This is the fourth in my series of seven blog posts, each focused on a particular place or object which provokes a strong olfactory memory.
Most people would associate the scent of fresh basil with the kitchen, Italian pasta dishes, a pot of fragrant green leaves growing upon a sunny windowsill. My scent associations with basil do include the obvious, but also a rather more obscure memory.
I became fascinated by herb lore and hedgewitchery when I was a teenager, buying what books I could and experimenting with oils and candles and potions. I have never been particularly green fingered but the idea of growing my own herbs had a kind of mystical appeal. I got a little pot of basil and placed it on the windowsill in my parent’s kitchen, but refused to let anyone use it for cooking. I bestowed a lot of care on that little plant, watering it, turning it so it would grow evenly all the way round. I would take a leaf to bed with me at night and place it inside the pillowcase, having read somewhere that basil was good for headaches and relaxation.
I don’t really know what I wanted to achieve exactly, I just felt that the vibrancy of this plant might somehow rub off on me. Even now I have a funny little suspicion that basil smells like magic.
Here you will find the third instalment of my seven day challenge to photograph and write about places/objects in my everyday life that are associated with strong scent memories.
This is a bottle of Original Source Lavender and Tea Tree Shower Gel. The number of bottles I’ve bought probably run into triple figures and there has rarely been a time when my bathroom was not inhabited by at least one.
The first time I smelled this was on a september morning in 2002, waking up in my new room in halls at university for the first time. My mum had taken me to the supermarket the day before to pick up food and other essentials. My halls were newly built and still smelt of fresh paint, the bathroom of new plastic and grout. I can remember climbing into the shower, full of anticipation for the day ahead, In equal parts elated and absolutely crapping myself.
Oddly, although my first memory of the scent of this shower gel is connected with a time of great change and anxiety, I find the smell extremely soothing. I’ve always loved lavender, it was the first essential oil I was allowed as a child, using one of those ceramic rings that fits around a lightbulb.
Perhaps the familiarly of lavender will always take me to a safe place, no matter the situation, and that’s why I go back to it over and over again. I suppose this is a memory within a memory.
This is the second in my series of seven snippets of olfactory memory. An exercise in capturing the day to day places and objects that are connected with scent in some way.
This sewing box belonged to my husband’s grandmother. It was handed down to me after she passed away a few years ago. When I opened the lid and started to explore the contents, a huge rush of memory flooded in from my childhood, sitting beside a similar sewing box at my own grandmother’s house in Portsmouth.
My mother’s mother was a seamstress, a skill she passed down to her daughters and granddaughters. Her house was decorated in greens and browns and beige and peach and grey, with lots of fascinating nooks and crannies to explore. Her sewing boxes and tins were stuffed full of buttons and pins, needles and thread, binding and trimming and elastic and zippers and tailor’s chalk. All of it smelled old and dry. A bit dusty and woody and fibrous. It smelt like an age gone by that seemed far away and faded, yet there were the remnants nestled inside various containers. I would spend rainy afternoons rummaging around, making tiny doll dresses and mandalas out of colourful buttons.
Now, when I need scissors or a piece of thread, all I need to do is open this sewing box and all those afternoons come back to me. The pins might have rusted but the memory is sharp and bright as brass buttons.
I’ve set myself a challenge. For the next seven days I will be posting a picture- a scented snapshot if you will- of something or somewhere in my everyday life that is connected with a scent memory. I’m doing this as an exercise in blogging daily, but also to increase my awareness of the way in which I’ve made connections to things/places via my sense of smell.
This is the window in the bathroom of the delicatessen where I work. For four years I have looked at this rooftop view whilst washing my hands with Carex Moisture Plus hand wash. I have stood here whilst recovering from an overload of stress, I have stood here whilst planning my wedding, I have stood here whilst pregnant and I have stood here contemplating a complete change of career.
It might be a dull view, the scent of hand wash ordinary and uninspiring. But this spot on my personal geographic map has witnessed so much change and so many life altering plans. I’m soon to leave this place, but should I ever wash my hands with this particular soap elsewhere, I’ll be transported straight back to this place behind the flaking window pane, staring at slate roofs and planning my future.