Tuesday, 25 March 2014
One of my early memories is going with my grandparents to visit their friends at a small Scottish village called Ballinluig. I don't recall much more than a road, a bridge over a river (I now know it to be the Tummel) that braided between banks of pebbles that sparkled with mica (being a geeky child, I knew that detail even then), and a railway line with a little overhanging kiosk that sold cellophane-wrapped squares of yellow cherry Genoa cake - it might have been made by McVitie's - that Clare and I have come to call Railway Cake.
I don't wildly like cake in general, but Railway Cake still exists, not much changed, although the makers vary. It may not be terribly wholesome; I suspect its intensely sweet stickiness derives from glucose syrup. But it's so distinctive. The trolley vendor always sells it on the Exeter-Salisbury train, about half an hour into the journey, when we're going down to visit my Dad - at this instant of writing, we're somewhere between Honiton and Axminster. It has become one of the rituals of our trips to the Isle of Wight, and is always a bit of a Proustian moment.