Monday, 9 November 2015

wood smoke

Wood smoke that’s a nice smell isn’t it?

That's a nice smell isn't it?
I proffered as I approached the two old ladies
Seated close together
opposite the woodburner
behind the low table at the end of a cabin
The table where you pay for the books
I had four clutched to my breast
Taken from the giant book sale
in the potting shed across the garden path.

Where do you pay for the books?
A tall man had earlier asked me
Or at least he asked someone
as he stood there in his pastel coloured Sunday rambling attire
And I was there
In the other hut I assume
I shrugged
He followed me there
hesitating for a moment as the handle resisted my efforts.
A sharp tug and we were in.
Such an enchanting space.
A narrow wooden cabin lined with books.

Yes it is
One of the old ladies replied
A comforting sort of smell
Yes it is I said
I don’t know why?
I added exhilarated to meet someone else who found it so
That this was not necessary struck me in an instant 
And indeed wondering why the smell of wood smoke is comforting 
Is not a guaranteed source of comfort
Comforting smells are best left undecoded.

I myself associate it with my best friend’s lounge
A prosperous family who lived in the countryside
I found it comforting immediately
A totally new and alien smell
It was instantly familiar
And crept directly into my memory attic 
where it has remained ever since.
At our house we had a three bar heater
With fake projected flames
An American visitor in my teenage years
had looked at it like something from the x-files.
(Well she was glamorous like the lady detective)
Aw gee wow what is That?
This is now in family folk-lore
But still snags my shame at our lack of urbanity.

But wood smoke?
That’s not exactly ersatz.
It's older than time itself
So why must wood smoke must be smelt indoors to be this comforting?
Well it must - didn't I say?
Outdoor wood smoke is much more complicated.
At least for me it is.
Scout masters eliciting tears.
Sing songs drowned by jeers.
Damp nights under canvas (literally in those days)
Trying to explain why my camp bag had
Acdemics Kill written on it.
I had no idea but it made complete sense
I even tried to defend it.
My Skip said that he was an academic.
Why? he wanted to know.
And now I am an academic and I know.

Wood smoke that’s a comforting smell
I don’t know why? I half asked
And from the corner of my eye
I detected the micro-expression
of one of the old ladies turn to confusion.
Or rather rueful puzzlement.
But I didn't want to look.
Not really because I wanted her to forget I asked.

Wood smoke that's a comforting kind of smell.

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