There are laughs at the expense of the scent sensitive in my novel Today I Learned It Was You. They appear as an advocacy group, the Newfoundland and Labrador Sinus Alliance, known as “Nasal,” who demand city parks be replanted to accommodate their allergies.
I appreciate there are those with genuine complaints, but I couldn’t resist making sport because I love scents. I like it when women wear perfume. Big bold fragrances on women in the evening make events rather swish I think, like fancy dress. Prohibition is to stand against allure.
And smell, it is known, is the sense with the most profound connection to memory. The 1960s for me is Murray’s Erinmore Mixture canned pipe tobacco, though my father only occasionally smoked a pipe. Something about that figgy bouquet sets me there.
The Canadian Military misadventure in Afghanistan meant the return of black hash to our shores. I can’t smoke the stuff anymore but its fruitiness, when warmed by your fingertips, is a direct route to the 1970s.
There’s a mixture of garrigue (the indigenous scrub with its wild herbs), lavender, plane tree, diesel exhaust and Gauloises in the South of France that melts me. That diesel recalls and connects to the fumes belched by the old City buses here in town, the brown and silver ones. Cumin and coffee in the same room puts me in the old Mary Janes on Pilot’s Hill.
There was a smell of tidal water, fish offal and, I guess, sewage near the harbour, especially around the old family H.Q. in the Battery about which I can get nostalgic. It, like the smell of seal cooking, is one that starkly divides opinion into those who inhale deeply and those who gag. That gust of grease you get along the stretch of fi and chi joints on The Higher Levels should be objectionable but always make me crave a Leo’s.
There’s a note from the guts of game being cleaned which promises the best eating and strange dreams that night. It shows up in the finest red wines, those you’d choose to accompany your partridge or hare, as does that of the bracken and barrens where you’d bag those same birds and bunnies.
The house-filling aroma of blueberry or partridgeberry jam burbling on the hob induces a sense of comfort and wellbeing that tops any big pharma concoction yet imagined.
Freshly caught brook trout have a smell that, while subtle, is able to cut through that of the Deet and wood smoke in your clothes.
The high, volatile, synesthesia “green” vapours that comes off alders in hot sun always brings me to the country in central Newfoundland.
The sea scent in fog over St. John’s reminds us that we made landfall not so long ago. Mock Orange and especially lilac announce the short, cherished summer in this city.
We always plant a lilac where we are living, the white one I put under the window of our bedroom when we bought the house hasn’t flowered yet. I’ll know when it does because lilacs in bloom always make me sneeze.