The Scent of Possibility, a Novel by Sarah McCartney, in Which Kindness, Connectedness and Scent Play Starring Roles

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One could be forgiven for thinking lately that the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. I needn’t mention all the unsettling things that have gone on globally in recent times, the events are still so fresh and are being discussed endlessly in the media. Fear of instability is rampant and is, I feel, often incorrectly attributed to certain groups in society, often those who are most vulnerable. Divisiveness is encouraged as we are told to fear those who may take from us what is “rightfully” ours.

Those of us who don’t subscribe to this way of thinking might be struggling a little with the current social and political climates. I know I am. Lately, as I’ve dealt with chronic illness, and the long struggle to get well again, I’ve turned to meditation and to writers such as Tara Brach, a Buddhist psychologist. I also find myself pondering the things that make life (and humankind) good, thinking about the similarities between us all, and how we are all struggling with one thing or another. It’s important at a time like this to cultivate positive connections with others (which we need for health and survival), love, kindness and understanding. We all fear the loss of safety and stability and the loss of control over our lives:

Wanting and fearing are natural energies, part of evolution’s design to protect us and help us thrive. But when they become the core of our identity, we lose sight of the fullness of our being. We become identified with, at best, only a sliver of our natural being — a sliver that perceives itself as incomplete, at risk and separate from the rest of the world. If our sense of who we are is defined by feelings of neediness and insecurity, we forget that we are also curious, humorous and caring. We forget about the breath that is nourishing us, the love that unites us, the enormous beauty and fragility that is our shared experience of being alive. (Tara Brach – Radical Acceptance)

This sense of connectedness, of beauty and collective fragility, is at the core of perfumer and writer Sarah McCartney’s novel The Scent of Possibility. When I read this novel last year, I was quite moved by the kind and generous spirit of the book, the intense Britishness of it (there are many, many cups of tea served), and the way the characters connect and intertwine. The Scent of Possibility is both a remedy for and a respite from real life, while encapsulating all that is good about people and their capacity for kindness.

The novel, lucky for us, was the catalyst for the accidental launch of Sarah’s 4160Tuesdays perfumery. The story goes that McCartney was writing a novel about a perfumer/counsellor who creates bottles of personalised scent that capture her clients’ happy memories. Suddenly, all her friends were asking her to make the perfumes she was writing about in the novel, and make them she did. Now we all have the wonderful fragrances of 4160Tuesdays – with their fabulous names and creative backstories – to wear and enjoy. How serendipitous!

hydrosol-939216_640The blurb on the back of the The Scent of Possibility reads:

Down a cobbled mews off one of London’s rare tranquil backstreets, people come to talk, gaze at the garden, have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, then leave with a small blue bottle of perfume. Captured inside it is the scented memory of happy times.

The protagonist in the novel (our perfumer/counsellor) is aptly named Unity Cassel, and I am inclined to think that she is the sort of heroine we all need right now in this chaotic time. Unity connects and unites the characters in the novel in the most delightful way – I’m not going to give away any plot points – and her kindness and generosity cast a wonderfully warm glow over the whole story. Slightly more sinister characters and plot twists and turns also emerge, but instead of destabilising everything, they ultimately serve to shine an even brighter, more positive light upon the more pleasant qualities and characters in the novel. Goodness and connectedness win out over divisiveness.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, some of the scents created in the novel by Unity for her various clients have been made into perfumes and are available to purchase from 4160Tuesdays. You can experience a multi-sensory journey by reading the book and then trying the fragrances, or order them first and try them as you read! Among them, Ealing Green, Tart’s Knicker Drawer, Shazam!, What I Did on My Holidays, and A Kiss by The Fireside are available. If you know and wear these fragrances already, you will love reading the book and finding out about the characters and the stories that inspired them.

If you’re a perfume buff, or just want to read a really lovely novel about people being kind to one another, give The Scent of Possibility a go. It’s an elixir for the soul and gives hope that good scent, cups of tea and most importantly human connection can help overcome adversity.

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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Easter Smells, Easter Memories

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.

easter-2164_640Come Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny had always paid a visit. My brother and I awoke to find bright, foil-covered chocolate treats at the ends of our beds. There was always something very satisfying about crunching into an easter egg, the hollowed-out shape intensifying and amplifying the smell of the chocolate. It brings the chocolate scent closer to one’s nose, cocooning it in the shell. The cracking open of such beautifully crafted shapes with one’s teeth is both decadent and destructive, and is incredibly satisfying.

easter-eggs-6001_640The other joy that awaited us on Easter Sunday was the easter egg hunt. Karatta was a large house, a crumbling mansion that had seen better times. It was a fabulous place for a chocolate hunt, filled with antiques and interesting cupboards, nooks and crannies. When my parents bought it, it came filled with ancient things, including a solid, enormous old cabinet filled with tiny drawers. Was this an apothecary’s cabinet? An old library catalogue? There was also a pedal organ, a hand-powered water pump, an under-the-stairs cabinet made of a dark, varnished wood, and a claw-footed bathtub. I remember how exciting it was ferreting around, finding the eggs hidden in tiny drawers, under the roll-down cover of the organ, or inside the fireplace. The smell of varnished hardwoods always accompanies my memories of these easter egg hunts. Aromatic woods and foil-covered chocolate: organic, sweet and metallic all at once.

As an adult, I recreate easter egg hunts every few years for family and friends. I love the magic of this form of hide-and-seek, and it always instills joy in whoever is hunting for the eggs, whether they are children or adults.

I have many fond memories of Karatta House, and last year made a perfume with Emma Leah of Fleurage Perfume Atelier to capture some of the smells of the house and its surrounds. You can read about the perfume we created here and here, and some of the scent memories associated with the house.

For those of you that celebrate Easter, I hope you have a lovely weekend, full of olfactory delights! I’d love to hear about your Easter experiences and any olfactory memories you have associated with Easter: let me know in the comments box below!