Sunday Times

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

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