Sniff and Tell

Two parcels to post, so I drove down to the local Post office. The postman, a delicious Asian man, with long pointy fingers and the patience of Meher Baba, weighed the boxes, put them in a sack and wished me a very good Christmas. I wanted to buy his lifesize skeleton for the dawter but he had just sold the last one…
Driving round to the village and the radio had an expert talking about the many aspects of memory.
Years ago – if I remember correctly – I made a film about a man who invented smells.
The olfactory system is the sensory system used for olfaction, or the sense of smell. Pass a smell under the nose and pictures and memories flood the senses. He had made a box, containing six little phials, from Vanilla to Coal stoves. Christmas fir trees to newly washed clothes, stables and cooked cabbage. The box was called ALL OUR YESTERDAYS. Using his knowledge of the olfactory system he traveled round Nursing homes wafting the scent under the noses of the elderly, then people who hadn’t spoken for months opened up. People who were inside their own private world opened up. The flooding of the senses and suddenly their minds were flooded with pictures and stories.
Being asked to remember made them remember, being asked to share their stories helped in their healing.
If I smell the littler bottle of ‘coal fire’ I am 8 years old, begging my mother to let me fill the coal skuttle with shiny lumps of coal from the cellar. Not a cellar at all just a coal hole outside.
If I smell the clean washing phial. There I am on tip toes hanging out my mothers washing. Using the prop my father whittled to hold the washing line in the air, the sheets and shirts dancing in the wind.
The resin of pine, the divine smell of Vanilla, and there’s the taste of my mothers custard.
I have always had a very acute sense of smell. I can invoke the smell of clove oil even chocolate. Indeed if I want to eat something, and I haven’t got it, I’ll conjure up the smell then I can almost taste it. It s a lot cheaper than Waitrose.
So there was Jane Garvey talking about memory. The rain on the windscreen, the Christmas lights everywhere and I was transported back to 1960, the reflection of orange tangerines on the wet pavement.
The smell of sweet grapes, the whiff of Turkish Delight, the whoosh of roast potatoes, the magnificent aroma of mince pies. My mothers kitchen. Condensation on the windows, crisp celery in a jug. The promise of promises.
The serial this week is about George Grossmith, a music hall comedian who became the star of ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’, the first eight bars of ‘I am a Very Model of a Modern Major General’ played out in my little red car and I was instantly transported to the wings of the school stage. The anticipation of my entrance, the beating of my heart, the smell of the grease paint, the thrill of a packed house, and before you could say ‘Pirates of Penzance’ I was thirteen again, bringing the house down, getting all my laughs, and giggling at the coffee stains on the Major Generals white leggings.
My mother and brother in the chorus, my life’s work unfolding before a rapt audience.
I could almost taste the sweet smell of success.

7 thoughts on “Sniff and Tell”

  1. This made me think of the fern like ice patterns on the inside of the windows in winter, my mother used to say that Jack Frost had visited! Happy Christmas xx

  2. Merry Christmas to you and yours. Don’t stop writing your blog, always look forward to reading it although I don’t tell you often enough. May 2016 bring you peace, joy and happiness and may the world come to its senses and be kinder to everybody.

  3. Hi Jeni
    Wishing you all the joys of the season and every happiness in the coming year.
    So agree about the book! I love your blogs, they make me smile, they make me cry and most of all they make me think.
    Like Angi I don’t tell you enough but trust me they are really appreciated.
    Heres to a healthy 2016 for all of us.
    Best love

  4. Yes … Jeni … Your effort and time that you put into your blogs over these years are much appreciated .
    Hug that tree and enjoy these holidays with your family .

  5. Dear Jeni, we need to see you on TV. I can see you presenting a programme about how to drive safely, how to do basic repairs, how to understand MOTs. Tips on how to drive on motorways, how to park etc etc. I know it would be mostly aimed at women but it needn’t be overt. I’m sick of the school boy Top Gear antics. We need an antidote that appeals to sane people – and you are it.

  6. Ok Jeni …. Where are you ? Getting a little concerned about your lack of blog . Hope all is well with yourself and family .

  7. Dear Jeni
    We have just got lucky here in Australia because we are able to see
    and hear you again. Only twelve months on, but we had the pleasure of your 12 chefs of Christmas, and also the dulcet tones of your voiceover on Trivia Nights.
    I think you are a wonderful person and I’m so sorry you’ve had so much ill-health recently. The way you push on and the amount you do as well as always keeping us up to date with the blog is really amazing.
    Wish you better health in 2016 and lots more lovely shows. Hope we get the wine shows you did.
    Lots of love to you all the way from Australia. and all the best to your family

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