Tuesday, 18 February 2014

England smells of fat and soap

I'm an olfactory person.
I might remember things I saw, things I heard, my mind is quite good at remembering names and I never forget faces but one thing dominates it all. The whiff of a certain smell and boom - I'm catapulted back to a certain place, a certain time, a certain mood.

A particular wooden wallboard - the school gym. A certain tobacco - sitting on my dad's photo case eating a hot dog on some military airbase in the 80's. The coffee shop inside the"Waterstones" bookshop in Horsham - opening the door to my grandparents flat in order to chat and have some coffee.

Smells can make an ordinary moment special to me or put a big damper on my mood.
I know this is not unique and that at least the majority of women will have a similar connection to their limbic system. There are 1000's of examples and stories I could tell but one inspired me to write this in particular:

Late summer 2000, the final year of school.
My English class has decided to spend a week in England.
I'm against it, I hate the idea! Why the fuck do I have to travel to England only cause English is one of my major subjects?!? (Now I know how stupid I was)
A week away in a country I have no connection with whatsoever, together with a bunch of people I don't mind but still...the young, hyper-sensitive, slightly awkward and highly prone to homesickness me is against it. But there is no way out, taking part is a must and I'm not that stupid to rather break my leg than accepting my fate.

I arrive at the station scowling, the journey takes ages (as we went by train and boat cause a certain someone refused to fly - yes, it was me, the nowadays frequent flyer. Well...the times they are a-changin).
An accident on board of the hoverspeed ferry calls for a rescue helicopter and slows us down a lot. We arrive in the evening, tired, exhausted, hungry.

I hate the youth hostel, I hate the other hostile German school group that is already residing in the building, the stink of deep fried eggs, bacon and bread wafting from the kitchen in the basement in the early morning makes me feel sick. All I can smell is grease. I eat my plain toast with a bit of marmalade, drink coffee that could be mistaken for machine oil and feel sorry for myself fighting back tears.

On the morning after I wander disheartened into the town centre to wait for our German tour guide.
The sun comes out, the high street is lit up and: I'm in love. 
I don't know why, I cannot explain it . something in my soul and in my heart has changed from one second to another and suddenly I can't get enough of everything, getting bedazzled with pretty much every place and thing that I am going to discover in this week. The beginning of a life changing relationship.

We spend a lot of time in the pretty town centre of Canterbury (or Canterburz as I call it as all our paperwork before departing spelled it that way due to the American keyboard of our teacher).
We go to London, visit a school in Tunbridge Wells, get shown around Brighton.
There I am introduced to my first ever Lush shop, the smell imprints itself.

And there we have it - the mixture of old frying fat and soap, nothing else triggers more longing in me while making me happy.


  1. so cute... love the last picture :)

    oh, and tell me how u changed your attitude towards flying!

    1. well, I didn´t want to fly as I simply had never done it before (was der Bauer nicht kennt, frisst er nicht). And then I met someone special online and suddenly there was a reason to get from a to b quickly...love flying ever since and taking off is my favourite moment :-)