Saturday, 12 September 2015


I have a bit of time on my hands today so I thought I’d post about my disability. Not many of my friends know about this but whilst other people have five senses, I only have three and a half. About five years ago I lost my sense of smell.

I think most people would agree that if they had to choose which sense they could lose then they would choose not to smell. I can’t imagine a life without music, nor the memory of watching sunrise over Uluru but a life without fragrance can sometimes be depressing. Let me explain;

I love food but anosmia (as they call my condition) means that I lose out on all the subtle tastes of herbs and spices. I can still taste spicy but not the other flavours in a good curry. I can taste sweet but not the actual taste of apple in an apple pie.  I find not that I focus on the texture of food and I am more put off food that has a strange texture.  I love eating and I love cooking and now I have to be careful to follow recipes as I can no longer try food to see if it tastes ok.

Last weekend someone shared a bottle of Talisker. Its peaty, smoky smell should have evoked memories of my family’s croft in Scotland and snowy Christmases by the fire. Sadly without a sense of smell a good whisky is much like any other and I found myself taking vicarious pleasure in others enjoyment. 

So, nothing too serious you think but imagine how often a smell lifts our spirits. The smell of roses on an English summer breeze or lavender at bedtime. Imagine that I have no idea what my lover smells like or in fact what I smell like.

So I have to find trustworthy people who can tell me if I smell ok – or not. Sometimes I overdo the perfume and after a day of working in the settlements of Papua New Guinea I suspect that my car and I smell terrible. Sorry if you ask for a lift.

And that’s where the blessing lies. I am told by others that the places I work often smell very bad. Often people in the settlements have limited access to water for showering and in the current drought this has been exacerbated. In wetter seasons there can often be muddy puddles of stagnant water and limited arrangements for rubbish collection mean that things can get a bit whiffy. I am oblivious.  I walk happily through these places unaware of the smell and I hug people and children and don’t notice their unwashed state. I like to think God took away my sense of smell so I could be a more caring and loving person. It is ironic that my role is to spread the message about hygiene, health and regular washing through literacy activities.

I don’t tend to eat food in the settlements unless it comes straight out of the deep fat fryer – mainly because I can’t smell if food has gone off. I will ask you to sniff my milk if you come to my house and one day I may burn down the house because I can only smell fire once it becomes full on, billowing and choking smoke! Apart from that I am coping – I’d pay a thousand kina to smell coffee or fresh bread but I thank God I can still see the sunset over the Owen Stanley Range tonight.

I’d also love to say a big thank you to Fifth Sense for being there when it all becomes more two dimensional than I can handle and for the recipes for comfort eating. PS - I can still taste Cinnamon and Chocolate – thank you God.

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