How evocative are scents, whether they eminate from our favourite restaurant or the woods in which we love to while away the hours in the company of nature.
Whenever I walk past a branch of the UK-based chain, W H Smiths, the smell of books, newspapers and magazines tantalises my senses and thoughts of my late grandfather pop into my head. Every Saturday we would visit Smiths and my grandfather would purchase one or more children’s books. Being blind and unable to read print, it was a wonderful feeling to sit on my grandfather’s knee as he regailed me with the adventures of Enid Blyton’s Famous 5 or The Secret Seven. It was only many years later that I came to the realisation that he also made up tales with which to entertain me. One story I especially remember concerned a group of naughty gnomes who put glue on toadstools, causing the Fairy Queen and her companions to become stuck fast! After freeing herself and her companions, the Queen pardoned the gnome’s misdemeanour. However as a penance for their bad behaviour they have, ever since had to paint the buds in springtime, which explains why the buds are sticky in the spring.
I have searched high and low for a record of the above tale. However, being unable to find one I can only conclude that it was my grandfather who made it up, perhaps drawing on stories told to him as a small boy. There is no doubt in my mind that my love of literature and perhaps my writing of poetry flows, in large part from the influence exerted by my grandfather.
Having visited Smiths, we would move on to British Home Stores or BHS, where I would enjoy a roast dinner while my grandfather would eat fish and chips. Sadly, after 88 years in business BHS folded in 2016, although it continues to maintain an online presence. All good things, as is often said must come to an end.
I spent many happy hours with my grandfather visiting the historic Speke Hall house, it’s grounds and the surrounding woodland. Woolton Woods and Calderstone’s park (all of which are in Liverpool) where also favourite haunts. I remember collecting acorns which had fallen on the pavement side of the wall which separated the street from the woodland. My remembrance led to the composition of “The Wall”, which is dedicated to my grandfather:
“The Wall seemed so high.
Acorns fell as from the sky.
There they would lie
To be collected by you and I.
The acorn’s hard shell.
I remember it well.
The smell of the wood
Natural and good.
Now the wall is too high
And on the other side you Lie”.
My primary recollections of my grandfather revolve around him reading to me, our walks together in the great outdoors and me helping (or hindering) him in his garden where both flowers and vegetables grew. I know that he worked for the chemical company, Dista Products (which is now part of Eli Lilly), but have little idea as to what his work for them entailed.
I think of my grandfather often and still miss him, even at the age of 48.
(My latest collection of poetry, “My Old Clock I Wind and Other Poems”, is available in paperback and ebook formats from Moyhill Publishing.