Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The scent of the 80s

If you were at school at a certain time during the late 80s/early 90s there are two smells that will transport you instantly back to the days when you had to wear uniform and your hair was crisp with hairspray.

There are quite a few that may well do so also - cheap food cooking will remind you of lunch, Lynx body spray will remind you of every boy ever and patchouli will remind you of those that broke out into the alternative circle first - but of all the smells that sum up that era, Dewberry and White Musk rule.

For some ungodly reason, everyone went around drenched in Dewberry and White Musk. The Body Shop was extremely popular. I should think that's mostly because it was cheap, now I look back. We could all afford the gift sets at Christmas and the little bottles of perfumey scent stuff.

I washed my hair yesterday with a blueberry scented shampoo. Big mistake. My gag reflex kicked in and ever since then it's like the ghost of Dewberry has come to visit. If you haven't had the pleasure - and that would mean you're under around 33 years of age - it's a sickly, sweet cloying smell that may have some passing acquaintance with fruit. It's thick and makes your nose twitch and long for fresh air. It is, in short, fucking disgusting.

Our teachers must have spent their time gagging for some breathable air what with all the Impulse, Body Shop and Lynx going on in their classrooms. Poor bastards.

But it did make me think of the power of smell. There is nothing more evocative than smells. Nothing that takes you back to a specific moment with such clarity.

For me, Lypsyl still makes me feel like I'm six years old, buttoned up in my duffel coat and ready to walk to school in thick frost and cold, cold air, willing the time on until Christmas. The dust on Christmas lights when they're first turned on makes me ten years old again, with the stomach lurching excitement of Christmas to look forward to. The smell of my new dog's head makes me feel 15 and being comforted by the late, great Poppy Henderson while sobbing about some pointless, meaningless teenage tragedy.

Walking past bars in the early hours wafts stale beer in my face and takes me back to every busy shift I ever worked in a pub. The smell of Bacardi makes me immediately 17 and very regretfully sick. Millions of smells can stop you in your tracks, no matter what you're doing at the time.

It's a strange and beautiful phenomenon, perhaps one of the best ways to really properly remember a moment in time. Far better than a photograph or a conversation. It brings with it the feeling of the moment right back there. So, 32 years later I can remember exactly how excited and happy crisp winter days made me feel. And Dewberry brings back the stench of confused adolescence right up in my face. Could do without that one actually.

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