OK, I admit it, I am old enough (just!) to remember steam trains. I am also now of an age to get nostalgic about pretty much anything from my childhood.
We are lucky to have a couple of steam railways near us down here in Devon. One skirts the coast and goes from Paignton to Kingswear – just across the water from the lovely harbour town of Dartmouth. The other, the South Devon Railway, runs beside the river Dart between Ashburton and the town of Totnes. When the river is high, roaring over rocks and surging under bridges it is quite an exciting ride!
When I went on it recently, the smell of the steam engine and the leather of the upholstery transported me instantly back to my childhood in Buckinghamshire and the steam trains that puffed back and forth along the Thames Valley. Steam trains also make those wonderful rhythmical sounds, clanks and bangs and little snorts that all add up to make them seem friendly, almost human, with characters of their own, something the poor old diesel trains never had a hope of achieving.
But thinking about the lovely smell of the steam (I suppose it’s the soot really!), it set me thinking about how evocative smells can be. A particular scent can instantly recall long-forgotten memories as if it were only yesterday. Mostly, the memories are happy but some, often floral, remind me of someone I’ve lost and while it is sad, it’s also good to pause every now and then in our hectic lives, and remember them, and smile.
And so, here are some of the other smells that ‘set me off’:
- Freshly mown grass – school sports days, ugh!
- Two-stroke petrol engines – an early boyfriend!
- Geranium leaves – fresh, earthiness in a damp garden.
- Gunpowder – Guy Fawkes night and the joy of childhood…
What about you? What smells bring memories surging back? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Meanwhile… happy Easter and don’t eat too many eggs!