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Sunday, 29 April 2012


Ever since I was a wee baby, I've had a sensitive nose.

No, it's not been covered with plukes or spots, it's just been very sensitive to smells.

The Olfactory nerve plugs into the Central Nervous System in unusual ways, as it does not pass through the brainstem but directly into the CNS via the olfactory tract.  This means that smell can cause the strangest reactions.

In his famous novel, all 7 books of it, (famous, but not well read) Proust talks about how the taste of a Madeline causes an involuntary memory to surface, but smell is even more powerful.

I cam across one of my late Mum's handkerchiefs in a box in my wardrobe, and just smelling her old perfume (Tweed), took me back over 55 years, to the two of us standing at a bus-stop in Glasgow, as she used the handkerchief to clean chocolate off of my cheek.

My favourite position to read in when I was younger was to cuddle up in a chair with a book, and had my free arm wrapped around my face, so the inside of the elbow was over my nose.  I breathed in and out through my woollen jumper wrapped arm, delightfully inhaling the aromas of slightly damp wool.  For some strange reason, I found it completely engrossing, and my family joked that young TSB had gone off into his wool coma again.  I didn't care.  The book was good and the smell was comforting.
This position also blocked out my Dad's cigarette smoke and my brother's farts, so it had extra benefits.

As an adult, my sense of smell was useful.  On a night patrol exercise, I could pick up tobacco smells of the enemy further away than anyone else.  I could also pick up the after shave and cologne smells if one of the Cavalry or Guard regiments was in the field.

Oh Yeah, Very Butch.

My sense of smell also saved my life, at least once.

When I was working in a laboratory, someone mixed the wrong chemicals together and produced Hydrogen Cyanide gas, which is very quickly lethal. It's the gas they use in the capital punishment execution chambers in the USA.  If you don't have the necessary gene, you will never smell it, and even if you do possess the gene there's no guarantee that you'll detect it before it reaches the lethal levels.
Ringo's next home (If there's any justice)

I did smell it, shouted a warning and the lab was evacuated.

I wasn't the hero.

I was the bloody idiot who had added 200g of KCN instead of 200mg of KCN to a mildly acid solution and who released the gas.

I will quickly pass over the many repugnant smells I have encountered in my life, but they include babies' nappies, dead rats in a blocked drain pipe, dead sheep in a swamp and a sheep hut in Wales when used by about 200 soldiers as an emergency crap-house after a 7 day exercise on concentrated rations.

I will note that the worst I ever scented was when a bottle of Butyl Mercaptan was dropped in the lab.  Think decomposing goat mixed with frightened skunk.  It's close.


But the weirdest use of my scent of smell was all to do with SEX.

I discovered when I was quite a young man that even though I wasn't particularly handsome, or rich, and suffered from terrible facial inflammation and an even more terrible choice in clothes, I could score.

Not often and not regularly, but I had a secret weapon.  My nose.

My Hero

Not my nose as per Cyrano, but the secret weapon embedded in the olfactory tract.  I had some rather unusual smell receptors. 

I could detect when a woman was getting excited.

The smell is there

I still don't know, even after all these years, whether the effect was due to some stage in the monthly cycle, or to some other stimuli, but all I know is that when I detected the slightly sweet, slightly aromatic cent on a woman's breath, then I was 90% sure of ending up the evening in a most highly satisfactory way.  And even better, not alone.

I never used these given powers in an evil way, and only "tried it on" with women I really thought "fancied" me.

In my 35 years of married life, I have never once been unfaithful to my Beloved, but every time I pick up the scent again, I sometimes wonder, "What if?..."

I would also like to add that I know of at least one bloke who had a similar ability. Ross S....... who used to work in NLHS could also pick up the scent, and we did compare notes, but not experiences.

Never say a word

A gentleman never really "Kisses and Tells"

Sniff well.

He could do it as well.


  1. I remember sitting talking about childhood football games at the end of the day sat with my knees pulled up against my chest and smelling the grass and mud stains on them.

    I loved the smell of my knees {odd I know} and would lick them to release and heighten the smells.

    Never had the adult version though. Probably just as well. The temptation might have been too much!

    Cheers you.

  2. Alistair: I can also remember the smell of the mud after rugby, rubbed into hair and nose...always just a hint of shit and blood.

    Never licked them though.

    Ah well, to each his own.

