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Friday, October 29, 2010

Smells I Miss

In Queensland we called these school ports (from portmanteau).
They were made from thick tough rigid cardboard and although they had a sort of "skin" on the outside to resist water, they were raw and exposed on the inside which meant smells were readily absorbed.
They always smelt of bananas, that was a given living in QLD, but the best smell for me was the smell of pencils, as pungent as fresh mown grass.
It smelt like I kept an inch of pencil shavings in there. Is it just me or have pencils lost their pungency? Were they actually toxic in my day and have they been homogenised for the new generations or are they now using plantation timbers and, like most things mass produced, bland?

Oil of Ulan (Olay in other countries) is not a particularly preferred smell but it does conjure childhood memories for me. Mostly it brings to mind grandmothers. I remember when I was little, hefting that cool heavy glass bottle in my hand. You had to be careful not to drop it when you were very small because heavy glass bottles get slippery when handling moisturisers. The texture like cool water on the skin, the smell unique, exotic but not simpering like I remember the Avon ones. It was so cosmetic but not chemical. It also reminds me of arched eyebrows like Sophia Loren's.

I miss the smell of real paper money. I understand the reasons for the conversion to the polymer (thingy-whatever) equivalent, but I really feel sorry for the younger generations that they never got to really experience money. Now days they barely even carry it. Nearly every transaction is done with a card.
Is that where we went wrong with societies so overburdened with debt? Did we get far too removed from our currency?
Once upon a time proper money was put into little buff envelopes and distributed on pay day. A set amount that had to last. It had to be budgeted.
It left a lingering gorgeous smell even after it was gone. I remember inhaling the scent like I do a fine red wine now. I wish I had kept a wad of it just to smell occasionally. The couple of notes that I have "for the children" aren't quite the same effect, their smell now a bit dulled and distant.
So it begs the question, what was the alluring smell of money? Certainly it was ink and paper, but was it also the intricate melding of thousands of hands?
It is argued that currency is one of the trademarks of civilisation. Our currency is very quickly turning into an intangible source. What will future historians make of a civilisation that abandoned it's currency. It's interesting to note that back in the day a lot of Sci-Fi drama used the term "credits" instead of "dollars" and how true that is coming to pass. It's not hard to imagine that one day we will have a global currency of "credits"....but I digress.
One can bring to mind favourite smells but as I grow older there are a lot of smells I miss, the ordinary everyday smells I took for granted and will never smell again....unless I come across an old kindy port in someones "attic" as I am convinced you can never get the banana smell out of them.
What are your smells you miss?


  1. I miss the smell of my first truck. It was a 1954 Jeep Willy's pickpup, and it smelled like freedom and self-reliance. It's the only vehicle I ever drive in my dreams.
    I saw another old Willy's once, and being in another city where nobody knew me, I thrust all temerity aside and asked the owner if I could just please smell his truck. He smiled, let me, and I managed to not completely start bawling at the first whiff.
    He said he remembered the smell of his first truck, too...and luckily didn't think I was too much of a fool!

  2. such a wonderful wonderful post Tanya and YES I remember the smell of money and it was such a great smell, and the port I love it, my hubbie grew up in QLD and he calls them ports, we moved here from Melb when I was in grade 2 and I had my school port with me it was white with red corners my sister had a brown one. I collect them now and have quite a few big and small. Your question about my linens...I buy them to repurpose and have only done it with a few as I loathe to cut them but then when I do it feels great to have given them new life!

  3. Mum, please do not worry that we don't know the smell of money...don't you know the smell and feel of a fresh $5 or $10 note, still a kind of warm from sitting in the ATM?

  4. Wow how well you have summed up the smells of my childhood.

    I had a back pack like the ports you describe. My grandmother had the Oil of Ulan. I also miss paper money.

    Some other old school memories. The almondy smell of Perkins paste and the ick factor when someone ate it. My mother would not let us have that stuff. We had glass bottles of Clag. If it was dropped shards of glass and glue went everywhere. Work place health and safety rules weren't considered then. We had Craypas for art. What a horrible smell and a messy product. Funny how mt school memories are of the crafty side of things.

    I don't remember the smell but I do remember being fascinated when mum used "blue" when she hand washed the whites. There have been times when I have been grateful that I know how to hand wash but what a chore.

    BTW I am not yet 50 but feel ancient now.

  5. Way to go Kat....always funny.
    Good one Suze, I had forgotten about Perkins Paste. Clag was a lot better for glueing than Perkins Paste don't you think. Craypas smelt so plaastic too didn't they?

  6. WOW. What a trip down memory lane. I have my grandfather's brown case... almost exactly like yours. It sits next to my dresser in my bedroom. I adore the case so much ... which is hard for my son to understand as it does look old and beaten now.
    My mother and grandmother used Oil of Ulan ... and I did too for some time there. It took me a while to notice that they'd changed the name. It used to smell so good. I think I can still just remember it, if I close my eyes and breathe in real deep thinking of Nan.
    ... and yes paper money. My bff in primary school and I used to sit in her built in cupboard and sniff money. That was our idea of an exciting afternoon playing... ???

    Thanks so much for this fantastic post. What fun to remember all those wonderful things.


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