It’s spring. Or, as some people choose to call it, summer. And while for many the change of season is an olfactory nightmare, spring’s image conjures up thoughts of sunshine, flowers and fresh smells. The Lifestyle team shares what their favourite smells
It was going to be mangoes. The smell of a cushiony ripe mango is rare in these days of cold chains and I lean over in greengrocers sniffing them hopefully like a mad person. I thought that nothing could beat that inebriating scent.
Bacon comes close, that smell of unhurried Sunday mornings with the rustle of newspapers. When I wanted my teenaged son to wake up I would fire up the frying pan and by the time the rashers were sizzling he’d be standing right there, mussed and bleary and hungry.
Coffee comes close, too, that shot of fragrance when you pop the foil on a new jar. I love the smell in spice shops. Tuberoses. Babies’ downy heads. Jo Malone’s Vetyver Cologne which I wore for years but which they have sadly discontinued. I kept my last empty bottle and occasionally unscrew it — it reminds me of a particularly happy time.
No, I was going to choose ripe mango as my favourite scent. But as I began writing this, the first summer rainstorm burst and I knew what my favourite scent of all time is. Growing up in Zimbabwe, you used to smell the rain coming over the horizon on summer afternoons, as the sky bruised and the wind came up. You occasionally get a hint of it here on the highveld, but nothing as intense and exhilarating as that drenching scent of rain. I wish I could have bottled it. Michele Magwood The smell of months-old babies is second only to the smell of petrol and Jeyes Fluid (yes, as in the disinfectant). I know I’m not alone on the petrol part, but I have yet to meet someone who also thinks Jeyes smells divine. I would drink it if it wouldn’t kill me. It’s such a delicious smell. It smells like cleansing and cleanliness — both a physical cleansing and a spiritual one (there is some “spiritual” significance attached to Jeyes in some beliefs). Someone make a Jeyes-flavoured diffuser, please. Pearl Boshomane-Tsotetsi You know it’s going to be a good day. That first whiff of a curry in the making — sliced onions, crushed ginger and garlic, curry leaves, garam marsala and chilli powder slowly frying in a pot — mixing up to create a smell like no other. It immediately takes me back to Sunday mornings after church when my mom used to make her mutton curry and that smell pervaded the house. Happiness. Comfort. Joy. I try to recreate it whenever I can, but my neighbours in my complex complain because it wafts to them and they start craving the food. Jennifer Platt
As a youngster I would accompany my mom to do bulk vegetable buying for my dad’s busy takeaway. When I say bulk, I mean we could fill a 19passenger taxi with our load. The veg wholesaler was a long, dark warehouse, with wet cement floors, and rows of pallets displaying the day’s freshest produce. Market day was frenetic, with sellers yelling prices in active competition, while buyers, including my mom, would haggle, bemoaning the soaring cost of broccoli or potatoes. Forklifts buzzed about with deliveries. I had to stay close.
But inevitably we’d leave, dragging the heavy smell of earthy dampness and crushed chlorophyll on our clothes.
Whiffs can still be caught. Wherever there is a local greengrocer with buzzing fluorescent tubes, broken vinyl floor tiles, a mechanical till and stands of those really goodlooking, broken and odd-shaped vegetables — not the sanitised stuff of today. Keith Tamkei
There’s a spot on the body, where hair becomes fine and fluffy. It’s the place that captures a person’s essence, where all their phantom selves that waft about them during the day — the parent, the worker, the joker, the flirt, the party animal, the friend, the lover and the sleeper — collect and augment. It’s the place from which memories of the sweeter, sharper, softer, bubblier, fresher, holier people that we once were emanate. There must be a scientific reason why the nape of the neck smells so good — oils from the hair collect there or something as inane as that ... but the result is magical. The French have a word for it: cassolette, which describes a woman’s perfume after it has mingled with her body oils and pheromones, her mood and her sweat and her heat. The French don’t have a similar word to describe the smell of the nooks and crannies of a man’s neck. If they did, it’s definition would be “love at first smell”. Andrea Nagel