  3. I remember once at Uni (the first time, 20+ years ago) and being in the Chaplaincy Centre with fellow undergrad Susie Pegram, who was happily boyfriended but who I fancied like fuck. I was sitting next to her, there was no-one else in the hall, and I became aware of this rather strong sex scent I was giving off. I was a little bit embarrassed.

    Never realised the bit about the olfactory system bypassing the brain stem - thanks.

  4. Now and then a smell comes to the nose and immediately brings back a long forgotten memory of some little thing. The nose is indeed connected straight to the brain and quickly triggers the memory.
    This is a very interesting post

  5. So are we talking Pheromones here TSB? Or ESP (Extra Sexual Perception)???

    Good old Ross eh. That would not surprise me. He had a very strong aura that man. How ishe getting on in the Emirates anyway?

    Well you will never guess which recently former NLHS ite resurfaced today at my school?
    None other that PW as a new reliever (but well known to many as he used to work at our school).
    Another member for the NLHS survivors club. That makes 4 now including me, Tara and Stu.

  6. There's a fantastic sequence in the animated film Ratatouille whereby a whiff of dinner takes a crabby food critic back to his happy childhood.

    Come to New York in August. You won't be so happy to have a finely honed sense of smell. Believe it.

    When I was single, I found that being able to identify a woman's brand of perfume was a good foot in the door.

  7. looby: Strange, I've never noticed myself emitting a sex smell. I'll try it the next time I'm feeling horny...which on current projections should be around 2015, and I'm not talking Military time either.

    The bit about the nerves is interesting. There is supposedly a so-called neutral odour which does not cause an actual recognisable smell, but triggers other areas of the brain. The US is supposed to use it in various clandestine techniques.

    1. Patrick Suskind wrote about that in his novel Perfume.

    2. At first I though you meant that Süskind wrote about mind control through neutral odours, than a quick Google (bless you St. Google) indicated you were refering to a lack of personal odour. I definitely smell.

  8. Tempo: And it's strange how memory works at all. Think about the billions upon billions of memories we have and we create as we move through our daily lives. Every second, extra data is stored, all cross-linked to smells, tastes, other memories. It's frightening in its complexity.

    BUT, WTF can't I remember what I'm supposed to be doing when I'm standing at the fridge, gazing soulfully into its depths?

  9. VG: Yes, we use your place as a semi-retirement home.

    The ESP is probably pheromone related, but I've never run a real experiment, so it's just conjecture.

  10. The Unbearable Banishment: I remember that section of the film as well, it was quite striking.

    Why does NY stink in the summer? It's a civilised city n'est ce pas?
    I've been in Singapore and even Bangkok at 38ºC and they didn't smell.

    When I was young and single I was a perfume novice. I could recognise if someone smelled and that was about it.

  11. We are all slaves to chemistry.

  12. A good friend of mine shares your, er, ability.

  13. Yes - probably not explained very well. I like the smell of wet grassy or muddy knees and also the smell of licked clean ones.....

    or I did when I was a kid. It's been a few years since I tried it.

  14. Right. Look out. TSB posts warnings in his posts like this:


    I agree with a lot of what is in the post and what was said in the comments.
    I have been aware of this for quite some time. I am aware of the smell of women during different times of their menstrual cycles. I also believe that all men with the ability to smell should be able to do so. Women's arousal is, at least the physiological aspects, associated with vaginal wetness and a degree of tumescence. A crude New Zealand expression is 'getting a wide-on' - not an expression to be used in polite company.
    Although as a young man I too could recognise (perhaps not fully understanding) the signals I very rarely put this skill to advantage as Richard (of RBB) would attest to. I was shy, I was very picky and basically I didn't want to f**k the fat ones.

  15. Yes TSB, I'm beginning to think you are correct about the semi- retirement home concept. But it's no bloody retirement or anything like it. Another old salt turned up today - former colleague, from another college I worked at (Not NLHS). He is dong LTR for a bit with the Hard Materials classes as the teacher of that left suddenly end of last term.

    BTW my late gran informed me that as you get older your sense of smell goes. She passed last year at 94. Maybe jsut as well you can't smell much when you are that old.

