Following my nose

When we got into our hire car the other day I was immediately amused by the large sticker on the dashboard:


I loved the fact that, finding no official sign for ‘No Stinky Food’ they had made their own. Ingenious. Malaysian food is smelly, which is why most homes here have a dry kitchen for the preparation of  ‘nice’ food and a wet one where they do lots of frying and cooking in oil. They cook with garlic of course, and that is one of those smells that is both great and horrid at the same time.

Smells are something that I tend to notice – both bad and good.

At the market on Tuesday the flower stalls were placed unfortunately close to the meat stalls, so, instead of lilies I could only smell raw chicken! I expect the flowersellers do a poor trade there.

I detest the smell of sugar that pervades in the Suria Mall when I walk to Isetan supermarket, the post office or the cash machines, and learned long ago how to dodge the durian-products stand.

They keep our condo pretty mossie free, but the price we pay is that they fog the area with pesticide, which has an acrid, pervasive smell that sent us out of the swimming pool the other morning. It was more than our lungs could take.

Remember my Reasons to be Cheerful post, about the crime here? Well, Ian kindly bought me some pepper spray, so I could aim it in the eyes of an attacker. I put it in my bag before taking a taxi into town on Friday. But, before I did that, I thought I’d better test it.

First, I made sure I’d lined the spray hole up with the jacket. Then I pressed. It worked.

After a couple of seconds I stepped towards the place where I had sprayed and had a quick sniff.

Er, yes, it works! A weeny sniff in the region of the spray and I was coughing and spluttering, sneezing like crazy and could not see. I was also laughing my head off at my own stupidity.

I checked in the mirror before heading out to the taxi and my eyes were really red. I knew the spray worked, at least. If I’d been that badly affected, it would certainly do a blinder on my assailant!

But not all the smells are smelly, many more are sweetly scented.

As I go on my walks I notice the scent of flowers before I see them. The frangipani, the jasmine, or quisqualis. And today, on my walk with Karin in the Botanical Gardens we saw a stunning flower that looked like a japonica, on a tall, straight tree. Closer inspection told us it was a cannonball tree and that their flowers only bloom for a day. Lucky us, we saw them – and smelled them. They were potent and sweet, a heady perfume that I hope to find again.


I also love the smell of spices in open sacks, of grass after a rainstorm and many other things.

My body reflexologist, Siv Harestad, tells me that the nose represents curiosity and explains how anyone who wants to enhance their creativity should massage their nose thoroughly.

I hope that my smelling expeditions help to keep my creative flow alive.

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