My hearing is poor I’m practically deaf. I can’t see that well as I’m near-sighted. And of the three witches, I am “The One Who Speaks No Evil”, not because I don’t like to speak of wickedness (because sometimes I do, hahaha), but because I’m not very fond of speaking (unless it’s necessary). I’m the kind of person who believes in the adage, “if you cannot improve the silence, then do not break it.”
But my nose is quite something, I tell you.
My nose may not look it (it’s not pudgy, nor is it glaringly large, helloooooo Ms. Streisand), in fact it looks pretty average, but it has superpowers. It can smell scent from distances away. It has impressed people far and wide, and its reputation is quite impressive; it has been hailed by Kings and Emperors — from the farthest kingdoms of the north to the fairest glens of the south (what, in Minerva’s tartan skirt, am I saying??!).
So do allow me to let you in on a little secret: I trust my nose more than anything. More than my eyesight. More than my hearing. More than my tactile sense even.
Going to the United Kingdom has put my nose’s superpowers to the test. It has encountered scents largely unknown before—-the smell of cold, biting, harsh wind as it lords over a small town in St. Andrews, for instance. Or the bitter, full smell of Scottish haggis, if you get my drift. Or how about the strong, heady smell of whisky (I smile at the nasal memory of it)?
London, my dear old London has a spicy, tangy, sometimes grubby, other times damp asphalt scent. It has a curious diverse aroma—-curry, pepper, tomatoes and basil compete with the smell of dust and rain. Some people may find it overwhelming. I find it comforting. There is something to be said, I guess, about fitting in the chaos of an open city. I kind of feel at home in the chaos, I don’t know why. I feel as if I can easily disappear amidst all that madness.
Edinburgh is the exact opposite. While I truly loved its picturesque view and setting, all the highs and lows of the city streets burdened me. My feet and knees were not built for the daily climb, several times each day, mind. And the silence, oh dear heavens. There were so many people walking about, yes. There were bagpipers in practically every street corner, yes. There were musicians of every persuasion—-jazz, alternative, pop—all competing for your attention and pennies, yes. But for some reason, all I noticed was the silence. Perhaps it’s because of the smell of the town. It was a faint smell of remoteness, perhaps even pride. I couldn’t reach out to it, and it was too proud to reach out to me. It was a perpetual estrangement, as dear old Jane would say. We, that is, Edinburgh and I were civil enough. We respected each other’s fragrant heritage. Perhaps we’re too different. Or perhaps we are too similar we found it too awkward to pursue a certain kind of intimacy?
Back in England, I remember going to Stratford-upon-Avon with Giselle and Abbey and being hit by this pungent, boggy scent. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but when I saw the Bard’s birthplace, the very house he grew up in, in fact, I just had to say “aaaaaahhhhh” to myself.
There was something quaint, not just in his house, but in the entire wee town as well. I guess it’s a combination of the canal’s whiff and the musky scent of old taverns and timeworn pavements that give Stratford its own unique scent.
St. Andrews smells different, so different from Stratford-upon-Avon. While Stratford smells of woodsy taverns and sloppy canals, St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland smells of brine.
The seawater’s scent combined with the strong, icy winds of the area gave me chills, both literally (I shivered and quivered several times each day, I kid you not) and figuratively (the quiet little streets that lead up to the ruins of the Cathedral seem united in some cause I couldn’t figure out). The smell of this picturesque, little university town reminded me a bit of Lothlorien. Pretty to look at, but too unattached, unlike its distant familial setting, Rivendell.
Now Rivendell, the land where autumn sings with the elves in the kingdom of Elrond, I must say, I’ve come to connect with Alnwick, Northumberland. There’s something about this town. While every nook and cranny in the United Kingdom probably has something ancient to boast about, I must say Alnwick reached out to me via my olfactory nerves to let me know one thing—
“I smell of ancient history.”
It’s in the rampart walls of Alnwick castle, where many soldiers must have died defending the huge expanse of land. It’s in the grass by the impressive lawn where Harry Hotspur might have taken a walk half a millennia ago, as he broods upon the fate of some enemy or other. It’s on the pavement outside the castle walls, where ordinary folks now tread as they go about their way. It’s on every leaf of every tree that has witnessed the passing of both man and time.
History is all over Alnwick. You walk by any of the roads and you can smell it. The scent is so strong I was almost bowled over by it.
Or how about the collective smell of history over at Barter Books (just a stone’s throw away from Alnwick castle), one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops?
I went there unprepared. Upon setting foot inside the carpeted lobby, I wanted to kneel down and kiss the ground. Inasmuch as I don’t like clichés (unless I’m being ironic about something), I truly felt like I was a kid left inside a sweet shop and everything was for my taking. I was well nigh panicking as I walked briskly along every aisle of this gorgeous, most amazing bookshop.
I wanted to snort all the words in one go. I wanted to take a whiff of every page and every cover. When Abbey showed me an old, battered copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I immediately grabbed it (shaking hands notwithstanding) and I just had to smell it. The book spoke to me via its scent.
Imagine the collective wisdom, the combined stories within the historical setting of Alnwick. I was there and I still can’t wrap my head around it. To stand and see and smell all of that made me happy. Really happy. I can imagine staying there forever and ever after.
There were other places we checked out—-Jedburgh and Melrose in Scotland for a day tour. Hadrian’s Wall a little after the border between England and Scotland. Rosslyn Chapel at Roslin (now this quaint little chapel in this quaint little town deserves a full blog entry on its own). The list goes ever on. But the Great UK Adventure had to end, as all adventures have to.
Or does it?
I still have my superpowers, and as long as I have it, and as long as I’m a third of a Powerpuff, my adventures never will.