Smell of The Day: Smells Like Teen Spirit


Smell of The Day is about noticing and appreciating the smells around me. Just one smell. It might be a perfume, a fragrant flower, the odour of something cooking, an unpleasant smell. All smells are equal. All smells are interesting. All smells affect us. Smell of The Day posts will feature one smell that made an impact on me that day.

Smell of The Day: Smells Like Teen Spirit

We live in the country now, and every time I go back to the city to visit I find it exciting. The noise, people, lights, colour, smells, and food are very stimulating, but after a couple of days it overwhelms me, and I yearn for the quiet and space of the country again. One recent afternoon on a tram ride in the city, a group of boisterous teenage school girls got on, sitting close to me, surrounding me. Giggling constantly, as I once did, talking about boys, as I once did, and generally being too loud, too energetic and too annoying, as I once was. I remember those days clearly and I still yearn for them, while at the same time I’m happy to have left them behind for a calmer place, both in the world and in myself.

Sitting there, amusedly observing their behaviour, my nostrils are suddenly filled with an intense aroma-bomb of coconut. My memory takes me straight back to early childhood and to a day at the beach in 1980. Women clad in crocheted string bikinis baste themselves with Le Tan, a coconut-scented tanning oil. A transistor radio plays Computer Games by Mi-Sex. It’s hot and sunny. Suddenly one of the school girls on the tram shrieks: “You idiot, now everyone on the tram can smell your perfume!” She jolts me out of my revery. Hearing the word “perfume” I prick up my ears; no-one ever talks about perfume, let alone sprays it in public. This is intentionally naughty teen behaviour. The perfume-sprayer responds defiantly: “Good, let them all smell it!” and keeps spraying it into the air and onto her friends. Faux tropical fruit follows coconut, completely filling the breathable space around me, as does calone, a nasty melon-like aroma chemical. Instantly I’m transported back to 1990 and I’m 16. I’m drinking a Pina Colada in a tacky basement nightclub with my own school friends, seeking the attention of a man too old for me. Just for thrills. A couple of stops later the school girls collect their belongings together and get off the tram. It takes a few more minutes for the air to clear.  I’m back in 2015 and I can breathe again.

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