The Pattern of My Life – Scented Memories and Favourite Smells

Rupert & Paddington

My Boys – Rupert and Paddington.

Smell is the least understood of the five senses, but it is probably one of the most important. We respond to smell not only a physical level but also on an emotional one. It is an integral part of our beings and whilst it may not be as immediately vital as our sight or our hearing, it has a huge affect on how we view the world.

I believe that throughout our lives we become attached to certain smells, perhaps because they are familiar to us or because we have a strong and positive emotional reaction to them. Our brains keep these smells and their corresponding in a hidden part of our brain to only be released when we come across them in the real world. This bank of scented memories forms a massive part of who we are.

Have you ever come across a smell and been instantly taken back to a specific time, person or place? 

It always surprises me just how vivid smells are in our memory, sometimes I struggle to remember the exact details of a particular time, I can’t remember the entirety of events or the small details but I can always remember the smells. In this post I would like to share those smells that have a particular resonance with me and hold a particular sentiment within my heart.

Earl Grey TeaTea

I love Earl Grey Tea, the heady blend of black tea and bergamot is absolutely wonderful and getting home after a long day at work and having my first cup of Earl Grey is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Earl Grey smells sweet, zingy and powdery, I’ve heard people refer to it as ‘perfumey’, and I could go for that, it does smell like a perfume, perhaps one that could sit alongside the creations of Jacques Guerlain, but I am yet to find a decent Earl Grey fragrance.

It’s not specifically the brewed tea that I love the smell of, that’s all about the taste, it’s the tea bags/leaves. When I smell my jar of Earl Grey tea bags I am taken back to a trip to Devon to see my best friend whilst she was studying for her MsC. I had bought a jar of Earl Grey tea bags (pictured) and the smell was intoxicating, I couldn’t keep my nose out of the jar.

Party PoppersParty Poppers

There are few smells on Earth greater than the smell of freshly popped Party Poppers. The wonderful mix of singed cardboard, burned plastic and the slightly sulphuric gunpowder smell of the explosives is almost addictive and makes up for the mess caused by the streamers.

The smell of Party Poppers reminds me of New Years Eve with my friends, house parties, drinks and fun.

We used to all explode Party Poppers at midnight, ignoring the fact that we weren’t supposed to aim them at each other. Where’s the fun if you can’t shower your best friend with annoying multi-coloured streamers just to see them attempt to try and remove them whilst extremely inebriated?!

Mmmm Chicken...Roast Chicken

Being British means that I am partial to a good old roast dinner, and my favourite roast meat is chicken. Food smells are some of the strongest and most pleasurable, I for one definitely think with my stomach and the smell of a good dinner will get me running to the table.

The smell of a hot roast chicken with golden, crisp skin reminds me of Sundays as a child. After a long day playing with/annoying the heck out of my three siblings we would be tempted into the house by an amazing roast dinner that my mother had prepared. It reminds me of innocent times when we could play all day and most importantly, we didn’t have to do the washing up!

PetrolPetrol Pump

Now, this one definitely isn’t a healthy smell, but I defy anyone not to be moved by the smell of Petrol. I have always been drawn to the smell, even as a kid, I remember going to the petrol station with my father and watching him fill up the car, it made me long to be old enough and manly enough to do it.

I now realise that there is no chore more annoying than having to fill the car up with petrol. I still absolutely love the smell and I find myself sniffing the air like a junkie when I fill the car up, but I have to admit that at £1.32 per litre* it’s starting to become an expensive habit!

My KittiesPoppy

The smell of my cats (Rupert, Paddington and the late Poppy (pictured)) is possibly one of my absolute favourite smells. They smell warm, buttery and slightly animalic (they may be treated like princes but they are still animals). To me this smell means comfort and home, I love to snuggle up with them and give them lots of love and cuddles, whether they want them or not!

Instability-in-Stability (The Loft Project)

Last year I participated in an event discussing olfactory memory for my good friend Cara’s performance project, which is also a digital archive. If you would like to see the videos from that event then please see this post.

For more information on the Instability-in-Stability project please visit the website.

Join the Discussion!

What are your favourite smells?

Which smells do you have a strong emotional connection with, and why?

What smells do you like but know you shouldn’t?


Image 1, 2 & 6 taken by me
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* the average price of unleaded petrol in the UK as of 07 January 2012