More Olfactory memories

January 18, 2016 at 2:00 am | Posted in 1950s, England, Experiences, Memoir, The Senses | 16 Comments
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Last week I wrote about the smell of pine trees and the memories they evoked fifty-five years later. There are a few other aromas that also strongly evoke memories of my childhood.

 

1. Bacon and baked beans

 

All my life I have loved the smell and taste of bacon and baked beans. Whenever I have had it, I think of being on the moors back in England when I was little. I didn’t know why this memory always came with this aroma until Dad told me (when I was in my fifties) that he and Mum used to take us for walks out on the moors of Oswaldtwistle. When we were there, Dad, a former Rover Scout, would light a fire and cook up bacon and beans for us. It was a special treat that we didn’t have very often.

When we go camping now, we have eggs and baked beans, with either bacon or sausages, at least once during the trip – my husband has always loved it too.

 

Sausage, egg, b.beans camping

On one of our trips

 

 

2.  Cut grass on a warm day

 Occasionally when I have been driving in the country, I have come to places where council slashers have been busy cutting the long grass along the sides of the road. Sometimes an aroma hits me, and I am taken back to my early childhood in England. I have discovered that the right smell is only there when the cut grass is long and dry, and the air is warm but not too hot. I didn’t know then why this wonderful smell affected me so much – I love it, it brings me a great feeling of happiness.

Whilst visiting Dad over Christmas in 2005, I mentioned it to Dad. He said he always loved the smell of new cut hay in the fields back in England. It was then that I realized what the odour was. Haying time was a great time for kids then. I had picked up those feelings, along with the aroma of hay being cut on a warm day in autumn before I was five years old. They have stayed with me all these years.

 

Cutting hay in meadow

Cutting hay in a Lancashire meadow today

 

 

3. An Isolation Hospital

 When I was about three years old, I had glandular fever and had to go into the isolation cottage at Blackburn Infirmary, where I spent some weeks. It would have been about 1951. I remember being in a cot and wanting Mum and Dad to come and take me home. They weren’t allowed to come in, and I could only see them, and they me, through a window.

There was a smell there that, when I come across it today, always takes me back to that memory. I’d always thought the smell was chloroform, but that wouldn’t be right. It is more likely to be the old kind of cleaning alcohol that was used when giving injections. The modern alcohol cleanser doesn’t seem to have the same smell.

 

Blackburn & East Lancashire Royal Infirmary early 20thC

The isolation ward was in a cottage at the back of the main hospital

 

Because of a later association with this odour, another memory also springs to mind. It is of walking past a mobile medical facility that used to occasionally park in the area in front of the shops at Albion Park Rail when I was probably about 10 to 13 years old. I think it was the TB testing unit.

 

 

Linda Visman

 

 

 

 

 

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16 Comments »

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  1. When writing description we often leave out the smells. I get busy describing what things look like and it’s like I’m watching it on silent tv. I can see it, but I forget what it might smell like or sound like even.

    • We certainly do need, as writers, to include the sense of smell so that we create a fuller picture.
      Thanks for that comment – a great reminder! 🙂

  2. Two aromas that always take me back to my childhood are the scent of marigolds, which immediately transports me back to the garden of my childhood home, and the smell of mint sauce, from holidays spent at my grandparents’ house.

  3. Linda, your comment on the smell at the hospital reminds me of the smell in the dentist waiting room. It filled me with such fear and yet nowadays I can’t smell it any more. It may have been a cleaning agent that is no longer used as you suggested.

  4. The smell of burning bush takes me back to the the African veld which is my first thought … my second thought is I better take notice how close the fires are and get out. In Sough Africa the smell of burning bushveld would carry on the winds without the fire ever reaching us hence the lack of instilled fear.

    • Linda, do you think the fires in Australia are bigger and more severe than those in S.A.? Perhaps due to denser forests, or to more eucalypts.

  5. The smell of cut grass is powerful with me too, which makes me wonder what it would be like to take an evocative smell and ask folks to write the memory it evokes for them 🙂

  6. A mix of memories here. My favorite is the subtle cut-grass smell from hot summer days. Love it. Your post makes me long for warmer weather.

  7. Cut grass on a warm day, oh my that really does evoke memories. I love how scent and taste can make us feel so warm and soft.

  8. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Back in UK, we still have those fresh cut smells. Of hay, the longer, sweeter scent, and the lush scent of moist new grass laid low. Bacon has always driven me slightly mad, as, now, does the smell of those spices that evolve into curry. An enthusiastic cook, I have a whole repertoire of enticements in the culinary department.
    Once I was a petrol-head, transported to a higher level of consciousness by hot oil and wasted rubber. Not now. I went to a Thruxton race meeting last autumn and I almost gagged on it. Odd how these things can alter with the years.

    • It seems that everyone loved the smell of new-cut grass. 🙂 I’m afraid I don’t like to cook (though I have to), but there are many food odours I love.
      I have always hated the smell of petrol, and couldn’t understand why kids in the Outback used to sniff it – it just makes me feel ill.

  9. I like the smell and taste of fried bacon, too, and I’ve eaten baked beans, but I’ve never had the two together.


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