Who Needs a Sense of Smell?

Updated: Jan 28

I do not have a sense of smell. Most of the time I can’t smell anything. Even very strong scents such as petrol and toothpaste leave only vague impressions on my olfactory glands. Every so often, I pick up phantom smells, By which I mean I can smell something that nobody else can. Not being able to smell anything has never particularly bothered me (after all, it's not like when you can't see anything!) I never felt I was really missing out because most smells seem to be ones that upset people – milk that has gone off, bad B. O., wet dog, tobacco smoke to name but a few.

When the occasion calls for it I do wear perfume but I have to rely on others to tell me if it smells good, If others bothered to shower and deodorise it really doesn’t matter because I can’t smell them. I have often thought I would make an excellent partner to a fisherman just for this reason!

So what does this have to do with Learning to Garden? Well, as you may imagine, lacking a sense of smell means I am deprived of many of the best experiences one can have amongst the fragrant herbs and flowers, freshly cut grass and earthiness of the soil.

I am not letting that stop me!

For Pete’s sake, being unable to walk, or use my hands, rules out most tactile experiences. Unless I’m wearing my contact lenses, I am as myopic as a mole and having no sense of smell means my taste buds lack a certain level of delicacy. It's almost like living in a cotton-wool cocoon.

I always wondered what people saw in Alternative Medicine. In my very limited experience, I found it made no impact whatsoever. Drinking chamomile tea before bed did not help me sleep better. Taking fish oil supplements did not make me any smarter. Putting lavender drops in my bathtub didn't really help me relax.

I have, therefore, a rather cynical view of “herbal remedies”. For thousands of years humans have used these to make themselves better but it wasn’t until 20th century medicine that we really started to make an impact in curing sickness. If I was offered willow bark or an aspirin for a headache Hands Down I would be taking the tablet.

Years ago, a friend of mine drank a particularly nasty herbal tea for weeks to cure a bout of thrush. I pointed out to her that she has a one-stop tablet and pessary available that can do the job practically overnight. Surely it’s a no-brainer? She drank the tea anyway.

So what has changed? I know with my somewhat dulled senses, I am missing out more than I realised. In fact the answer is actually quite far-ranging and therefore mostly uninteresting except for having to admit to the following things:

1. I am now middle-aged. I have said the sentence. I have owned my truth. With middle-age comes middle-aged hobbies and interests… Plus I have nothing else, a.k.a. children, to distract me or am in need of an excuse to escape.

2. I was absurdly proud of myself for growing tomatoes last year. So naturally I now want to grow Everything… If I was a bloke I would be telling you to call me Alan Titchmarsh. No, I don’t care to consider his decades of experience compared to my single-season…

3. YouTube has conned me into believing that if I want to, I can do anything and still make money from it. No, I do not care to comment on how much I have already spent…

4. And lastly, which perhaps should have been put first, I genuinely love watching things grow. I can’t necessarily get into my garden every day and sometimes whole weeks or even months will go by before I can get out there. Seeing the changes and how much things have grown because of the nutrients I gave them is genuinely pleasure.

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