Olfactory Memory

Lads, I think today might be the sweatiest I have ever been (I know, this is something you really wanted to know about me. You’re so welcome). I’m convinced I must have lost at least half a stone in sweat. Clubbercise tonight was pretty much just 45 minutes of jumping around, and I both hated and loved it. I had to drive home with my air conditioning on its coldest. In January.

Happily, I can already feel my stamina improving in this class. Now I can get through at least three tracks before I lose the ability to properly control my limbs as I flail them around. I really never thought I’d become the kind of person who enjoys exercise, and blathers on about endorphins and all that blah blah, but actually I really do enjoy both the Clubbercise and the Core Conditioning classes that I do. I still hate running though. I don’t think anything in the world could persuade me to enjoy running.

The main thing that struck me this evening, however, was not that I can now still breathe after three minutes of star jumps. It was that the corridor to the changing rooms smelled like rugby players. And I don’t know why I immediately recognised it as specifically that, but that’s definitely what it was. Sweaty, muddy rugby boys. I was really thrown by how familiar the smell was, and how instantly the memories of standing on a freezing cold pitch in Durham in November, and running up the stairs to the secondary school changing rooms in winter, came flooding into my mind.

I’ve been thinking about it all evening since. Olfactory memory (smell memory. Yes, I definitely googled it because I thought it would be a schmancier title for this post) is astonishingly powerful. Have you ever been somewhere completely new, and yet smelt something familiar and spent ages trying to work out where you remember it from? Ever walked past a place, or a person, and been hit by a scent that brings back memories so powerful they floor you? It’s weird, in a way, because I don’t think we ever really pay attention to smells, subtle ones that surround us without our notice, but they lodge themselves so firmly in our brains that the slightest whiff of that same smell ten, twenty years down the line transports you straight back to being eight years old and running down a hotel corridor in Alsace.

There are certain smells which will always be comforting to me. My Nana has smelled the same to me every day of my life, as has her house. Houses have really disctinctive scents, although you don’t always notice them. When we  moved house, the only time I’ve ever done so (excluding student housing at uni which doesn’t really count), I initially had trouble accepting the new house because it didn’t smell the same. If I were ever to go back to our old house, I expect I’d have the same problem. It’ll smell like someone else’s life now. I rescued an old shirt of my Grandad’s a few years ago that he was trying to throw away. It’s far too big on me and is probably my favourite item of clothing. I wear it like a protection blanket on days when I feel low, and it perks me up. It still has the faintest traces of my Grandad’s smell on it, although I’ve worn and washed it so often now that it’s mostly gone, which is a little upsetting to me. I might give it back to my Grandad for a week so I can get the smell back, because it’s such a comfort.

It’s a shame, almost, that you can’t capture a smell in the same way you can a photograph or piece of film. It would be great if you could play a video clip and be able to smell everything as well as see it. Although maybe then we really wouldn’t ever have to leave our own living rooms, which would be a travesty!

Until next time, K




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