Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

On the Nose

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

On the Nose

Article excerpt

It is Sunday morning and we should be on our way to Whitby for the day. Instead, we have been held up by an unpleasant odour emanating from what used to be the garage until my wife decided we were more in need of a utility room. We noticed it about a week ago and it has been getting progressively worse since. Now it stinks to high heaven and there is no way we can go anywhere until it's been dealt with.

Like a pair of sniffer dogs on a drugs bust, we carry out a detailed search of the crime scene. My wife, who has a very acute sense of smell, heads the investigation. A severe nasal infection 15 years ago left me with an olfactory system that is about as efficient as a 1975 Trabant. The fact that I'm forced to hold a handkerchief to my mouth and make gagging noises indicates just how bad the stench is.

Sometimes I miss having a keen sense of smell, especially at this time of year when an old man's thoughts turn to a day out at the coast. There is nothing quite like breathing in ozone-rich sea air perfumed with the scent of shellfish, hot dogs, waffles, candyfloss and fish and chips from the Magpie Cafe. To me, these are the smells of summer.

They should not be confused with the smells of the summer classroom, which are something entirely different. "Who do these bags of PE kit - which have been festering in the cloakroom since last September - belong to?" I sniff one and pretend to choke. "If their owners don't take them to be washed soon, the contents will climb out and go home by themselves. …

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