What is it about the sense of smell, it’s so wonderfully evocative? It’s also a sense I’m missing today as the earache that started out of no-where yesterday afternoon has driven me back to my bed, not least because I’m wobbly when I walk anywhere, so driving could be problematical. But also because I’m bunged up in my sinuses I can’t smell or taste much at all really.
These ten favourite smells could be rather intimate, insofar, some smells remind me so deeply of some people, I could end up revealing more about me than usual on here. I’ll give it a go anyway. I’ve not included any of my perfumes, while I love them all, this is more about other smells, not ones I choose to wear.
- The smell of roasting coffee. This is one of my longest standing favourites, there was a coffee shop in Eastbourne that would roast coffee every Saturday morning, the smell would waft down Terminus Road, making the town centre smell lovely, as oppose to the diesel fumes it would normally smell of. Every time I smell it, I am immediately back making the family pilgrimage to the Central Library that we did nearly every Saturday. And something that I will carry on with Peanut, I want him to be able to love books and libraries and research properly without relying on Google and Wikipedia.
- The smell of the sea. Again, an obvious smell from my home town. One I relish because the sea is no longer an 8 minute walk from my house, I have to drive (or walk for ages) to get to the sea now, but still love and savour the salty, ozone, freshness of it. I can quite happily watch waves for hours, totally lost in their movement, inhaling deeply and breathing out every last stress and wearisome reminder of the day. During the summer, if it was a dry day, we were on the beach. My brother and I were nut-brown by the end of the season, our hair must have been like wire, our feet as hard as leather from scrambling up and down the pebbles. Squeezing my toes in sand is still one of my favourite things to do, as we had to wait till low tide to make sand castles, but even while we waited, we were on the beach.
- The smell of Freesias. These little spring bulbs are my most favourite smell of all flowers. Nanny loved them, Mum and I love them, I buy them every chance I get. The relief I felt when I saw them over here was huge.
- The smell of an old English wood carpeted by Bluebells. Not far from our family home in the UK is a wood called, Bluebell Wood, by the Bluebell Railway. These hardy little flowers only have a fairly short season, but they shout – spring is here! My brother and I were taken to see the flowers nearly every year, which we combined with a picnic and then a peep at the steam trains.
- The smell of a steam engine. I was first taken to see a steam train over the May Bank Holiday weekend in 1975. I was five months old. I’ve a photo of me taken in my Grandad’s arms from that weekend. My Dad is a transport nut, we’d go to see planes, trains and automobiles all over the UK on our holidays. I can remember peering at Thrust 2 at Beaulieu (pronounced Bjuw-lee) motor museum through what seemed like 1000s of people just after it broke the land speed record. Obviously I don’t remember my first camping trip up to the Bluebell Railway, but the smell of steam and coal is an irrevocable part of my make up. We’d also go to country fayres, and I’d watch the little steam-powered engines for farm machinery for hours, fascinated by their moving parts, cogs and wheels. I’d quite often get parked in front of them, my parents knowing I wouldn’t move while they went off and did something else. You can’t imagine that happening now.
- Acqua Di Gio. If there is ever an aftershave that will make me go weak at the knees, this is it. I love and adore my husband I really do, but in my early 20s I had a great connection with a man who lived miles away from me. We’d write endless letters, have epic phone calls, send each other parcels and magazine clippings and would meet up every so often and talk far into the night. This was his aftershave. He introduced me to loads of different music, some of which I still listen to now, but he really heard me, got me, as a person. I was never in love with him, but I love that he started awakening me and teasing me out of my shell. I can’t smell this and not think of him; be reminded of happy times and whizzing up and down the country in my rusty car.
- The smell of apples and cinnamon or cod in parsley sauce. I can’t divide these two, both remind me of my grandmothers, one was a very good cook, reminded me every time I made pastry to use half butter, half lard, nothing else was good enough; the other one not so, rather erratic in her cooking, we would laugh at her exploits in the kitchen. My brother and I would colour in doilies for use at her high-teas, what happened to high-teas on weekends? The apples and cinnamon is my Granny, who made the best apple pies, with the light and fluffy pastry, I bit down hard on a clove once and can remember the tears springing into my eyes as the full force of the flavour was released into my mouth and nasal cavity. The cod in parsley sauce is from when my Nanny would come over to babysit my brother and I while Mum whizzed out for some shopping (or sanity). They would have it for lunch with potatoes and peas, then we’d sit freezing in the house with all the windows open so the smell would leave before Dad came home.
- A roast in the oven. It doesn’t matter what meat, I just love cooking roast dinners, with roast potatoes and other root vegetables, cauliflower cheese, carrots, peas, beans, home-made gravy. Cooking them takes a while, but they are a labour of love, and if I cook you a roastie, you’re part of the family. My brother still does the best potatoes I’ve ever had.
- The smell of books. Spoken like a true bibliophile, hard-back books particularly, those with leather bindings and slightly yellowed pages in second-hand bookshops. I love the smell of ages past and knowing other hands have held and loved the book. I’m happier in a book shop than I ever will be in a clothes shop, again it’s somewhere you can park me and leave me for hours.
- The back of my husband’s neck. I’ve saved my favourite for last, it’s also the last thing I smell before I go to sleep each night as we spoon to go to sleep, it’s getting harder and harder for me to spoon him now, Peanut is in the way, but the smell of his skin is just heavenly to me. I also can’t wait to smell the skin of the baby we’ve made together.