I’ve another hospital appointment coming up and one thing I have noticed, and that everyone seems to comment on, is the smell of hospital and how is clings to you.
It’s kind of a sour smell, Sharp. And it lingers.
Tonight I’m on call – a favour for a farmer friend who’s got a family wedding and a couple of late calves and a foal due any day. So I find myself completely sober on this Friday night in the middle of summer. I have had way more caffeine than can really be good for a person and have already exhausted my list of sober, insomniac friends and eaten all the pudding in the fridge. But to be honest, that’s the least of my problems.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been paying way more attention to the small things than I ever did before. And what have I learned?
My garden smells like lavender and tarragon and wild grass.
My favourite place on earth smells like glass polish and carpet cleaner.
My hair smells of cherries and nutmeg.
My horses smell warm and sweet and of grass and hedgerows and hilly streams.
My daughter smells like violets.
My best friend’s house smells’ like horse and sausages and potato.
My living room smells like old paper and ginger tea and cat.
My mum’s house smells like lavender soap.
My old dog smelled of wet dog – all the time!
My grandfather’s house smelled like raspberry ice-ream and Turkish delight.
My car smells like tomato soup and the inside of latex gloves.
My dad smells sweet like old tobacco and coffee.
My doctor’s room smells like bleach and lemons.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how everything, even the most minor of things, can suddenly be of a huge consequence? Would things be easier if my favourite place smelled of wet dog? Or if my doctor’s surgery smelled of roses and chocolate? Smell is a very powerful sense, one that triggers memories and feeling. Oh you might remember something, think about it, but when that certain smell comes around you aren’t merely remembering, you’re reliving. It’s like when you pass someone in the street who’s wearing the same talcum powder that your grandmother used and suddenly you are six years old again. Or that peculiar chemically smell of an ice lolly that takes you back to day trips to the beach.
The point this week is to consider the senses – those everyday smells, sights, sounds that you might not even realise until someone asks you about them. Until you no longer notice them and realise they are missing.
Those are the things that build a world for the reader – something to cling on to. A sense they can understand. Something they know in a world they don’t yet.
So, your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is to consider what you write, all that you write, and look at how you can yell us MORE without simply ‘telling’ us.
Til next week.