While walking around town recently, a woman walked past me and just as she went by, a waft of perfume struck me and suddenly I was at university in a conversation class with a French teaching assistant called Nathalie who wore the same perfume by Issey Miyake. Just like that. No introduction. The last thing I was expecting as I was on my way to class and yet, the power of the scent was so strong that the connection was immediate.
Later I started to wonder what other scents/smells/aromas held an equally powerful sway over us. And then I thought about food. For example, last week I went to a restaurant for a Sunday Roast (traditional Sunday lunch in England for those who don’t know) which took me back to mum in the kitchen cooking, dad in the garage fixing things and my younger sister and I probably watching the Young Ones, TopOf The Pops or one of the Elvis films on TV. Like the perfume previously, I hadn’t thought about it in ages, but the memory was quite vivid and all because of the smell.
There is undoubtedly a lot of research to scientifically explain why our sense of smell has the power to take us back to places in our past so vividly – any scientists want to enlighten us in layman’s terms? – however not being a scientist, I like to think that the random moment when you are reminded of the past by a smell is perhaps the universe making you aware of your surroundings, both where you are now and where you once were. It’s up to you how you take that.
On the one hand, maybe you’re happy you have moved on from where you once were or on the other hand, you may even want to momentarily revisit the past, either way, the scent of nostalgia came to visit momentarily and just as quickly disappeared leaving you with some (hopefully) sweet memories to make you smile.