Thursday, 4 February 2016

Smell Power


Radio 4 aired a programme on the role of smell in memory this week.
I was reminded of it last night.
Apparently a smell from your past ( that's an odd phrase) can trigger an intense burst of memory from a specific and generally unused part of the brain. The longer the period since you have " smelled the smell" the more intense the memory flash will be.
It's an interesting concept.
A mixture of cold cream and old fashioned face powder ( from one of those compacts) will always hurtle my brain back to my1970s Grandmother.
The smell of butterscotch angel delight to my primary school days
And a wiff of tequila.....well the very wiff of the bloody stuff takes me back to a 1990 house party in Bottesford Leicestershire where I experienced the very worst hangover in my entire life.

36 comments:

  1. And you swore off the demon drink forever after. Occasionally I smell similar scent to that of Wundawax liquid floor polish, used by my mother and grandmother with their electric floor polishers.

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    1. Well i never drank tequila again

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  2. Ambre Solaire = My sisters on the beach.

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    1. Omg
      Yes....thats when it was fashionable to fry in the sun

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  3. Dettol - in intense labour before the birth of my son! Nuff said.

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  4. Freesias- my wedding day, carbolic soap - Auntie Nell's, pipe tobacco - my Dad, Bourgeois Rouge - my Mum.

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    1. .....I mean Bourjois:-)

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  5. Beef dripping or lard for frying chips. Roast beef and the smell of cabbage in every room on a Sunday, fresh baked pies, bread and chip shops, pea souper fogs, factory chimneys, paper mills. All the aromas of an English northern childhood.

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  6. It's been said that the sense of smell is the most powerfully evocative of all the senses - and I can quite believe it. One of my own is a particular small baker's shop round the corner from where we lived, which would have been prior to my being aged ten. Just the memory even now of that warm, comforting, floury fragrance even now can almost hypnotise me into deep, sweet slumber.

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  7. violets - my grandmothers perfume

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  8. That primary school smell - a mixture of floor polish, stale milk, poster paints, the lost property box and warm children. Decades later, when I returned to work in one, I was transported back to my 10-year-old self in an instant.

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    1. Ditto wax crayons

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    2. I hated the smell of school and that sickly smell of the newly varnished hall flooring after the school holidays and the sawdust that used to be put over sick before it was swept away!

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  9. The smell of steaming horse manure reminds me of that spring afternoon at primary school when a local farmer delivered a huge pile of the stuff. With three other older lads we had to shovel it into a wheelbarrow and take it to the vegetable plot to the rear of the school. I think that nowadays such a learning activity would be called Environmental Science.

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  10. Lacquer thinner brings back memories of my father recovering airplane wings in the garage; ozone reminds me of early mornings walking to the fist grade in Phoenix.

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  11. Ibcol - the back yard when I was a toddler. TCP - my Nan's flat. Weights cigarettes - my other Nan. lead paint - back to school.

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  12. Oh I forgot - the smell of indoor swimming pools puts the fear of god in me because so did my junior school swimming teacher.

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  13. The smell of wet paint mixed with any heat source takes me immediately back to my weekend stays at my Auntie Ida and Uncle Harold's house. He was always touching up bits of paintwork and their gas fire, set on it's lowest possible setting to save money, pop, pop, popped the heat out (and possibly leaked gas too) making the whole house have a very unusual smell, very unique and instantly memorable.

    Happy memories :-)

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  14. LOL -- many people seem to have that relationship with the smell of tequila.

    This is like Proust and his madeleines!

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  15. My sense of smell is very poor and has been for a long time. Jenny is always saying, Can't you smell the roses/candle/shampoo etc, and I have to say I can't. I can only detect really strong smells such as newly mown grass or a powerful perfume. So no, I seldom have any smell-based memories.

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  16. Funnily enough, I was commissioned to write a piece today about a big national disaster that I was caught up in many years ago and it was only as I wrote about the sound of police helicopters going on overhead way into the night that I realised how every time I hear that sound now I go straight back to that day. Sounds and smells can do strange things to the mind.

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  17. L'Origan Perfume by Coty ....My first date and kiss!

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  18. the local hardware store my father used to visit - wood floors, paint, metal tools, all the bits and bobs for DIY types.

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  19. I have the same experience with the smell of tequila (and it goes all the way back to 1974).

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  20. My memory smells are very strong....cucumber and onions in a glass fridge container in my grandmas fridge. My primary school still smells the same...with it's home made glue in the janitors room. Evening in Paris perfume in my moms dresser.

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    1. Evening In Paris was my Mom's favorite too! She's 93!

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  21. Unfiltered cigarettes, my Marine Corps Grandfather
    White Shoulders perfume , my Aunt .. "the beauty"
    Coppertone - summer
    Johnson and Johnson baby powder - my babies


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  22. Perfume, L'Aire du Temps . . .
    Fresh cedar and pine . . .
    Cornish Pasty Pie . . .
    Camp fires . . .
    Memories . . .

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  23. Pencil shavings from the pencil sharper in elementary school.
    Pencil eraser residue.
    Lilacs in spring always take me back to the 70's and my trip to Macinac Island Grand Hotel in Michigan.

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  24. The smell of certain old books, the good one, not that awful moldy one...

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  25. I've never liked tequila. It's the smell that puts me off.

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    1. Meant to say I've never tasted it either.

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  26. Every Christmas I open up a box of the vintage ornaments inherited from family...the musty smell of basement stored ornaments takes me back .... way back.

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  27. The smell of kerosine reminds me of the heater we had on the landing in the winter when we were kids.
    Carbolic soap reminds me od primary school. i hated it, my dad loved it.
    Pipe tobacco reminds me of my granddad. Don't remember the last time I saw someone smoking a pipe-of tobacco!
    Laundry on a washing line (we rarely see it here) reminds me of my grandmother. It's the smell of the sheets etc. in the gas boiler with the dolly blue that had a weird smell.

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  28. I'd completely forgotten Ponds cold cream reminds me of my Grandma when I was little in the 70s and Joy perfume. Pipe smoke reminds me of Grandad.
    We get a tin of Quality Street every Christmas, every year I open it first and sniff, it takes me right back to our 1970s Christmases.

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  29. The smell of leaves burning on a cool fall Sunday afternoon is something I always associate with the walks I would take with my Dad my crisp fall Sunday afternoons.
    The smell of tuna fish reminds me of the neato 1963 glossy black vinyl lunchbox I had. It was emblazened with Barbie wearing a hot pink poodle, cardigan & pearl necklace. Barbie was dreamy, but the smell of tuna was a permanent stinky part of the lunchbox.Picking out a new lunchbox was the highlight of every new school year since I wore a school uniform, it was the only new thing I got to pick out myself. The lunchbox you picked out often determined how popular you would be in grade school.
    The aroma of a good gin will always be associated with my Dad.
    The scent of lavender reminds me of my Mom. She special ordered a box of fine quality lavender soaps from a company in New Orleans once a year for 33 years. It was the only guilty pleasure she allowed herself having 6 kids & a tight budget.
    The weird smell of mothballs. My Aunt Aggie had them in all her closets. Good thing she died before they were outlawed for being toxic. Ick!
    The smell of Noxema cream in summertime as my Mom slathered it all over my sunburned face.

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