Tinned Memories

Today I used the last spoonful of a tin of Tate and Lyle treacle in some porridge bread I was making. I was looking at the familiar shiny red tin with the instantly recognisable scene of the lion and bees and I had an urge to keep the tin and repurpose it. I didn’t know why I suddenly felt like I really wanted to keep this inanimate object and then I went to wash it.
As I was standing at the kitchen sink with the tin in my hand trying to get all the last bits of treacle out I was swiftly transported back to primary school. I was sitting on the floor in the classroom that we used for music and the occasional treat of the TV being wheeled out.
It was a nice day, I remember it looked bright outside through the windows. The minister, Mr Kidd, is sitting on a chair or perhaps the piano stool. I remember Mr Kidd was wearing a kilt, but I’m not entirely sure if that's correct! I don’t know how often Mr Kidd came to school but I think he came family regularly. I imagine it would be considered part of our religious education.
Mr Kidd would come and share bible stories with us. Why does this visit, this story, stick so vividly in my mind?  I don’t remember ever being particularly religious a child, and I now believe in being kind and carving your own path in life. However, on this occasion Mr Kidd was holding a tin of syrup. A tin of Tate and Lyle syrup in it’s green and gold tin. Perhaps I remember all of this because it was something I could relate to? Something so familiar that I felt a connection to him or what he was sharing with us.
Growing up I think we always had syrup and treacle in the cupboard and I’m pretty sure it was always Tate and Lyle. My mum makes the best scones ever. To have one fresh from the oven with some butter and syrup is something you will never forget.
I remember scones hanging from the pulley in the farmhouse covered in treacle at Halloween, a game where you have to try and eat the scone without using your hands. Inevitably you end up with treacle all over your face!  This game is followed by ‘dooking’ for apples and a chance to wash the sticky treacle from your face!
I don’t know how old I was when Mr Kidd came to tell us the story of Samson’s lions and bees. I can work out a rough estimate given the room we were in. As the room was upstairs in the school I think I would have been in the later stages of primary school. So by holding a tin, a very familiar tin that has been present throughout my life, I was taken back, as if transported through a time tunnel to an event that took place about 40 years ago.
Nostalgia is a curious thing and can spring into action at any time. Memories and feelings can flood your whole body and leave you an emotional wreck. Our senses are great time machines. For me the smell of freshly cut grass also takes me back to primary school.  To the playing field. The sun is always shining, the trees gently blowing in the wind, the voices of my classmates and warmth. The smell of raspberries reminds me of standing in the middle of a long row of raspberry bushes, the leaves dripping wet from a shower of rain, the droplets stinging the scratches on my hands from the thorns on the bushes. And the memory of many a summer spent picking fruit to earn some money.
I’m sure Mr Kidd, the minister, is remembered by many from his parish. He will have played important roles in many families lives from christenings, weddings, funerals and his weekly sermons. I wonder if he ever imagined that he would be remembered for bringing his tin of syrup with him to our school.
This memory is a great example of how taking the time to create a link with your audience can make a huge impact. At storytime, you are not just reading a book or recounting a story and sharing it orally. You have the opportunity to create magic, to transport to other worlds, to share the unknown, to introduce new experiences which may be remembered by those children for the rest of their lives.

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