It’s one of those things that probably no-one else involved remembers, those that are still living anyway, but I can recall the hot flush of embarrassment as if it happened yesterday.
I was about six or seven and my sister and me had been taken to Blackpool by my uncle and aunt. We’d gone on the coach to accompany my nana and granddad who were there for their annual Wakes week holiday.
We were only there for a day of fresh air and fun and it was time to go home again around seven o’clock and we sat on the ‘chara’ waving our farewells through the window to nana and grandad stood outside.
But it was a long goodbye as the coach wasn’t immediately ready to leave and I was chatting to them through the sliding window at the top. The trouble was, my younger self ran out of things to say, so for the want of anything else I said ‘bring me back something nice’.
It was an innocent remark, but as the coach pulled away my aunt gave me merry hell. What did I think I was doing demanding a present like that? I should have been grateful for my day by the sea and shouldn’t expect anything more.
I was mortified. It was a throwaway line, the sort of small-talk that I’d heard from grown-ups, and I’d meant nothing by it. I certainly wasn’t being mercenary even if that word wasn’t familiar to me back then.
All I could do was sit there in silence as I took the telling off, my face hot with shame. And that is what stays with me. Not the shame of being an ungrateful and demanding brat, but the shame that my aunt should think that I was over an innocent remark. It felt so unfair.
I can’t remember what nana brought me back (there would have been something, if only a stick or two of rock) but the embarrassment I felt that day will never leave me.
Isn’t memory a funny thing that we relive the bad and forget the good?