Long-lasting Odours

May 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family History, Nature | 8 Comments
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Smell Memorable


At times, I have been struck with a strong memory at the exact time I notice a particular odour. There is no thought to the response; the memory is just there – a simple Pavlovian reaction to a stimulus.




Memories are often aroused by odours that we smelled in the past. Apparently, olfactory stimulation is the most direct line to memory in the brain. Odours can set down strong connections, and bring back people, places and events even from our earliest years.

There are two odours in particular that evoke this response in me. Both of them are associated with walks in the country, and they go back over sixty years to when I was a young child in the former cotton mill town of Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, England.


Oswaldtwistle Moor (by(Orphan Wiki)

Oswaldtwistle Moor (by(Orphan Wiki)


The first is the delicious odour of bacon, eggs and baked beans being cooked on an open fire out on the moors. Dad and Mum used to take us for walks along country lanes, over hill and dale and open moor. Sometimes we’d go to where the town’s two old water reservoirs overlooked the countryside.

My little sister would be in the big cane pram, while us three older kids walked. Dad would sometimes carry me, the third child, on his shoulders. As well as my sister, the pram carried a frypan, billycan, eggs & bacon wrapped in newspaper, and a can or two of baked beans, plus cooking and eating utensils.


Egg,bacon campfire


When we stopped, around midday, Dad would start a fire and cook up this most wonderful of treats for us. It is a meal that I still relish, and as my husband does too, we have it every couple of weeks. That wonderfully evocative odour has created new memories now, as well as bringing back those long-ago ones of my childhood days in the English countryside.

The second odour is one I had forgotten until, one day, I was driving along an open country road in western NSW, Australia. It was probably about twenty or thirty years after we’d left England.


Central West NSW

Central West NSW


The weather conditions were just right. It was a warm autumn afternoon and I had the car window open. Thick dry grass alongside the road had just been slashed by the local Council as a safety measure. The breeze carried the smell of freshly-cut, sun-warmed hay to my nostrils.

Again, I was immediately transported back to the days when Dad and Mum took us walking in the country. We’d pass several farms along the way, where farm labourers were out performing the task of cutting the long autumn grass and tossing onto haystacks.





The feeling that welled up as my brain processed that odour so many years later was one of great pleasure, enjoyment and belonging. The conditions have been just right only a few times since that day, but when they are, my memory reacts in just the same way. Smell Memory janettoon

What odours evoke strong memories or emotions in you?


© Linda Visman   09.05.14 (504 words)


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