Of all of the senses, I firmly believe that smell is the most over-rated. Some people apparently thrive on the sniff of new mown lawns, of stupidly expensive perfumes, or the cheeky bouquet of a heavy burgundy, but not me. I think it’s down to two things – a habit for snuff that I tried to develop in my early teens, which probably destroyed most of the inside of my nose, a long time before Francis Rossi and that girl from Eastenders jumped on the bandwagon, and an acknowledgement that there are, on balance, more offensive smells in the world than pleasant ones.
If you stop to think about it, we’re bombarded with pretty unpleasant aromas a fair amount of the time, and many of them from our fellow humans. Incidentally, I understand that the average dog has nose sensors about a million times as sensitive as ours, which does rather make me wonder why they spend so much time sniffing each other’s bottoms. Personally, if I was a dog, I’d keep well out of there. I would skip about nose pointed firmly up in the air and never mind whose territory I was on. Kind of a canine Quentin Crisp, in fact. But I digress; for humans, what makes all of this all the more challenging is the taboo around the smell of each other.
And, I was reminded of this last weekend, at a splendid party held by my friends N&N, when I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for years. Immediately we started chatting on like you do in these situations, getting on like a house on fire, and after a few minutes, we were joined by his wife, who’d brought a plate of food for her husband, and soon all three of us were busily chatting away like our lives depended on it. Until I realised, to my horror, that one of them had farted. Fortunately I had an inner monologue to keep me company; the conversation went something like this:
Bloke I Hadn’t Seen For Years: “I’ve been doing a fair bit of running and cycling in the last year”
Me: “Me too, I’ve never really been sure about triathlons though”
Wife of BIHSFY: “Oh, you should – they’re great fun”
Inner Monologue: “Bloody hell, what’s that smell? Crikey, one of you has just, shall we say, dropped your guts. And there’s two of you. And you might think it was me. Which would just be unfair. And I can’t mention it because that would be just awful, and you might be the sort of couple that doesn’t believe that each other fart, and you’ll have that as your lasting memory of me…”
Me: “So…how do you find the time to train?”
BIHSFY: “Well, we’re quite lucky, really, as we live near a river and can swim for about a mile regularly”
IM “I can’t believe he’s just carrying on as normal. Blimee, so’s she. Maybe they enjoy this sort of thing. Maybe they’re just incredibly polite…”
….and so on…
I excused myself to go an do a bit of light mingling. Started talking to someone else I knew, who also had a plate of food. To my horror, I realised that they’d farted as well, the same putrid milky stench that had made me gag earlier…and that was in fact coming directly from the cheese on their plate…
Al of which made me very glad that the inner monologue had stayed, well…inner. And to all my friends, past, present and future, my apologies for ever doubting your fragrant-ness.