The garden was full of lavender and jasmine; it was my first proper garden since I arrived in Australia, so I loved planting those perfumed plants. A heady smell of spring. The bushland close by our home smelled of eucalypts and tea trees, and sweet smelling grasses. However long we live, perfumes and special scents remind us so well of different times. They bring it flooding back.
I remember the smell of hot melting tar on the roads in summer from when I was little, or new potatoes just dug out, or over-ripe plums that had fallen on the ground. The pungent smell of the winkles we ate from paper, heavy with vinegar. Strawberries, warmed and ripe, with crunchy sugar and thick clotted cream. A scent of summer. In a corner of damp ground, my mother grew Lily of the Valley, again like wild violets a subtle scent.
The warm soapy smells of Mum’s apron as she pulled me close to do my hair. When she went out her haid had a wave set in and she used a lotion called Amami to get the look, I remember the clean smell. She used Ponds powder and her perfume at one time was Evening in Paris. This came in a pretty little blue bottle. She showered us liberally in a talcum called April Violets or Imperial Leather after our baths.
Clean washing that has dried in sun and wind is an evocative smell for me. A warm kitchen with a fruit cake cooking or a stew gently bubbling is an especially welcome place. But best of all is the smell of bread baking. At one time in our lives I made lots of bread. Every Saturday morning I made rolls and plaited loaves and buns. The kitchen smelled divine.
The opposing thought is of an office I worked in when I was very young. I hated the job anyway as the two women there were officious and very unkind. The headmaster’s room where the secretary was, had a special scent, it smelled of a curious mix of Blue Grass perfume and her rather rancid old poodle. I was put off that perfume for years.
Lemon blossom in my garden is beautiful at certain times and some of the flowering trees have a heady perfume too. Real roses of the old fashioned type always had a scent, but modern ones seem to have no perfume. Perhaps we have gone back a step as I feel the perfume is part of the charm.
Some men wear a lot of aftershave, which can be aggressive or subtle. I used to like Aramis and Yves St. Laurent, and one of my sons loves Hugo Boss. I’ve even found that there are some eau de parfum for men that I happily use. I wonder if this is because we are becoming less worried about gender and how we should smell?
I like oriental perfumes and I have certain smells in my life when a particular perfume reminds me of a special time in our lives. Patchouli Oil is pure 1970s for me, as is Youth Dew and Paris. I wore Paris on a trip overseas and I am reminded of that time when I smell it. Yves St. Laurent perfumes were my ’80s and ’90s scent of choice, then came Elixir and later Opium. The Body Shop also did wonderful perfume oil called White Musk, which I used for every day.
I had friends who used other things like Red Door and White Diamonds and Je Revie. All of these remind me of parties and special times I had with those friends when I smell those scents. Special perfumes we were given by rich friends we know we can ever afford again, so the bottle is kept until it is no longer carrying a memory. One year when I stayed with my daughter in Devon she was comforted after I’d returned home because I had left an almost empty bottle of perfume. She said she sniffed it to remind her of me.
I kept a cardigan of my mother’s for a while after she had died as it still had her smell despite her no longer being with us. I needed that for a while.
Scent is a very powerful thing!