The strangest things can trigger intense memories. For Marcel Proust, the taste of a madeleine cookie famously unleashed his entire childhood. In The Game, a reflection on life and hockey, my boyhood hero Ken Dryden, the great Montreal Canadiens goalie, recounts waking up in his parents’ home in Islington (a Toronto neighborhood) thinking he’s hearing the sounds of skates biting the ice and pucks thumping off the boards on the backyard rink his father built for him and his brother. And for Britain’s Prince Andrew, an allegation that he’d been intimate with a 17-year-old girl evoked an evening at a nondescript chain restaurant in a nondescript town in Surrey on the very date in question more than 18 years earlier.
Last month in an interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis, Prince Andrew contended he couldn’t have been with Virginia Giuffre on March 10, 2001 because he “weirdly distinctly” remembers taking his daughter to the Pizza Express in Woking that evening. If you’ve ever been to a Pizza Express – let alone one in a London commuter town like Woking – I guarantee you’ll have trouble remembering you were ever there. None of this was lost on the British public, which began posting video of the unremarkable restaurant and flooding Google and Trip Advisor with new reviews like: “Pizza Express Woking is like no other Pizza Express! It’s a memory which will never disappear… The pizza is so good from this specific branch, it gives you the ability to not only remember what year you visited, but the exact day and month! Truly incredible.” And “if you’re in need of an alibi, this is the restaurant for you.”