Saturday, 24 February 2018


Of course no one would wish to be deficient in any of the five major senses. However, if pushed to rank them in order of importance/desirability in a hypothetical scenario of having to lose one of them, I'm guessing the sense of smell would be feeling distinctly nervous.

For me, sight, sound and touch would be 'must keeps'; smell and taste (so closely linked anyway) would be locked in an unwished-for relegation battle. Let's hope it never comes to that!

We all have our favourite smells and our distinct dislikes. High on my eclectic list of likes would be tar, hyacinths, freshly baked bread, new-mown grass, roses, fudge, sandalwood and curry. It's by far a longer roll-call than my list of dislikes. This latter would be headed by microwaved popcorn (that sickly smell of hot butter), jugged hare (a nauseating gamey stink), B.O. and wet dog.

Talking of dogs, there is a very annoying TV advertisement for air-freshener showing regularly that suggests some dog-owners may be 'nose blind', that is to say, unable to detect the pall of pet pong hanging around in their houses. It's the phrase 'nose blind' that niggles (though 'nose deaf' would be as bad) - as though there isn't a perfectly good adjective to describe lack of a sense of smell, or it's too highfalutin for the common viewer.(Sniff! Sniff!) That word is anosmic, from anosmia, the equivalent of blindness (sight), deafness (sound), numbness or anesthesia (touch) and ageusia (taste). Anosmic is my word of the week.

Given the theme, today's blog strikes me as a good place to regale you with a cautionary tale from married life. It's a true story, sadly.

Zelda (name changed to disguise her true identity) decided she didn't like me using an aerosol deodorant "because the CFCs cause damage to the ozone layer". I explained I was savvy enough to be using one with a non-CFC propellant. I had tried roll-on deodorants in the past but they don't work well on hairy armpits! She then voiced a strong objection to "that smell, it chokes me". Therefore, out of consideration for her sensitive nose, I took to going out into the garden to spray my underarms every morning, closing the back door behind me - even when it was cold or raining. I kid you not.

This went on for some months until her eldest son (my stepson) came home from university for a week. He sprayed on his deodorant indoors... and I overheard Zelda saying to him one day "That smells nice Damian. What is it?" I made a mental note of the brand he used and purchased the self-same product when next I was in town.

The first time I used it in her presence, she complained loudly that I was spraying indoors again and said she couldn't stand the "horrible stink of it." When I told her it was the same one she'd told Damian she liked just the other week, the Madness Of Queen Zelda consumed her. She started ranting and screaming, abusing me and accusing me of trying to trick her. She slammed the door and stormed off having vented her anger, as was her way.

I was merely trying to find something she didn't mind the smell of, something that would mean I didn't have to go out into the garden every morning. I was tempted in the aftermath to write a How To Be A Complete Aerosol poem - but on reflection I'm pleased I didn't. I'm not sure I would have felt better for taking a cheap shot.

Of course I should have realised that her objection had nothing to do with the smell or the fact that I was using an aerosol. Reason didn't come into it. It rarely did with Zelda. It was all about control mechanisms and getting her own way... I'd never seen a grown-up throw a full-blown tantrum until Zelda hurled herself to the floor one day and beat it with her fists like a three-year old. It was upsetting to witness and it wasn't a one-off occurrence. We're not together anymore.

I don't have a poem on theme this week, but I know a man who does...

Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed
nose of mine! what will you not be smelling?
What tactless asses we are, you and I, boney nose,
always indiscriminate, always unashamed,
and now it is the souring flowers of the bedraggled
poplars: a festering pulp on the wet earth
beneath them. With what deep thirst
we quicken our desires
to that rank odour of a passing springtime!
Can you not be decent? Can you not reserve your ardours
for something less unlovely? What girl will care
for us, do you think, if we continue in these ways?
Must you taste everything? Must you know everything?
Must you have a part in everything?

                                                        William Carlos Williams

Thanks for reading. Be tolerant of each other, S ;-)


Anonymous said...

Made me laff :-D

Anonymous said...

Steve, this was hugely entertaining as always. Sorry to hear about your domestics but hope you're happier now. And I loved the poem - even though it wasn't one of your own. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

'How to be a complete aerosol'.... made me hoot. All power to your anti-perspirant, pal :-)

Anonymous said...

I have just 'come back' from some (almost) 20 years of anosmia due to a change in medication. apart from my wife becoming increasingly frustrated at my amazed reactions to things, and the often wondrous smells such as her fantastic cooking, the down side is partly due to my line of work, and partly that I now know what others have had to put up with from me over the years, something as an old shipmate on tour I'm sure you would understand Steve!
cheers, Johnny S

Matt West said...

I only met 'Queen Zelda' a few times but she struck me as 'high maintenance' so this doesn't surprise.

Anonymous said...

Great blog.

Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud at this.

BanterMan said...

Anosmia and aguesia - yeah, right. We did them in primary school (as if!!!)

Anonymous said...

Wives, eh? This was so funny.

Anonymous said...

Nose blind - made me snort (sorry). Very amusing blog, sir.

Anonymous said...

'Zelda' sounds a right case. I presume you're a happier man these days. Anyway, this was highly entertaining - and I can see why you like the William Carlos Williams poem: lots of internal assonance, which I've observed is a frequent feature of your own poems.

Anonymous said...

Another most enjoyable blog Steve. I've seen those adverts. They used to just wash over me but they will annoy the hell out of me in future.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant blog as ever, my man.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha. This made me laugh out loud. I'm sure you're well rid of the woman.