Fragrance is evocative. It transports you to places you have been, or reminds you of people you knew. How many times have we heard that if you are selling your home, have some freshly baked bread or a pot of coffee in your kitchen as it makes a good impression on buyers?
When I get a whiff of Pettigrain, I am reminded of my paternal Grandmother who wore Eau de Cologne. I can still remember the bottle with its old-fashioned gold and turquoise label. My Grandfather slicked his hair with Brylcreem and I have a recollection of not being too keen.
The scents of my childhood are varied. My father smoked cigars, and I learned the difference between the smell of a cheap everyday cigar, and one which was much more expensive. My paternal Grandfather was a pipe smoker, and rare though it is, I still love to get a whiff of pipe smoke (odd, when you think that I am a rabid anti-smoker). It reminds me of the all the times we went blackberry picking, not that many of the plump, juicy berries made it home; or sitting at his feet while he told me stories of the derring-do adventures of Robin Hood, or about the exploits of two farmers, Brown and Jones living on adjacent farms in Wales. I wish that I remembered more of these stories. They may have given me clues about my family tree. Many years after Granddad died, Dad told me that a lady cousin of Granddad’s was farmer near Amwlch on Anglesey.
Most mornings, I take the dog to the park for a run. It is a beautiful place all year round and is teeming with wildlife and packed with beautiful plants. There is a certain spot by some steps where I am sure I can smell wild garlic. It is a smell I love, and reminds me of my childhood and trips to Wales.
In the town in North Wales where Mum was born and grew up, there is a lane up a hill with pockets of woodland on both sides. At this time of year, the beautiful, soft garlic fragrance hangs in the air as the flowers bloom. Whenever we went to visit family, and drove up the lane, I would wind down the windows of the car and inhale. I loved it, partly because it is such a gorgeous scent but also because, for me, it meant that winter was over, spring was here and summer on its way.
When we were children, we used to go to France for our summer holidays. We would pack up the car and get the ferry, having booked the first couple of nights, but having no idea where we would head. If we liked a town or village we arrived in, we stayed for a few days, if we didn’t then we moved on. We stayed in B&Bs and Pensions, and it was a cheap way of getting a fabulous holiday, staying off the beaten track and away from major tourist sites.
I recently created a blend of essential oils, to fragrance soap with, which reminds me of these family holidays. It was not intentional to create something which reminded me of France, but that is what I ended up with. It contains an amount of Ylang Ylang, so perhaps this is a particularly French scent, or perhaps it is a false memory.
Coffee, freshly baked bread, the smell of the ground after a heavy shower of rain on a hot day, all these are scents which either remind me of something or just make me feel extraordinarily happy. More than anything else, the sense of smell evokes a memory, good or bad, so it is worth while taking some time to store smells in your memory banks for future use.