RHYS BOWEN: Yesterday I was nostalgic about village festivals and today that nostalgia continues. I don't know, maybe it's advancing age but thinking back to the past seems to happen more often these days.
I was driving with the moon roof of my car open and I passed a small grassy area that had just been mowed. And suddenly I was back in my childhood. New mown grass was such a quintessential smell of summer in England. The English are obsessed with their gardens and every weekend the fathers would get out the old hand-pushed mowers and there would be that lovely smell of cut grass. Also the rhythmic sound of clackity-clack as the mowers were pushed back and forth.
My school had huge fields around it and there a tractor used to pull a giant mower so that the fields always looked pristine. In summer the smell of cut grass wafted in through open windows. Of course I should point out that it rains so much in England that the grass grows quickly!
The other smell that evokes childhood is that of a garden bonfire. In England we are allowed to burn garden waste and the smell of bonfire smoke would always be lingering. I grew up in an old house with an acre of orchard around it so there was always plenty of work to be done to prevent it from going wild. A funny story about bonfires: when we bought our first house in California the garden was horribly overgrown so we worked to clean it up and then.... we started a bonfire. And five minutes later two enormous fire trucks arrived outside the house. The firemen pointed out nicely that fires were not allowed in California but they still handed us a large fine!
It's funny how evocative smells can be. The particular smell of an old English church: damp, old books, but not unpleasant. My grandmother's house that always smelled of lemon furniture polish and cabbage and the lingering smoke of open fires. And my parents house. I can't describe the smell but I know it.
So what smells evoke childhood for you? I wonder what smells will trigger childhood memories for my children and grandchildren? I don't think my house smells of anything particular and I don't wear perfume....
But at the end of the month I'll be heading back to England and I find myself drawn to things that bring back my childhood: the thwack of ball against bat at a cricket match. The sight of children digging sandcastles on a beach. The cry of seagulls as the fishermen bring in their catch. And of course I head for my favorite childhood food items: bangers and mash, fish and chips, Cornish pasties, cream teas, and Cornish clotted cream ice cream--all horribly calorie laden, I'm afraid. But oh so worth those calories. Besides, English houses are so bloody cold (especially the big and drafty manor house where we'll be staying) that one burns off the calories. At least, this is what I'm telling myself.