Smell of a Dionne Warwick record and a Sanyo Stereo.

Are you affected by odours as much as me?

Mine go straight to memory,

My father was a sailor with the Australian NAVY.

He’d often go away for months at a time. I could tell when he was set to leave because he’d switch after shaves and then press his uniform with starch the night before. I rarely saw him leave but the starch and aftershave left good reminders of his presence.

On returning to Australia, he often brought back gifts from the ports he’d visited. Singapore was a regular trading post. There was alway another quirky-shaped bottle of after shave brought back as well as gifts for mum and the kids.

Our family often enjoyed the best of what the Orient offered and what the crew of a naval ship were allowed to bring back.

Sydney Harbour was his home port back then. The city wasn’t unusually smelly to me. That’s not strange because I was a kid from from the area. Nothing stood out… not to my nose, not until the ship had arrived. That’s when my interest piqued.

Flags and hands waved in the air but my nose took more notice of his ship’s odours.

Ships have a distinctive smell. Naval ships are a mix of workshop odours, oil, diesel, paint and thinners. They’re not just modes of transport, they are a busy workplace. Men machine things, paint stuff, weld, oil, grease and maintain the ship all the time. The engine room and exhaust system spew out their own unique collection of odours through pipes and chimneys.

This fascinated my young, curious self.

And then the gifts dad had brought back with him on the ship were unloaded and placed onto the dock for us to take home. I couldn’t tell what were inside those boxes. It just smelled like plain old cardboard to me!

And then I remembered dad opening one of them in the living room. It was the smell of a brand new Sanyo record player. He lifted its lid and I caught a whiff of the rubber mat on the turntable. Oh it was devine.

These were smells I’d never experienced before. I was hooked.

I even remember the odour of a Dionne Warwick record slipping out of its plastic sheath and being placed on top of the platter for the first time. My nose knew the smell of a 33rpm spun Warwick record.

My nose even knew the difference between tracks as it played!

“Do You Know the Way To San Hose” didn’t smell like: “Message to Michael.”

As crazy as that sounds, it’s true! I could identify records by smell AND their tracks!

And then another record came into my life: Suzi Quatro; Devil Gate Drive. What a corker!

It was half the size of Warwick’s album and spun faster when it played… and Suzi didn’t smell the same as Dionne.

I sniffed Devil Gate Drive over and over until Suzi’s song was committed to memory.

I also knew the smell of my mother’s skin.

I knew my lovers too. I could be blind-folded, bound and still know who’s in my bed without being told.

Lies have a definitive smell too.

A liar gives off a different odour when lying. Oh yes, their smell is different to when they’re telling the truth. They can’t help it.

Like Dionne Warwick’s record, one track on her record doesn’t smell like another.

A liar’s smell becomes obvious.

-M

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