About this Blog

Four Wise Monkeys is designed to unite my desire to develop as a writer with my urge to blog. It is based around the proverbial Three Wise Monkeys, with the focus being on the human senses rather than moral principles. Each post will relate to a sense represented by a monkey: "See no evil, Hear no evil, Taste no evil, Smell no evil." My hope is that blogging in this way will encourage me to think of blogging as a kind of writing exercise rather than something to distract me from my writing.

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Four Wise Monkeys pebbles by Aimee Daniells.

Entries in Smell No Evil (34)

Tuesday
Oct282014

Christmas Baking Day

It’s become a tradition of mine to make a Christmas pudding and a Christmas cake during October half term. It means I can justify a day in the kitchen – my favourite kind of day – while feeling like I’m investing in the future.

I love the smell of Christmas whispering its way into my consciousness. The Christmas baking day marks the start of the countdown to my favourite time of year: to the comfort; to the ritual; to the festivity. Smells of ginger, fruit and brandy mingle with spices and sugar as the pudding steams and the cake bakes, lacing the air with warmth and anticipation. Most of my favourite smells are kitchen-related, and half of those can be found in the Christmas baking day: the smell of a cake in the oven; warm spices; dried fruit soaking in alcohol; fresh ginger; citrus zest; softened butter; thick treacle… all these combine to give a fragrance so rich and deep that I want to curl up in it. Christmas, for me, represents a unique alchemy of memory and future, and the smells of the Christmas baking day take me simultaneously back to childhood and forward to holidays, to a period of rest and indulgence with family and friends. There are few smells so inviting.

Monkey by Kieran Hazell (www.ownbeat.co.uk)

Sunday
Oct122014

Fish Fingers

You’ll have noticed, perhaps, the lack of monkeys round here lately. Mostly, that’s down to moving house and getting out of my routine, but I’m planning to get back on track now. Starting with fish fingers.

I came home for lunch the other day to a smell of comfort and familiarity that I couldn’t put my finger on. Warm and mouth-watering, it was the kind of smell that made me want to take my shoes off and not leave the house for the rest of the day. I went through all the things that Dave normally eats, but nothing seemed to tick the right box. It took looking under the grill to figure out that he was cooking fish fingers.

I quite like them now, but as a child, I wasn’t a huge fan. Yet those feelings of comfort I got from opening the door to the smell of them stem from childhood. The warming smell of fish and breadcrumbs takes me back to going round for tea at someone else’s house, when crispy things served with baked beans were a child’s idea of heaven. I wasn’t that child actually; I much preferred a good lasagne or a home-cooked roast dinner, but I aspired to be like other children, and I could get into chicken nuggets and fish fingers when it was required. The smell of bread crumbs and spaghetti hoops was synonymous with playing with other people’s toys and exploring unfamiliar homes. It signified a treat. And that’s where I go now in my head when I smell fish fingers cooking: back to early winter’s evenings, lights on and curtains drawn, the smell of someone else’s parents preparing dinner while I played with toys I wished I had and friends I was pleased liked me.

I wonder if that’s why I warmed to fish fingers as an adult, or if it was a genuine shift in taste. Taste is never straightforward: it is bound up, always, with smell, memory, and association. And that’s why fish fingers are a monkey.

Monkey by Kieran Hazell (www.ownbeat.co.uk)

Saturday
Jun212014

Wood

I can’t think of a type of wood that I don’t enjoy the smell of, but in this case, I’m thinking specifically of oak. I was in the houses of parliament with a group of children the other day, surrounded by dark oak panelling as we listened to our tour-guide. I haven’t the faintest idea what he was saying at that moment; I was too caught up with breathing in the deep, rich smells of wood and polish. The smell of oak is dense and solid, a grounding scent that reaches through you, almost oppressive in its power.

Oak panelling – and specifically its smell – reminds me very much of the kind of pub my granddad used to favour: cosy places full of oak, with open fires and real ales. When I was little, we’d go for a lot of pub meals: ploughman’s lunches or giant Yorkshire puddings filled with roast beef. Somehow, the smell of roast beef has woven its way into the smell of varnished oak in my mind, and smelling the latter evokes a strong memory of the former. I may be standing in the House of Lords, but really I’m far away, tucked around an oak table in a country pub in some distant corner of my memory. 

Monkey by Kieran Hazell (www.ownbeat.co.uk)

Sunday
May182014

Roses

Turkish delight; the summer school-walks of my childhood; gardens bathed in sunlight; fancy desserts; perfume… the smell of roses delivers a tumble of memory, none of it linear, none of it complete; all of it delicious. This morning I ate the most beautiful porridge my favourite breakfast bowl has ever seen, topped with pistachios and dried rose petals; the smell of roses drenched me in memory, and for a moment I was lost to the present. Such is the gift the smell of roses delivers.

Monkey by Kieran Hazell (www.ownbeat.co.uk)

Saturday
May102014

New Puppy

When I was about 12 years old, my family adopted a puppy. He was tiny and black and possibly the most excitable animal the world has ever seen. The other day, I met a puppy a lot like him. A different breed of dog, but also jet black with sleek, soft fur and a tail that seemed to have a mind of its own, and I was taken back to the day we took Shadow home, and to a weirdly specific memory that I’d forgotten.

He was eight weeks old, I think, when he came to live with us, and I remember sitting on the back seat of the car with him, trying to stop him squirming or leaping over the front seat to my mum, who was driving. What I remember the most is his smell: almost not animal, clean and new, more like a soft toy or a piece of carpet than a dog. It’s hard to describe it now; I actually wonder if I imagined it, it makes so little sense. I remember it very clearly though, and meeting the puppy the other day brought the smell straight back to me, along with a 12-year-old’s excitement about bringing home a puppy.

Memory is a strange place.

Monkey by Clive Wesley Dennis