Can you smell London?
I don’t know since when I’ve been growing the urge to keep a diary of smells of everywhere I’ve been to in a secret corner of my mind.
Right now, I can recall the smell of uncountable sunny noons when I skipped my napping time just to hang out with my friends under the sun or to watch our pet-fish fighting (yeah, I love that!); or I can recall the smell of numerous of times when my friend and I kept walking in the dirty water when our neighbor was flooded by a shower in summer or I even can remember vividly the smell of my cousin sister’s pancake in kindergarten when she gave it to me because she hated it and I loved it…
I still believe that somehow, we can remember things not just by looking at it, but by recalling their smells along the way. That is what I’ve been doing when I go travel from countries to countries, from lands to lands. I have not been to many places in my life, but if someone asked me about one place that I’ve been to once or twice, I could probably describe to him or her what I smelled there.
So, how does London smell like?
It is the smell of damp dirt after a long shower in the morning. It is not the smell of dry road after being splashed with water like the streets in Singapore, but the smell of fustiness, the kind of smell that you get when you try to cool down the hot ground but you don’t have enough water to soak it. Then the water would evaporate and give you this moist yet interesting smell.
It is the smell of many kinds of flower bushes on my way to university when I am letting myself drift away with the music from my iPod, then suddenly interrupted by some unidentified sweet smell from somewhere. It makes me stop the music, sniffing around, trying to fight the wind to navigate where the smell comes from amongst many kinds of flowers. Then it turns out to be the milky white blooming flowers which look like grapefruit flowers but bigger and smell lighter than those citrus family ones.
It is the inviting smell of a small dark lane near Thames river where I can get a hint of newly baked bread while walking by, but not even one bakery is nowhere to be found. It took me quite some time just to try to figure out where that smell came from, but eventually I had to give up just because it was no longer just a hint of baked flour but all of the sudden, the lane was drowned in that warm, buttery air.
It is the damp, sweaty smell of the tubes.
It is the light muddy smell of the Thames river.
It is the dry grassy smell in St.James Park.
Or it can be many other smells that my nose can detect when I let my six senses lead the way…
It is hard to describe all those smells and the feeling that I’ve got in words, but I believe, one day when I come back home, I would definitely be able to remember all these times just by imagining the smell that I could get when I am living here.