when tins came like tanks. The squat spike allowed the operator to punch a jagged hole in the tin top; thereafter the warlike blade tore at the metal.
I hadn't thought about that tin-opener for at least fifty years. But as I did I began to peel back layers of my life. Unlike my mother, who feared the ripped edges, I enjoyed opening tins. There'd been a succession of pansy openers, hardly up to the job. I get the feeling the bull's head was acquired for me alone.
The spike was - you might say - a two-edged weapon. Driven with sufficient force to penetrate the top, it briefly triggered a jet of pea or bean liquor a foot high. Didn't matter to me, I was a dirty child.
A child being useful. Stepping out of character. Urged on by a minor sense of power. Whereas, previously, my childhood memories have tended to dwell on my fears and my uselessness. Marcel knew about all these things.
NOTE. I am not preaching Proust. I never do. We arrive there solo or not at all.