I was taken to Marine Ices, at the top of Chalk Farm Road in Camden, by my aunt and uncle some time in the 1970s, at the end of a Day Out in London. My eternally sweet-toothed aunt had been brightly suggesting it all day, keen to initiate me into its delights.
However, this also required a major diversion on the way home, and my mild-mannered, taciturn uncle couldn’t quite mask his annoyance at having to do the extra driving. Not that he was actually rash enough to say anything – indeed, no-one else would even have noticed – but my aunt, a wonderful woman but neurotic to her core, homed straight in on it. Her hidden guilt at caring about the ice-cream in the first place quickly converted to accusatory snappiness. Words were exchanged, and a dizzying pantomime of beat-your-neighbour martyrdom ensued.
(“Well, I don’t mind either way.” “Well, I don’t mind either.” “Yes you do, you just said so.”)
My aunt got her way, but the lingering atmosphere was so thick with awkward resentment that it was impossible to enjoy the ice-creams, which were hurriedly purchased and sullenly consumed.
Keeping quiet in the back seat (my chief strategy for surviving my teenage years), I felt this almost as a desecration. This was a self-evidently special place – and yet, with her awkward knack for self-sabotage, my aunt had manoeuvred us away from being able to enjoy it.