Rewind Repost: Easter Smells, Easter Memories

Below is a repost of the piece I wrote last year on Easter smells, in case you missed it. Easter, for me, always brings up a plethora of very specific smell memories. Year after year, I find myself transported back to my childhood through these memories. I love Easter: the weather is getting cooler, the four-day long weekend is so lazy and relaxing, and I especially adore the rituals of eating spiced fruit buns and chocolate eggs. Have a happy Easter everyone!


Easter has always been a favourite time of year for me. Although I’m not Christian, I like the four-day holiday in Australia and some of the related traditions, whether or not they stem from Christianity or pagan times. Part of my fondness for this holiday is because I have very fond memories of Easter weekends spent at Robe as a child, a tiny coastal town in South Australia. My family owned the historic Karatta House then, and this run down and dilapidated, sprawling property was a great place for a child to spend so much time.

Karatta House

Karatta House

I have many scent memories spending Easter at Karatta. I remember the rich, wake-up smell of bacon cooking in the stone-walled, lino-floored, musty kitchen in the mornings. When I cook bacon now, I always think of Robe, and the old kitchen Mum cooked in. The brass kitchen taps and bore water gave off a strange combined aroma: metallic notes mixed with dirt and that slight funk of undrinkable bore water. I also associate this kitchen with the pungently salty smell of freshly caught fish, and my Dad and brother gutting and scaling them on the sink. I’ve never like seafood much, and I think my experiences at Robe (my parents also cooked live Crayfish) have a lot to do with that. The smell of fish, no matter how fresh, still makes my stomach turn.

fire-551665_640Every Easter Dad would light the fire at night in one of the grand old fireplaces. Robe is host to a cool climate, but as autumn and Easter sets in, it gets quite nippy. The smell of the wood smoke was always comforting, and a treat for us as we didn’t have a fireplace at home. Dad found small pieces of copper wire to burn in the fire for us, creating magical, coloured flames of blue and green.

On Good Friday, the scent of toasting hot cross buns infused the kitchen, with warm cinnamon and the sticky-sweet smell of caramelised sultanas and dried citrus peel wafting around. The smell of lactonic, fatty butter slathered on top completes this smell memory. I loved the cross on top of the buns the most, and would pull it off and reserve it, eating it separately after I’d finished the rest of the bun.

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International Women’s Day 2016. Memories and Music In Celebration of my Grandmother

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My grandmother, c. late 1930s, Adelaide.

Above is a photo of my grandmother as a young woman, sometime in the late 1930s (or perhaps early 40s), captured by a roving street photographer in Adelaide. I love the slightly surprised, somewhat reproachful look on her face. I love her clothes, her shoes, her hat and gloves, that handbag and the way she carries it. I love that I do not know what she was like when this photo was taken and that she had a long history before I came along. I love that she was young, and beautiful, and stylish and sassy. I wish I knew what perfume she wore – Vol de Nuit, Shocking, Tabu, Joy? – but sadly I don’t.

Fast-forward forty years, more or less, and I enter the equation. My Granny, as I call her, lives in a little house with my Papa, in a tiny beachside town in South Australia. It’s a long drive to Granny’s house from where we live, and we’re always welcomed at the back door with hearty greetings and warm hugs. Granny is a wonderful cook and always makes lunch or afternoon tea when we visit. The house smells of pasties and biscuits, the occasional lamb roast, vegetable soup, cups of tea.

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May the Froth be With You… Star Wars Apple Scented Body Wash, Childhood Nostalgia & Plans for the Future.

Happy New Year! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful holiday season and a fresh, bright start to 2016! I’m back. After a few weeks off I’m itching to go again and I have a fabulously long and fun to-do list waiting for me. It’s going to be an exciting start to 2016: there will be reviews of recent indie perfume releases, profiles of fragrance houses you mightn’t have heard of yet, more exciting articles in the Smell and Sound and Smell and Synaesthesia series, more Thirteen Thoughts interviews, and some book reviews too. Phew. That’s a lot, so I’d better stop prattling on here and get on with it…

But before I sign off, I want to introduce you to Yoda the Apple Scented Body Wash. I’ve not yet seen the newest Star Wars movie, so please, no spoilers! As a child of the 70s and 80s I get abnormally excited about Star Wars. I saw the original movie in the cinema at age three. Standing on my mother’s thighs so I could see the screen, I fell in love with Luke Skywalker and decided I wanted to be Princess Leia. It’s one of my earliest and fondest childhood memories. Through the 80s I enjoyed watching the other two movies from the original trilogy on clunky VHS hired from UFO Video, our local video library, or in the cinema with school friends. So, having a soft-spot for all things Star Wars (the original trilogy, not the prequels, mind you), when I spotted this little fellow for sale in the supermarket a few weeks back, I couldn’t resist.

