Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Freshly-baked white loaves crisp from the oven, and the early-morning aroma of just-brewed and nut-brown Columbian classic, and let's have none of that latte nonsense. A newly-mown lawn or park, or just about anywhere after a real killer of a thunderstorm. And those alcoholic fumes from the long-gone days when your corner boozer still had a proper cellar: as a kid, you’d end up pissed just from walking past it.
Most of what gets my nose twitching with pleasure is probably the same as anyone else's, although I suspect no-one wanting to make a good impression gets the same olfactory orgasm I do when ten times the recommended amount of chlorine has been poured into the local swimming pool. Who needs roses when you come up smelling like that?
But there are others, smells particular to me, which, once sniffed, catapult me - just like that French chappie with his fairy-cakes – instantly back into the fondly- and not-so-fondly-remembered past. Wax on wood and parquet: that's black crows of creepy Jesuits, and long school corridors down which we'd run to escape them. The stale tang of lumpy mashed potato under my nose, and no contest: it’s First Sitting in the huge canteen-style dining hall at Butlins, where I used to go on holidays as a kid.
A certain, to this day unidentifiable, brand of diesel oil reminds me of teaching English abroad, because that was the stink hitting me every morning when I emerged from the station; and if I catch even the slightest scent of Fendi eau de toilette, then, watch out, because the slow-motion train-wreck in the distance is my heart getting smashed up all over again.
Oh, and that tennis-sock whiff of amyl nitrate/ poppers/ room odouriser/ stain remover (or whichever euphemism they're being flogged under this afternoon)? Catch me unawares with that one, my dears, and I'm twenty-one again, on a wobbly podium at Heaven, all fan-dancers and rent-boy chic, those voices in my head calling "Gloria".
Amazing how evocative your sense of smell can be, isn't it?