One of the things that I remember the most about my first visit to the UK, when I was 15 years old, is the smells.
My host house had a certain smell, definitely not something I had smelt before in Spain. It wasn’t unpleasant, it was just different. My room had this particular smell, so did the living room and the dining room. I remember coming down for breakfast the first day and sitting down at the dining table and looking around me, taking everything in, and trying to figure out what the smell was.
I then went to the school were my course was taking place. And this place had its own particular smell too! The classes, the bar, the restaurant. It was all so different. I knew I was in a different country and I expected to find differences. It just didn’t occur to me that even the smells would be so particular.
This didn’t bother me, so I stopped paying attention. It just stayed in the back of my mind until I returned the following summer. I had had a great experience the first time round with my host family, so I requested to stay with them the following year too.
When I got there, the second time, and I put my first foot in the house, the smell abruptly hit me in the face. Suddenly it was like going home, the familiarity of the smell simply made me happy.
I have never been able to discribe the smell, although I have come across it several times during my travels in the UK. In the back of my mind I have always thought that it’s a mixture of old carpet, cooking butter and whatever product the use for cleaning. But I have also smelt it (or something very similar) in places with new carpets, or kitchens where I know for sure that butter isn’t used for cooking. So I honestly don’t know what it is.
If I am lucky enough to smell it, even if it’s just once a year, the smell transports me to that first summer in Kent, where I discovered this country that I love so much and where my passion for everything anglo started.