The smell of cooking garlic floats in through the open window from a neighbour's kitchen. For an instant I'm back in the 1980s in Paris outside a restaurant on a humid summer's evening. Never mind the madeleines, it's smell not taste that does it for me.
I read once that smell is the most evocative of the senses, that it accesses the greatest amount of memory stored in the computer that is the brain. I believe it. Woodsmoke, oh yes especially woodsmoke. An earlier French memory from my au pair days in 1968 of the host family's chateau (they had aristocratic forebears). Situated near Troyes, seventeenth century or earlier, there were a multitude of beautiful but shabby and dilapidated high-ceilinged rooms and, above all, massive fireplaces where logs from the estate had burned for several centuries. The smell of woodsmoke had over time permeated the walls and it hung in the air, even in high summer. I can't describe the intensity of that smell, not that it was unpleasant, rather it was subtly sensual and thus almost frightening to my awkward and dislocated eighteen-year old self.
And also: Roasting coffee beans. Lilac. Horses. Autumn mornings. New books. Creosote. Brief but oh-so-detailed scenes from the past - places, seasons,
houses, people - attach
themselves to each one.
Hoping for more. Counting on more. Smells and memories.