Daily Prompt: Scents of Life

If you grow up in a place, then the smell of that place becomes familiar. You only really notice there was a scent if you leave and return. London did that to me. Growing up in London had no particular smell for me until I left, returning perhaps once a year. It was London of the buildings, pavements and rain. What did I smell? Wet stone, concrete, the streets of many people.  Yes people smell as well, like it or not. I spent my first two years in Switzerland working with a family that also owned an Indian restuarant. I ate Indian during the day, I sometimes helped out in the restaurant in the evening, although I was employed for the office belong to the man of the family. You think you do not smell of curry? Of course you do. The spices seep into the skin, it is everywhere. It did not bother me, because I liked the food and also learned how to cook a genuine curry and I did not really notice it. So what about us Europeans? What do we smell of? Beef, potatoes, vegetables, the sauce we cook it all in? I do not know because I am a European and generally you do not smell your own perfume, but we definitely have our aromas.


I just had a look at my perfume collection. Of course I have one, although I rarely use it. I never really think of using it, until prompted by Mr. Swiss if we are going somewhere. He also has to prompt me to use make-up. I do not think of things like that, but perhaps I should.

Due to my annual visits to London to visit my dad, I passed through the duty free section of Zürich airport and London Airport once a year. In Zürich I would buy perfume as a gift for my friend. In London I would buy perfume for me. They had various collections in boxes, the so-called “Designer Collections” and the mixtures were Dior, Givinchy, Guy Laroche, Lancome, Cacherel, Armani and even Picassoet etc. etc. They were miniature bottles and I still have the remainders. Even the small bottles need time to use completely. These remainders must be at least ten years old if not more, so how do they smell today? Yes, perhaps their smell is no longer the exclusive fragrence it was, but I am also no longer as exclusive and fresh as I was. Wearing perfume for the visit to the supermarket is not really my thing, and who would notice it amongst the smells of meat, cheese and vegetables.

There was a suxxessful novel “Das Parfum” by Patrick Süsskind (Perfume in english) which I read some time ago. It was a success and also a film was made. A baby is born in a market, amidst the smells of the goods sold, and left an orphan, but he has a fantasitc sense of smell. He becomes obsessed with scent, especially that of a woman and does what he can to capture the scent, including murder. I can only recommend this book. I read it in the original German version.

Daily Prompt: Scents of Life

22 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Scents of Life

  1. Scent is a provocative topic. I always loved the smell of Ivory soap; it reminded me of childhood. Alas, with age, I have lost much of my sense of smell. For example, to smell a rose, I have to inhale very deeply, whereas my daughter can just lift it to her nose.

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    • My sense of smell is still OK I think, perhaps not as acute as it used to be. Everyone seems to like the smell of freshly baked bread, but I do not find it particularly special. I like smells that bring back memories of the days gone by.

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  2. That’s true. My mother said that when she went back to the Philippines for vacation, the country smelled of copra ( dried coconut meat.. the Philippines is the biggest exporter of coconut raw products )

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  3. This was so fun to read. I think smells are the most intense nostalgia triggers. Fried onions (Aunt Martha). Human excrement in a field — sounds gross, but it is China to my nose. Halston Z14 — a great love of my life. Yeah. ❤

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    • I am not sure about the human part, but cow recycled matter is for me a smell of the country where I live. I never liked the greens mum cooked,but the smell of them cooking is still a homely smell.

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      • My mom made a thing called “Boiled dinner” which was a cheap cut of beef, a soup bone, cabbage, onions and potatoes and I thought it stunk. But, if I were to smell it today, I would probably cry.

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        • Sounds something like what we called “Siedfleisch”. Boiled beef (about 2-3 hours cooking time) with leeks, carrots, cabbage and celariac. When I cook that, the whole place smells of it all day, but a nice homely smell. The beef is not so cheap, but one of the cheaper parts and we like it very much. Real home cooking especially in Winter.

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  4. I agree that the smell of fresh baked breads are delightful. I love to fill the house with cooking smells. I also make scented candles, which is great for setting a mood in a room. One thing I noticed is no one seems to smell their own pet and how the pet smell is on everything. My self included as I have two cats. I make sure the cat litter box is cleaned several times a day and it is in a room at the back of the house. I knew a lady who had cats that peed on a spot on the rug that had rotted the floor. She seemed immune to the smell, but for the rest of us the house reeked and we avoided going inside at all costs. Hugs

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    • I never smelt my cats, and the litter box is in our hall. Perhaps I am used to the smell.Now I only have Tabby and she is very clean,covers everything up nicely. In Summer she is more outside in any case. It is also that today you can get such good litter for the cats, it absorbs everything immediately. There are many smells which are pleasant, but at my gold oldie age, it is the smells that remind me of earlier that mean more to me.

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      • I agree. I never smell mine but they are all over me and as you say clean. With the cat litters today if you keep the box clean then there is no smell. Our cats do not go outside. They say the strongest trigger for memories is smell. Hugs


    • London is my home town. I was not sorry to leave, and now Switzerland has become my home since 50 years. I would add that the London I knew and loved was not the London of today. It was after the war and there were still remainders of the ruins, and the old buildings were still standing. I saw London slowly being rebuilt when I left in 1966 and today it no longer resembles so much my London, but progress must be. London is dead, so long live London.


  5. I like to wear the tiniest dab of perfume so that only those closest to me might catch a whiff. My poor mother when she was younger used to steep herself in such strong scent that my little boys would come home from a visit smelling like a French w — house – well, you get it. Now the memory makes me wistful as mom is so ill with Alzheimer’s. Interesting post, Pat, thanks for writing.

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    • The general perfume in our level of english perfume understanding was one called “Ashes of Roses”. We had a perfume factory near us, Yardleys. When you passed it on the bus the whole bus was full of the perfumed smell according to the process they were working on. If they were cooking for the perfume, it did not smell so good, so who knows what they cooked. I quite liked Tresor as a perfume.


      • I also like Tresor. To me, ashes of roses is a romantic, delicate shade of pink with a touch of lavender-gray in it. If it’s also perfume, I’d love to find some. Will have to look for it.


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