Smells like teen spirit
What triggers memories for you? For some people it's a song or a face, but all I have to do is breathe in deeply.
I don't have a big nose, but it's certainly a sensitive one. I have got off buses before because of a slightly dodgy pong sniffable only by my own nose, can't eat anything which offends my nose and have been known to drop friends from my social circle because of their choice of cologne.
Living in London isn't great if your nose is a sensitive one, because quite frankly, the place smells. From the cesspit reek of the dustbin wagons which trawl the West End to the chemical pong of the MSG in Chinatown, there's plenty of whiffs to commit olfactory assault. Of course, not all of the smells are quite so offensive, but, on the whole, breathing in through your nose in any part of London is like playing Russian roulette with your nasal passages.
It's funny how the slightest hint of a familiar smell can whisk me back in time too. The chance sniff of someone wearing CK One (still!) sends me hurtling back through the years to my second year at university, where I bought the fragrance on its launch. When I catch a whiff of it now, I realise that it smells like cheap disinfectant, but at the time it was a must-have. Similarly, someone wearing Davidoff's putrid Cool Water can find me reminiscing of summer balls, dancing in marquees to bad acid jazz, colossal amounts of hair gel and essay deadlines long missed. Standing in the vicinity of a McDonald's and breathing in the sugary smell of toasting buns sees me 18 again and back in my burgundy striped uniform, red-faced and panting as I rush around to serve yet another miserable bastard with their Big Mac meal.
I sometimes look at photos and feel utterly disconnected from whatever's happening on them. Maybe I'm sporting a facial expression I don't recognise, wearing a shirt I don't remember owning or am standing in an unfamiliar location, but most of the time, they don't evoke memories but only make me ask questions. What was I thinking then? What did I hope for? What worried me? What did I like? A smell, however, can transform me and the years fade, the lines fall away, the dress sense and wisdom evaporate and I'm myself again, or at least whoever I was at the time.