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Yoda Apple Scented Body Wash

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Childhood Scent Memories: Highlights from Reader Entries to Perfume Polytechnic’s First Birthday Giveaway

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Photo credit: smelling the roses (Creative Commons license) – https://www.flickr.com/photos/95632040@N00/3356909594

Perfume Polytechnic turned one a couple of weeks ago. To celebrate the blog’s first birthday I held a giveaway and entrants were asked to share one of their favourite childhood scent memories with me. I received some fabulous answers, and what struck me most was the emotional power of these memories. These scent memories were not only pleasant smells remembered on their own, but they were related back to treasured activities, relationships and special moments.

Scent is evocative. It helps us to recall memories, people, places and things. It connects us. I’ve published a selection of some of the lovely scent memories that my readers sent in below. I hope you enjoy reading them too.

Crystal Marie (USA)

“Narrowing down my favorite childhood scent memory is sort of difficult as there are several. My favorite has to be of the totality of semi-swampy forest and fields behind my childhood home. The sweet fragrance of walking on crushed cottonwood leaves, as mimosa flowers, willow and dogwood perfume the air, especially in early morning or early evening. It’s a lovely combination, which is I suppose my inspiration for botanical fragrance work. I love the smell of places in nature best.”

Roslyn (Australia)

“Both my mother and grandmother were superb cooks, so some of my strongest childhood scent memories are of food cooking, from aromatic chicken soup with home-made noodles to pavlova and honey cake, delectable savoury and sweet dishes of all kinds. And I also strongly remember the scent of 4711, which seemed to be everywhere back then!”

Goh Sha (USA)

“My favorite perfume memory is going through my mom’s drawer and smelling Dior’s Poison which took my breath away. It was so contrary to the idea of perfume I had at the time.”

Sue Holleron (UK)

“I live in a very old City called Chester. My favourite childhood fragrance was the scent of clean hay and straw when I helped my Dad with the animals as he was a Keeper at Chester Zoo. I loved the feeling that the animals had comfortable beds to sleep on!!”

Al (Australia)

“One of my earliest smell memories is of a cumquat tree in my parents’ garden – it sat in a large pot by the door, so I passed it often, and associate its zingy scent with summer warmth, bare feet and a bee-sting I received nearby. At some point I couldn’t resist having a taste of the cute little fruits, so I also associate that unpleasant experience with the much nicer smell. But I am still fond of the smell of a cumquat tree.”

Charlotte Scheuer (USA)

“My favorite memory as a child was walking to kindergarten and going past a greenhouse. I loved the smell of earth, geraniums and the various flowers therein. I was a wee little girl growing up in Ohio and I think my ‘career’ as a perfumista began right there! I think I have been trying to replace that scent in my heart since then. At that age also, my grandmother had huge peony bushes in her backyard and I remember them as well. These fond memories bring me comfort and joy!”

Gaby (Australia)

“I’m from Australia and a childhood scent memory is the ink from those old-school stencilling machines we had back in primary school. I can waft the slightly sour acrid chemical smell right now if I close my eyes. It takes me back to year 2 – we had a cool teacher who loved The Beatles and I remember she made us draw pictures of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – little did we know what it really meant! As well as stencilling ink, her classroom smelt of decaffeinated coffee and the jelly beans she used to hand out when we did good deeds.”

Naz (USA)

“My favorite scent memory from childhood… I sometimes have trouble recalling them until the smell is actually present. One of them would be the smell of mustard flower in the night air, when I walked outside in a village in my native country, Bangladesh, and you couldn’t see anything, not even your hand in front of you… but you could smell the flowers, and that smell lent you a sense of peace, even though your vision was lost.”

Damir (Croatia)

“There are many different kinds of olfactory memories from my childhood (preschool age).

Memory #1 Roses in spray: My great-grandmother had a neighbor who worked in Germany. Every time she came home, she brought a bottle of home fragrance. A large pale green bottle like the old design of hair spray bottles under pressure. The smell was so similar to the roses that are rare today. An intensive smell that was almost identical to many roses we easily found in most of the yards then. It was sweeter probably because of high concentration but it smelled like real roses.

Memory #2 Peonies: My great-grandmother had many bushes of multicolored peonies. Once upon a time, in the 70’s, when the climate was healthy, spring showers happened often in the period of the peony’s blooming. The rain intensified the scent of the peonies that was spread and mixed with the scents of the other flowers.

Memory #3: Forest. My favorite memory. It is amazing to watch how the seasons of the year change and bring various odors in the same place. It depends on so many factors: tree species, the level of humidity, the amount of rotten and dry fallen leaves, lakes and streams, the amount of snow and sunlight are some of them. I’m happy that I spend a lot of time in the same forest nowadays, too. It is a very important place for me.”

The Perfume Magpie (Spain)

“Your question on a favourite scent from childhood made me think a lot… There are so many and it’s rather difficult to pick one or two. If I were to choose the smells with emotional attachments, I would say incense and osmanthus. Incense was a part of my daily life and I did enjoy the act of offering incense every morning. The smell and the sight of osmanthus in autumn was pure magic. Every autumn, I was waiting and waiting for the gorgeous orange coloured blossoms to open. Pity, I haven’t found any osmanthus trees here in Spain.”