  16. Well that explains a lot - I've never had a track record of any type with the opposite sex... I have virtually no sense of smell either, and my taste sensation isn't great. It has improved a little over the years since stopping drinking which I later found out will kill it totally, I have several AA friends who have absolutely no taste or smell sense at all

  17. Patience_Crabstick: Your friend, somewhat like myself, is very lucky. I like to think of it as a gift. Could i ask, is your friend male or female?

    I've never really heard that males give off a scent as they go into "heat"

    Perhaps, as my Beloved once commented, because blokes are constantly in "heat".

  18. Alistair: I'm beginning to worry about you. One of life's horrible smells, is I think, dried spit. Especially after being rubbed on a cheek (or in your case, possibly a knee) with a corner of a Mum's handkerchief.

    I'm glad it's been a few years since you've tried it. Just the image of you at your current age, sitting in your rugby shorts, licking your muddy knees is almost too much to bear.

  19. TC: What?
    Did I read your comment correctly.

    Forthright language?

    This is not the loveable old Curmudgeon we've all come to know and love.

    You randy old b*gger. Well done.

    I've never heard the Kiwi expression of a "wide on' before, and being quite honest, I hope to never hear of it again.

    It's a bit graphic, even for Kiwi-speak.

    Actually I shudder at the very thought.

    But, I finally agree with your last opinion. None of us wanted to f*ck the fat ones, but sometimes that was all that was left. Think how they must have felt, with only us left. Poor souls.


    That sounded rather crude.

  20. VG: It is semi-retirement. A relieving teacher has an easy life.

    No marking.
    No detentions.
    No duty.
    And, especially, no f*cking Professional Learning.

    We've got it tomorrow. I think it's coming from a traditional Maori practice.

    How to properly cook a Pakeha.

    I'm not looking to losing all my senses as I get older, but maybe it's some sort of defensive mechanism.

    So you can't smell the stench of your own decomposing flesh.

  21. Furtheron: That could explain some of the things I've cooked up and eaten when I was pissed. Like macaroni and custard, with added Dijon mustard.
    Or toast, anchovies and peanut butter (see here

  22. How interesting, smells can instantly bring back olfactory memory. I don't have a great sense of smell, my talent lies in the taste department. I used to eat mud! My favourite was licking the potatoes before my mum peeled them. How weird am I?

  23. Yes, the sense of smell is evocative. I am always amazed at how certain old houses continue to smell the same even if they have a change of resident, complete redecoration, etc. etc. Wonder what it is .

    I think the S-E-X small is a known phenomenon although I'd have thought most people have to get up fairly close to detect it.

    The thing about smell is that we don't really have many useful or descriptive words for it. So it's hard to describe it and remember it exactly. Or it is for me.

    The most unwelcome smell at present for me is when I smell cooking in my office. It's upstairs and by the time that smell reaches me, it signifies that the stuff has burned. !

  24. YONKS: How weird are YOU?
    Just because you liked to lick the mud off potatoes?

    I would have put it on an 8 in a scale of 10, but I notice that Alistair made a similar comment in this post, so I gues it's not that uncommon. Seeing that you and Alistair both live in the UK, maybe you could meet, and exchange mud tasting experiences.

    I wonder if you both get worms?

  25. Jenny Woolf: Welcome to my wee blog, and thanks for leaving a comment.
    I know what you mean vis a vis the smell of old houses, it's almost impossible to erradicate. I suppose we're smelling the accumulated skin debris of hte previous inhabitants, slowly decomposing in every nook and cranny. Ugh.

    That's an interesting point about the lack of a descriptive vocabulary for smells. I suppose that those who work in perfumes have a specialised system, but I don't know much about that. We tend to use an metaphorical method;
    "It smells like a rose"
    "It smells like an orange"

    And then we get back to the lack of an objective comparison. Do I smell something the same as you?

    Maybe a haddock smells to me like a fried egg does to you.

    We'll probably never know.

    The pheromone smell does need a fairly close approach, but just within speaking distance, so it was fairly feasable to detect.

    Burning food is bad, burning down the kitchen and then the house is worse. Please be careful, I don't have that many readers. :=)

  26. No sorry TSB you are wrong. Casual day relief is semi-retirement. Not Longe term relieivng. That's the full monty. I'm marking and planning. I'm doing the whole hog, form classes, meetings, detentions and all. Much more tiring. There are different categories of releivers. We are not all grey haired easy riders/ babysitters.
    I miss my morning sleep ins and days off. (Sob).


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