Monday, 1 December 2008

Not Always the Sweet Smell of Success

There's a funny smell in our motorhome; worse than usual. We don't have a car, my wife and I. So the not so old Fiat Ducati, 0008 PAU doubles as both car and carrier; and I mean carrier. Shopping, plants, bags for the tip; building materials, allotment produce; old friends and young relations, incontinency, probable and possible. They all go in. Which in itself is the problem. The smell could be anything. Not counting of course stale washing up water in the underfloor tank; or maybe the toilet tank or the fridge needs emptying.
The smell is strangely fish like; a mysterious, disgusting, decaying, putrid smell yet frustratingly unidentifiable. And its not going away. Immediately I am reminded of digs in Leicester all of forty three years ago. One young man I will ever remember. You always knew when he entered the house, an all pervading foot odour wafted through the building the like of which I have never smelt before or since. I assume there is a name for the problem. Developed in wartime I am sure it could be developed with devastating effect. Harry(not his real name) where are you now!
Strangely enough on of the large shoe manufacturers is having problems with trainers whose stink is a commercial disaster. Worry not, Nike, Harry's odour was world class, you are not in the same league!
Funny things, smells we take them for granted and only miss them when they're gone. And how magical is the ability to smell, both to smell and be smelled. So many questions, so many memories.
Why for instance do men and women smell different. Why do we love some smells and detest others. Who decides which is a 'good' smell and which is 'bad'? God or no God its all clever stuff. Ever been to Burton on Trent? The whole place stinks of hops, at least it used to. I remember visiting Bournville as a child and still remember the occasion. The sweet smell of cocoa powder hit you way before you set eyes on the place.
We had night riders visiting our row of cottages when I was a child. Men who emptied the outside toilets down the garden. Carrying huge pans of sewerage on their shoulders, the slops often cascading down their backs from overfilled containers. You didn't need to remember the days they came, dark or not dark you could tell when they arrived in the next street. They carried out their duties with cheerful abandon, enjoying their sandwiches in between jobs, sat on the lorry steps, oblivious of our nauseous retching.
We, as village children, rushed out to claim the steaming piles of horse dung frequently deposited in the road. And for what? To sell for pennies to gardeners who lovingly placed the stinking piles around their beloved rosebushes. The result, roses that offered the most heavenly scents known to man; how incredible is nature. (Could we be conditioned, I wonder, to love the smell of dung and hate the smell of roses?)
As I write this the faint smell of rubber is present. Emanating from gas masks on the wall of my 'museum'. No problem yet there are people who have a fetish for rubber. I wonder when mere liking something becomes a fetish or addiction. Glue sniffing was prevalent in my early days of teaching, a sticky, revolting past time not to be recommended. Plus a young chap of my acquaintance died after inhaling from a fire extinguisher. Similarly I was indirectly involved with someone who was addicted to cough mixture and died as a result. We are all different, presumably the sense of smell (and taste) is not equally distributed. I personally don't dislike the smell of garlic but it is not recommended where' l'Amour' is concerned. Please tell me why.
I could go on for ever. For instance, whatever happened to the idea of 'smelly films', the cinema reeking in harmony with the films subject matter. The possibilities were enormous, were any ever made? But enough is enough, I have work to do. Hand me a gas mask before I continue my search for the source of the elusive stench. By the way, any memorable smells in your life, or have you no sense of smell.

12 comments:

Parisgirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Parisgirl said...

Where to start Ken, where to start? My plumbing travails have been well documented; now we have a smell - something between sewage and rotten cabbage - that wafts through the flat every Friday afternoon (and sometimes other afternoons too). The plumber tells me its because everyone takes a shower on a Friday. Well, it is France! You're right about smells eliciting different reactions; I did roasted garlic with the potatoes last Christmas. My mother couldn't make up her mind whether to be sick or pass out. Mind you, she's the same with onions!

ExpatKat said...

When ExpatOwl comes home from a business trip having consumed large quantities of garlic on the road, I have been known to chomp down a fresh clove myself so as to remain the good loving wife that I am!

Stinking Billy said...

ken, top-hole. (Come-on the Rams!)

Hadriana's Treasures said...

I was reminded lately that people who regularly have to do maintenance in sew pipes/sewers...rarely come down with illnesses because they've built up such a resistance to all the 'orrible bugs (and presumably smells). Ooh pongy!!! (Their work not you that is.....!) came over via Mike H's blog.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Parisgirl, They reckon garic's good for you, I reckon you don't get germs cos no-one comes near you,
ExpatKat,
very brave, we British,what's the word, stoic?
Stinking billy
I had to be super clean at school, kids love nicknames and they would have loved stinky stevens. Cup draw, Saturday dinner. Burnley v Derby?
Hadrians Treasures
Thanks for the visit. I once took my kids for a trip round the sewerage farm open day. (It was free)They are now in their thirties and still remind me of it!

MikeH said...

You wonder how we decide which smells are 'good' - my wife, who grew up in a town, loves the smell of the coke fires that comes from the house across the street, whereas I find it noisome. Conversely, having grown up in the country, manure smells good to me, but not so good to my wife. I guess it's just what you grew up with.

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Hi Ken,
Great post! I could sense the smell of the stagnant sewerage as I read your words!

I love the fact that different smells can remind us of different phases in our lives and of different people too...
For instance the pungent smell of hops always reminds me of my childhood summers spent "down hopping" in the countryside with my Grandmother, who used to sit at a conveyer belt removing the leaves from the hops (I will have to write a post about that one day...).
And I only have to smell bread pudding or Yves Saint Laurent perfume and I instantly remember my Mother, who sadly passed away some years ago.

I read on your profile that you was a teacher... I am now an English teacher here in Brasil, have been for 8 years now.
My students are all mostly adults, I don't have much patience for teaching lots of children and all their craziness in the classroom... did it a couple of times and boy was it exhausting trying to keep them all under control!

HER ON THE HILL said...

Stop making me laugh!

I remember a fishy smell in my parents' hall as a child. Emanating from the light fitting. Some knackered old thing. Got any of those in your motorhome?

And yes, I have a very keen set of nostrils. Simply cannot stomach belching old bus/lorry/van fumes. Have to overtake, dangerously, on blind bends just to continue my journey before passing out. Most commercial perfumes are horrific to me - all I can smell is the chemicals and they give me a migraine in minutes. A woman with the wrong perfume in front of me at the theatre or cinema can ruin the evening for me. But at least it means I have a good palate...

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Mike H
They used to spread raw sererage on the land in Lincolnshire and I can smell it as I write.
The Brit
Funny that both you and Mike reminded me of the same thing.
I used to home brew and cooking hops stank the house out

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Can smell the sewerage so much I can't even spell it!

I LOVE FRANCE said...

Hello thanks for visiting.
Oh how i would love a motor home ,my partner billy has often said i should be a gypsy.
I love to travel,
Ireland is lovely some nice things to see up north and down south but the weather as you know can never be guaranteed .
When it rains it really rains .
Donegal is really lovely you feel you are back in time its so lovely.
Do you go out and about on travels much.
Andrea