WordPress is running one of its weekly Writing Challenges at the moment. This one is on sound. Sound in your writing. Now this is very interesting and I’ve been giving it some thought with a view to responding, but today I met something else you might like to consider. How about smell?
Do you use smells in your writing?
A trip outside around here can certainly sometimes be smelly and I don’t just mean him on the right. At various times of year, we’re affected by what the farmers are up to. Muck spreading, for instance. Some is all right, some is vile and some of the stuff they put on our fields can make your throat close up. I have trouble with oil-seed rape too, which smells like bad margarine. Not all of the smells are bad. Consider driving through fields of fresh-cut grass with the windows down. I don’t have a problem inhaling that.
And how about people? Yes, people quite often smell, not just large brown cows, people too can sometimes have an odour about them which is not altogether pleasant. Anyone can get a bit niffy from time to time. Hot day, long working hours, having to wear a suit and be smart when really we’d prefer to be slumming about in shorts and a T – but most of us wash, use deodorants (and some of those are pretty noxious too!) and most of us don’t smell much at all and if we do, it isn’t for long. B.O. though – that’s not pleasant. I remember working in London when end-of-day trips on underground trains were a nightmare. I’m quite short. Strap hanging in a crowded train often brought me into rather closer proximity with a smelly armpit than I would have liked.
And B.O. is not the worst thing. I don’t like it when people smell like old biscuits. Yes, they can smell like biscuits and it is not pleasant. That biscuit aroma is of unwashed clothes as well as unwashed body. Not a cookie you would care to eat. I used to know a lovely old man, who was one bail short of the cricket stumps, who smelled so strongly of biscuits, it was difficult to breathe. (No, not Robert – my post https://patwoodblogging.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/a-character/ will tell you about him if you’re interested). Yes, he was a lovely man, in spite of the stench, and fascinating to talk to, if you could manage to stand there long enough without breathing.
But he was easier than a couple of women I know who stink like old ash trays. Yes, they smoke, but I know a few people who do that and don’t smell as though they’ve been kippered. Actually, I think I prefer the biscuit pong.
There are nice smells of course. Handkerchiefs scented with lavender. The fragrance of roses, fancy modern perfumes in their fancy modern bottles, freshly bathed babies and so on, but are they as evocative as a shoe redolent of cow dung or a malodorous body next to you on the bus? And the smells of everyday objects like vegetables: onions, obviously, rotten cabbage, cooking cauliflower, ripe pineapple.
There are some gorgeous descriptive words that go with smells, especially horrible ones. Reeking, putrid, humming, buzzing, rank. Aren’t they just, well, delicious?
And what was the foetid offering I had to endure this morning that inspired this post? Biscuits. Definitely biscuits.