Friday, 10 April 2009

How peculiar

I have lost my sense of taste and smell, thanks to a particularly nasty cold, and it is most peculiar.

It's astonishing how much you take your senses for granted until you lose one of them. I once lost my hearing for a short time when I was a student and it was an isolating and embarrassing experience. Isolating because I just couldn't communicate with the world around me, or rather it would try to communicate with me and I'd ignore it because I didn't know it was. Embarrassing because I would overcompensate by my own lack of hearing with an increase in vocal volume. Unknowingly.

The whole day, it seems, is pervaded by smells, I just hadn't really noticed them until they weren't there any more.

First thing, for example, going into the warm mugginess of my daughters' bedroom, sour with nighttime breath. Then the first coffee of the day and the joy of opening the jar and pouring the hot water onto the granules. The aroma, the aaahhhh... except not, any more. Now coffee tastes hot, wet and slightly bitter. Breakfast is worst. I usually have Dorset Cereals muesli, a grated apple, a little water and a heap of natural yogurt. At the moment that tastes mushy and sour, so instead I've been eating Cheerios just to satisy hunger and because at least they are crunchy and sweet.

In the middle of the morning I always have a large wide Nigella Lawson cup of real coffee made in my battered Espresso maker. This is a pleasure of sense and aroma. Usually. Back to hot and wet and the memory of good coffees past.

Lunch is usually a wrap into which I toss a heap of salad - rocket, watercress, spinach, coriander - and some slivers of brie, cheddar, ham, some grated carrot, chopped crunchy celery, olives and gherkins. It's a riot of flavour and crunch and makes me drool just thinking about it. Now it is only about texture. The softness of the tortilla wrap, the waxiness of the cheese and the crunch of the salad. Brie and cheddar may look different, but without a sense of smell or taste they are pretty much just a lump of fat.

Then there is chocolate. Don't mention chocolate, the love of my life. It's the thing I adore. Oh the smell of it, the voluptuousness of it as it melts on my tongue! Um, no. Now it is just sweet wax. I may as well sprinkle Tate and Lyle on a candle and eat that. My favourite Green and Black's Almond chocolate is just sweet wax with crunchy bits.

How depressing.

Then there is wine. Wet, slightly sour and cold. Chamomile tea. Just wet. Curry? Hot, salty and wet. Rice? Mushy and, well, wet.

I can't smell things that are nice, like my daughters' hair, for example. I never realised just how many times I sneak a sniff of their hair, it's just now I sniff and there's nothing there.

Cooking is fraught with danger. If I can't smell when things are good, I can't tell when they're bad, either. Or when they're burning.

Then there's sex, which smell is a vital part of. It's a curious thing, suddenly becoming more reliant on other senses such as touch and sight and hearing. Odd how much the lack of a sense of smell affects that too.

I can't wait until it comes back. This is not fun.


  1. Poor you - I hope they come back soon. Are you eating more or less as a result?

    Don't know which sense I would miss the most - as you say it's only when they go awol that you realise how important each is. Sight probably.

  2. Wow, a vivid description here. Hope it returns very soon. My sister's lost her sense of smell permanently from a recent brain injury. Her sense of taste is still with her though, thankfully so she can still enjoy things. Emma x

  3. looks like we have had the same bug! Last week I really fancied a small tub of G & B chocolate ice cream - such a decadent treat. It tasted like domestos and I had to have toast and marmite to take the taste away. Currently craving salt on everything - or lemon juice - I shall be so glad when this is over!!

  4. It is only when something like this happens, we realize how much we take for granted, and how blessed we are.
    You will appreciate it all the more when it returns.

  5. What a horrible bug to have, I hope your senses return soon.
    Your wonderful descriptions of food and drink that you normally enjoy throughout the day have made me feel hungry and thirsty!

  6. Beautiful descriptions, Mags.

    Think I would also always appreciate the beauty of Cheerios.

    I have just begun reading David Lodge's "Deaf Sentence," and find it quite wonderful. I have always liked his novels, and having a mother and also a friend who wear hearing aids, am finding this book even better.

    Hoping that all your senses are soon returned to you.


  7. How odd and horrible for you. The only thing that sounds like it might be enjoyable in a different way is the sex! as regards food I think that's why old people with maybe a poor sense of smell lose their appetites because things don't smell good any more. I hope you are better for Easter!

  8. Oh I do hope you feel better soon and are back to normal. We take our bodies so much for granted until they do not function as they should and then .....

  9. You haven't been having a very easy time of it, health wise. So sorry to hear you are under the weather again and hope you are restored to full health soon.

  10. What an awful state to be in, but how well you describe it. I hope you have your senses completely returned to you in time for Easter chocolate tomorrow!


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