Sunday, 26 February 2012

Scents, Sights,Smells

Last night I was watching a drama set in Sicily, and when the actor stood on a vast yellow dusty patio and looked out to sea, I suddenly was in my mind there in the heat and the cicada sounding background, watching the leaves move slowly in the trees and remembering the scent of the dust and the heat of the sun and the dry musty smell of it all. I find that sometimes when I read a passage in a book, describing a scene so well, I am able to transport myself back to a time when the sights and sounds and scents and smells are
 almost exactly as those described.. When the rain is cold and dank and dreary making all the scenery around you feel cold and miserable I am there again in my head. It is amazing what scents can conjure up.. a little scene inside your head that is there forever, just waiting to be called on to re appear.

If my mother was going out for the evening with friends, she would come and say goodnight and lean over and kiss us, and her perfume would linger in the room, long after she had left. When she put perfume on, she would sit in front of her dressing table and dab the perfume in the crook of her elbows, at the base of her neck, behind both ears and behind her knees too. She loved Chanel, and when they visited Paris my father always bought her a large bottle to stand on her dressing table.

I was on a visit to Oxford in the early days of getting to know my current husband and we passed by a cricket pitch that was the other side of the river flowing through the town. We heard the smack of the ball as it landed against the bat, and then the cheer from the watchers as the cricketers ran between the posts.. now I can see that scene any time replayed when I hear a cricket ball hit a bat, and immediately I am back there in the sunshine, watching the river and hearing the sounds.. We couldn't see the cricketers, it was just the sound that was carrying across the river.

When I was very very tiny, I loved to sit in the tall grass in our back garden and watch all the insects going about their business. I must have been quite tiny as the grass was higher than me sitting down, it was all cool and green and earthy smelling and the little insects were so fascinating as they scurried around and about. I must have got hold of a pair of scissors as I remember my mother coming out and calling me and then finding me with these scissors which she attempted to take from me. Of course I didn't really want her to take it away , so turned, and the scissors struck her arm making a gash which was very close to her vein.. The blood frightened both of us, and my father came home to take us all to the hospital so she could be attended to. I knew of course that I had been very naughty and that dreadful feeling of almost despair at being so naughty I can still remember  if I ever burrow myself down under   long  grass and watch the stems and insects again.

There is nothing like the feeling when you wake up in any part of Europe or  France, where the air is still, the sun hot and dry and a slight wind rippling the leaves of the trees that line the boulevards. The feeling of openess and space and at one with the world is very special, To be able to walk into a cafe where they know your order and you just look and they bring it to you without a word being said, just a look and a smile. The heat of the sun playing on your face as you watch the passers- by and sip a cool drink or coffee.   Coming into Le Garde Du Nord in Paris, it used to be the smell of the gouloise cigarettes and coffee , -strong smells that told you you were certainly in another place than England.. The smell was thick, the people many, as you chugged in on the train to alight at the platform. Nowadays, perhaps those smells are not so strong, as maybe they have banned smoking in public places like they have done in England. , maybe Paris will not smell like that again as I am talking about  when  I was 18 and visiting Paris to attend my cousin's wedding on my own.., which is a very long time ago now.

 Of course new mown grass is wonderful as is the smell of newly washed linen off the line after being blown in the sunshine breezes. I am sure that is why all these household candles and scent holders are doing such a great trade for us to place around the house, cleverly lifting our mood to  feel safe and comfortable and happy.

 But the very best smell of all, is a new born baby, washed and powdered, fed and safe in your arms, with their peach skins and tiny form, a little miracle that will grow up to become your family's future.Those moments you will remember forever, and help you cope with the nightmare of teeneage years and the worry of them being out in the world getting into relationships and getting over relationships and all the other parafanalia that goes with being a parent..
Just remembering how this child felt at that time, when they and you were so young together and that deep love you felt which  makes us all believe that anything is possible in life if we truly try.


  1. What a lovely, lovely post, Janzi. Really took me there into the warmth and the sunshine and grass.
    Memories like these are like time traveling aren't they? Thanks so much for sharing them. Lovely way to start my week :)

  2. Beautiful post--love your writing!