Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The scent of nostalgia

Some time ago a friend of mine told me he had been asked what attracted him to our church. He replied, "Among other things of course, it had the smell of a real church. Like a church should". To my mind, he's absolutely right - candle wax, a lingering scent of incense and furniture polish.

The scent of smell does play a large part in bringing back memories, for me anyway. My inspiration for this post comes from me sitting in front of my laptop and realizing that the steak and vegetable stew I put in the slow cooker is well on its way to becoming my supper later this evening. It's one of my favorite aroma's, together with freshly baked bread (thank heaven for the bread maker), freshly ground coffee, newly mown grass and that distinctive smell of a summer shower after a hot spell.

I can smell with my mind's nose (well, if you can see with your mind's eye!), my earliest days at school. Again, furniture polish and for some reason Lifebuoy soap are prominent here, plus the strong smell of Jeyes Fluid, used in the outside lavatories. Yes, you did read correctly - outside. We didn't linger there long during the cold Norfolk winters, believe me!

Although I only lived a few hundred yards from my school, I always stayed for school dinner. Boiled cabbage - I can remember that strong smell with somewhat disgust.

Other schoolboy smells (the mind boggles at that phrase) I can still envisage are: dubbin (when rubbing on my football boots); hot tar (as the road-men repaired the streets); burnt methanol at speedway meetings (I still love that smell); and one not so pleasant, but nonetheless one that brings back vivid and emotional memories - the smell of Dad's clothing after he had spent many hours working in the dairy and delivering milk.

Some smells puzzled me, such as why certain stores had the same aroma whatever the branch or town. Examples I remember most were "Woolie's" (F. W. Woolworth) and "Marks" (Marks & Spencer). It was probably the corporate design and the use of fittings that gave them that unique aroma. Without wishing to offend vegetarians, I loved the smell of a butcher's shop, "blood and sawdust", and how I loved the smell of a shoe shop - that's when shoes were made with leather, naturally.

Nowadays our noses are bombarded with artificial smells -perfume, air-fresheners, scented candles, but those natural favorites I mentioned to begin with are still tops for me.

What is my very favorite? After forty years in the book printing industry, it has got be the smell of a brand new book. They don't call me a crazy Englishman for nothing!

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