Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Scents of the Past


As I sit here and gaze out of my front window, I can see several containers full of bluebells. They are a little late this year, due to the cold spring that we have had, but definitely better late than never. I just love bluebells. I love their colour and their simplicity. Their delicate heads, rising above a carpet of shining, emerald green. I also love bluebells because they remind me of home. The first time I left home and moved down to Exeter to do my first degree, one of the things that I missed the most were the bluebell woods back home. That carpet of bright blue, beneath the brilliant green of freshly opened beech leaves, so new, so vibrant, the sunlight shinning through the leafy canopy, dappling the rippling sea of bluebells beneath. To this day, every time I see a bluebell, I think of home and I wish I could be transported to those bluebell woods........

Recently, in her blog, English Mum asked her readers what made them happy. I immediately thought of my cats - burying my head in their warm, soft fur, listening to the most relaxing sound in the world - a cat purring. Just thinking about them makes me smile. I also thought of daffodils, their cheery yellow heads, bobbing in the wind, reminding us all that Winter is on its way out and Spring is just around the corner - really, it is, you just have to be patient. Daffodils also remind me of home. More specifically, they remind me of my Granddad, who had the most wonderful garden in the world. Last night, I couldn't sleep. This is what happens of you drink too much water before going to bed. It is all very well going on and on about staying hydrated, but if that means you have to get up five times during the night.......I guess I have to choose between being dehydrated or sleep deprived, and after last night, sleep wins out over hydration every time! Still, it did give me lots of time to let my mind wander, skipping back to the past and meandering through the scents and sounds of my childhood. I started to think of all the things that made me happy now and realised that many of them make me happy because they remind of my childhood. Let's look at a few examples:

Some of the smells that make me yearn for the past:

  • Lavender and lilac

  • Wallflowers - maybe not the prettiest of flowers, but they have the scent of heaven.

  • Roses, mainly the old, rambling rose that we had growing over our shed in our garden. Also, another reminder of my Grandad, who grew some of the biggest and showiest roses that I have ever seen.

  • Box hedges - this may seem like an odd one, since they are not much too look at and their smell is not exactly sweet. However, we used to have box hedges in our garden and every time I smell one, I am transported right back home, playing in that garden.

  • Tomatoes - I don't even particularly like tomatoes, nor did I as a child, but the smell - oh my God, straight back to my Granddad's greenhouse, picking baby tomatoes. I can almost taste them as I sit here typing.

  • Sage brush and ponderosa pine, reminding me of a summer spent in Utah.

    • You will notice how many of these are flowers that remind me of either my garden or my granddad's garden as I was growing up. There are many more, and whenever I hit the garden centre, my choice of flowers nearly always reflects the gardens of my past - dog daisies and giant red poppies, lupines and hollyhocks, buddleia and delphiniums and pansies, we mustn't forget pansies - my Dad was smitten with pansies........... Oh for a large garden that I could fill with flowers. Unfortunately, we have a garden the size of a postage stamp and Mr. DBM has his own ideas about gardens and their uses. If he had his way, it would be full of lettuces and spinach, strawberries and raspberries, onions and garlic. Hang on a minute - it is! It is quite amazing how many vegetables you can fit into one tiny garden. Not that I am against growing vegetables - I think that it is a great idea and we should all do it, but I do have to draw the line somewhere. Right now, that line is drawn at chickens living in the garage and a sheep to keep the grass short. Again, great idea, but we really do need a bit more space before I can allow the introduction of farm animals to our urban Eden.

      While most of my strongest memories are triggered by scent, there are also certain sounds that have a similar effect. I have been to Australia several times now, and I always look forward to hearing the galahs. I know, they are not the prettiest, or the smartest and definitely not the most melodious of birds, but their song is just so Australia. As is the kookaburra. How can anyone hear that bird without smiling and starting to laugh? One of the most prominent sounds of my childhood is the sound of a cricket bat hitting a ball. Mostly, this is a good memory, although having two brothers knocking in cricket bats could potential drive you nuts pretty quickly. Then there is music - ah, now that is a whole new post, but I will mention one sound bite of my past that starts the memory juices flowing - the theme tune of Grandstand. Sitting on the floor of my grandparent's living room, with a small stool across my legs, eating a boiled egg with soldiers..........I still have that stool. I finally persuaded Mum that it would be OK to give it to me and let me bring it to Canada.


      All of these memories are happy memories of a wonderful, carefree childhood. A while ago, I wrote about how luck had little to do with the life Mr. DBM and I had made for ourselves (Special Offer of the Day). However, I am very willing to admit that the halcyon days of my childhood were due to luck - the luck of having a family full of love and laughter. We didn't have a lot of money, we didn't have a lot of material things, but we did have a lot of fun and many a hectic holiday, chaotic family gathering or frenzied family outing and we are now very lucky to have a lot of fond memories of our past. These memories now shape my present and my future. Perhaps only in small ways, such as the flowers that I chose for my gardens, but they are always there, influencing how I live my life today.

      9 comments:

      BabyZonely said...

      DBM,

      I still have problems posting comments here.
      I sense your nostalgia. I brought some home from Europe too!

      Don't Bug Me! said...

      I wonder if anyone else is having problems posting comments? May be that is why I get so few.......?

      English Mum said...

      Ahhh, what a wonderful post. It made me nostalgic for Grandad's house too. Remember the smell of all the geraniums in his greenhouse? I can't stand geraniums but on a hot day in that little glass house it was the best smell in the world! Oh, and pushing my way through a box hedge is one of my favourite memories - that smell! The other thing I love is that beautiful climber that used to ramble all up the walls of your Mum's house - what was it called again? Not lilac...

      Jay said...

      EM - was it wisteria? We have one - it's beautiful! Not nostalgic for me because no-one I knew had one when I was a child.

      DBM - the flower scent which is most nostalgic for me is jasmine. I lived in a block of flats (eighth floor) as a child so we had no garden. In the rather barren grounds of the flat was a small jasmine bush which had survived from the days before the flats were built. It occasionally had tiny white flowers and smelled exquisite. The smell of jasmine always takes me back to that bush - a little oasis of beauty in the smoke and grime of London in the 1950s.

      Don't Bug Me! said...

      EM: We used to have a virginia creeper climbing up the front of the house - it turned a brilliant flame red in the Autumn. We don't have it anymore - it invaded the attic and Mum got worried about stuctural damage.
      As for geraniums - you are right, their smell does remind me of Granddad's little glasshouse, and I don't really like them either! Having said that, they are good for a spot of colour and they do bloom all summer long.

      Jay: Jasmine does have a lovely smell, as does lily of the valley. Oh, and let's not forget honeysuckle. That reminds of home - both my Mum's and walking on the common, where you could often find honeysuckle growing in the hedges.

      Moon said...

      Oh Bugs, that has made the hairs stand up !... we all have wonderful memories of that garden .. smell is such a strong scent ...

      So many things, plums, strawberries from him, Pippa running her back along the fur tree ... so so many things ... awwwww xx

      Don't Bug Me! said...

      Moon: Mmmmmmm, the plums......I can't eat plums now, since they never taste as good as the ones from Granddad's garden. One day, I will have a plum tree, just like that one.

      englishmum said...

      God yes the plums! Listen to us old farts reminiscing... what about the time Pippa chased a cat...she ran into Grandad's greenhouse and straight through the glass at the back. That made the old boy curse. I never forget the sight of him - puce with rage and waving his walking stick at her retreating rear end!!

      Don't Bug Me! said...

      EM. You really would think that we were all 70+, wouldn't you? Makes me wonder what we will be like when we actually are old ......... shudder......