Sun Mi (USA)

“My favorite scent memory is a bizarre one, but it’s the smell of Powerbait. I actually wrote one of my college essays on it back in the day. My dad and I would go fishing often, and I loved it. After a day of fishing our hands would reek of the potent, neon fish bait, layered with the slimy smell of fish and lake water. It wasn’t, perhaps, the most pleasant of smells – but it was the smell of fun with my dad.”

Darkros3 (Italy)

“Perhaps my most vivid childhood memory is related to summer holidays at the sea and to the various scents I recall from those days spent at the beach: the salty smell of the sea, obviously, but also that of suntan lotions, pastries sold in the bars on the promenade and plastic bags in which my mother used to put all my things (swimsuits, toys, etc.). I used to miss this fabulous mix of smells when I came home, and I’ve always loved exotic/beach scents since then – especially after getting seriously addicted to fragrances.”

Sally (Australia)

“A “scent memory” I hold dear is of the musty yet fresh scent of the ice-skating rink. The anticipation of a seven year old being able to do something exciting, a little dangerous and somehow otherworldly with its endless white was added to with the crisp smell of the ice plus the leather from my beloved little ice skates. I remember how the scent would intensify when on the ice, when a blade would cut into the ice and of course, when I fell. When I get a whiff of a smell like this, I am transported back to this time.”


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these wonderful scent memories and conjuring up the images that they convey and suggest. Do you have any treasured scent memories from childhood that you would like to share? If so, please leave a comment in the box below!

Smell of The Day: Smells Like Teen Spirit

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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.

My Dad: A Tribute Through Scent Memories

11140129_10152852556073214_169184343958637322_oToday is the fifth anniversary of my father’s death. Above is a photo of my parents on their wedding day on New Year’s Day, 1966. Dad is only 23 here, handsome, and looking full of life and happiness. As several years have now passed since Dad’s illness and death, it’s easier to remember and reconstruct memories of who Dad was. When someone is so ill for so long, as my father was, you start to define the person by the illness they are afflicted with, and almost forget who they were before they got sick. Time does heal though, and my thoughts and memories of my Dad are more complete and balanced now as time passes. Smell is an undervalued sense. We normally remember people with photographs, videos, objects and stories. But what of the scent of a person, or those smells associated with a person that you hold dear? In tribute to my Dad today, I want to pass on a few scent memories associated with him…

Wood, Leather, Rattan

The smell of varnished, antique woods. Dad was an early collector of fine and unusual antique furniture. The smell of varnished cedar or mahogany or pine was everywhere in my childhood home. One of the pieces that defined my Dad was his enormous antique desk. Dad was one to always bring his work home. The desk was made of a polished, dark wood, topped with red, gilt-edged leather that smelled sweet and warm. Dad’s office chair was made of honey-coloured wood and had a woven rattan seat that smelled of dry hay, a smell that always made my nose itch a little.

Motor Oil and Metal

Whenever I catch a whiff of motor oil I think of my father. For years Dad ran a business importing spare parts for Italian cars, and ran a small mechanic’s workshop on the side. Dad also collected and tinkered with old cars, including a 1939 Packard, 1950s Thunderbirds, and rare Fiats. Old and collectible cars and their smell pervaded my childhood and adulthood. The collective smell of motor oil, metal, and fine interior wood, leather and fabric (the smells of vintage cars) reminds me of Dad, every time.

Chewing Gum

When I was little Dad would chew P.K. gum often. He would always offer me two pieces of “chewy” at a time, one too many for my small mouth. The cool, minty freshness of gum reminds me of my Dad.

Wine

Dad was an avid wine collector and at one stage his cellar housed 3,000 interesting and rare bottles. The cellar was unusual, cut into the side of the hill under our two-storey house. It was long and narrow and cool and dark, and smelt of damp, wet earth and salt from the water softener. There was the smell of wooden shelves and cork too.

Hamburgers and Chips

Back in the 1980s, you could really only get burgers at chain outlets or at Australian-style fish and chip shops. We occasionally enjoyed the latter as a family treat. The smell of one of these burgers always takes me back to my childhood, and waiting with Dad in the fish and chip shop for our food to cook. Dad loved burgers, no tomato or sauce, thank you very much, and he would (embarrassingly) do a series of twists and stretches in the shop every time we waited for our food. It was always a delight to open the paper at home and release the fatty, salty, steamy odour from within. I loved the smell of the over-seasoned mince meat and greasy chips straight out of the paper as a kid.

A Warm Hug

I associate Dad’s hugs with the smell of a clean, woolly jumper. I love the comforting, slightly fatty, animalic smell of wool. It’s a smell that always makes me feel cosy and loved.


RIP Paul White: 20/10/1942 – 9/4/2010. Scent memories are an important part of remembering and paying tribute to loved ones and helps keep their memory alive. Smells are so immediately evocative and help us recall people, special moments and emotions, often without much interception from the rational or thinking brain. I hope you’ve enjoyed me sharing some scent memories related to my Dad with you today. I hope that you will consider writing down (or sharing with me) some of your own scent memories of those who are special to you, and that together we can start to revalue the sense of smell and all that magic it conjures up for us.