.. and by that I mean snakebite n’ black, pot noodle and mouldy bed linen.
Packed to the roof like they’re up for some serious car boot sale action (old Kodak centre in Harrow anyone..?), I’ve spotted many laden cars heading North with wide-eyed teens in the back, clutching their teddies in excitement as they headed off to University.
I (vaguely) remember being one of those teens and it’s only now in my 40s that I can look back at the experience and truly understand why my friend’s mum hung about for hours at our student house, scrubbing at the bathroom and kitchen until her marigolds wore through and she left the house sobbing.
To me and my Uni girlfriends, it was a palace. To our parents, it was a cesspit that we had foolishly handed over a deposit and a month’s rent to our landlord. Having housed six boys prior to our arrival, it took many weeks to embed it with our ‘girl smell’. The basement however, was another level (if you will pardon the pun.) I can still smell it now…
If I could go back and re-think my career, I wish I had gone into perfumery. I can happily spend hours in the candle and fragrance departments and if you’ve ever wondered why coffee beans often appear alongside candles, it’s to neutralise your sense of smell before the next sniffing. I don’t think the yearly coffee bean crop of Latin America would have helped our basement.
Smells are so important to me. They trigger memories – happy, sad, funny. These are a few of my best/worst smells:
GOOD: Lavender – reminds me of my late Grandma who loved the smell of it. I always travel abroad with lavender oil and a couple of drops on a pillow at night definitely helps the kids get to sleep. Also great for a relaxing bath. I had a relaxing bath once in 2005. I have kids now.
BAD: Baby poo. I remember the horrific baby poops that seeped up the back of the baby-grow. Usually when you were in the John Lewis toilets, already sweating, lactating and trying to get a feed in.
GOOD: Tarmac. I actively seek out roadworks. I called my Dad recently to ask about some signage on the back of a truck. ‘Paving, rendering, tarmacadam’. After mocking me for pronouncing it ‘Tarmac Adam’, he informed me that it’s actually the full name for ‘tarmac’.
BAD: Damp clothing – so, you wash your clothes and hang them to dry. You go to wear a top and notice the cuff was stuck inside itself. Oh well, it’s dry now and all is fine. No. It’s not fine. Stinks all day long. Wash it again.
GOOD: Comfort Sunshiny Days fabric conditioner. Best ever. I like everything to smell clean and fresh. My sister in law has the market cornered on that. Her whole family have animated flowers wafting around them at all times. Even the dog.
BAD: Dog poo. Even the tiniest amount (always stuck in the tread of your trainers) is enough to make me retch.
GOOD: Husband’s after shave. You can keep your Creed Aventus (fyi, now available for women too). Robert Piquet ‘Notes’ is the one I love on him. Unfortunately it’s no cheaper than Creed and is so-called ‘Notes’ because you need bucketloads of banknotes to pay for it
BAD: Gefilte fish. You can’t roll a shit in glitter. And the same goes for a carrot ‘hat ‘on top of minced fish…
GOOD: Hotel foyers – I love how the good ones smell amazing when you walk in and almost set your mood. I remember my honeymoon and my obsession with the smell of the place where we stayed – a friend would always bring me back lotions and sprays when she visited South Africa. Luckily ‘Charlotte Rhys’ is now available to order in UK, but it never smells quite the same at home. Possibly the lack of sea view and room service.
BAD: Earring butterflies – I’m as hygienic as they come so don’t pretend and act holier than thou. It’s a real problem for us all.
GOOD in a BAD WAY: Original stonewashed denim. When I was a teen, drooling over the Levis commercials featuring Nick Kamen and Brad Pitt, there was a tiny shop on Golders Green Road called ‘Yankee Doodle’ that catered to the Levi 501 obsession of North West London. (South London crew had ‘Soldier Blue’ on the Kings Road as their mecca.)
Small but perfectly-stocked, it was stacked ceiling-high with bandanas and converse and my favourite Levi 501s. The jeans had been through a stone-washing process that an intoxicating bleached smell. Ripped, stained, ink splattered, torn, worn. No wonder there was a sign up stating that you had to have your parents permission to buy from there.
GOOD: Freshly baked bread, specifically challah, in the boot of your car.
Better than the artificial smell of the yellow vanilla trees dangling off your rear view mirror.
Controversially, I have a friend who prefers the black ice scent to vanilla – something about the musky, manly smell. They should actually challah-scented Little Trees…
“Hello, Little Trees? I’ve got a new scent idea for you…”
That’s Chrismukkah presents sorted then…