The wonders of smell

Isn’t it funny how a particular smell can transport you back to a particular place and time or remind you of a certain person? I find it remarkable that you can be merrily minding your own business and then bam you’re somewhere else entirely. For example the smell of freshly mown grass and the sound of birdsong takes me back to many a lunchtime spent on the school rugby pitch or afternoons spent in the garden pottering and reading. Whereas the smell of burning (one of my favourite smells ever) reminds me of roast dinners and afternoons snuggling on the sofa in front of the fire. Then there’s my favourite smell of all time – the seaside which transports me back to Summer holidays in Dorset and walks on the beach. I suppose that’s why different people love different smells. I know lots of people who can’t stand the smell of burning or fish but who love the smell of raw meat or coffee – smells that I like but don’t love and which don’t evoke specific memories in my mind, but clearly they must evoke special memories for those people.

The reason I’m thinking about the wonders of smells is that this weekend I realised that there’s a certain smell that reminds me strongly of my grandparents, who are both sadly dead. It was the weirdest thing, I was eating new potatoes with mint and olive oil when I was struck with the strong sense that this was what their house smelt like. I could almost see them in my flat and hear their voices, it was as if they’d just been in the room with me. Following this intense memory and odd feeling I was terribly confused, as I don’t remember my grandparents having a specific obsession with mint or any memories that contain them and mint, but having spoken to my Dad he confirmed that they used to have loads of mint in their garden and that my Grandma would always add a chunk of mint when making new potatoes. So there you go, clearly I make a strong association between mint and my grandparents, and I never even knew about it – isn’t that fascinating, or is that just me?! I’m amazed about just how far a smell can transport you, to another time, place or with a certain person – even if you weren’t aware that it should. It’s fascinating to think of what other memories would be unlocked by certain smells. It’s almost tempting to start investigating some of the other smells out there…

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