The fiancé and I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Barcelona. I don’t think I have ever needed a holiday more and we spend quite a ridiculous amount of time sleeping. But beyond that we walked for miles soaking up the amazing architecture and had some wonderful meals. I can’t recommend the place enough.   

I returned to see that Karen Strunks who I meme’d a couple of weeks ago had put her answers in a video. What amused me most about her video was that she said she was her own favourite smell and that she smells lovely!* But I think Karen has hit on something significant. 

You see, when we got home I didn’t get that wash of familiarity that makes homecoming so comforting. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first; after all I was back among my things and from the day we first viewed the house it had felt like our home. Our bedroom gave it away. The room smelt a bit musty and stale, like the houses of smokers. It had only had three weeks of the fiancé’s Rightguard and my Chanel No.5 being sprayed, only three weeks of Arial and Comfort scented bedding and the tea he brings me each morning, and the make-up I spill all over my dressing table. The dining room hasn’t had quite enough vanilla candles burned and not enough meals have been cooked in the kitchen. 

There was the familiar smell of bleach of course as whenever I go away, each drain receives a few drops. And it wasn’t as though it smelt like someone else’s house, it just didn’t quite smell like us yet. Still, I think the carpets need a good clean and since we’re planning on recarpeting the entire house this year I wasn’t about to hire a carpet cleaner. So I needed a cleaning product.   

Did they even make Shake ‘n’ Vac anymore?   

I vaguely remembered buying it when I got my first place after moving out of university halls. My flat was, in a word, rank. When my mum got her first flatshare my grandparents referred to it as rising damp and my Nana refused to take off her coat. My mum had teased her about this story for years but I think the thing that most made her appreciate how much we turn into our mothers was when I looked at her accusingly during her first visit and said she had better take her coat off, sit on the sofa and drink the tea I was going to make her.  

It was a dive but it was my dive and I was excited about having my own place (shared of course with a girlfriend). Still, I recognised that something needed to be done and three tubes of Shake ‘n’ Vac later, the place smelt much better. If a product made popular in the 80s still had a place a decade ago, perhaps it was still on the market?

The fiancé returned triumphant and, in a worrying demonstration of how effective advertising can be, sang and danced much like the lady above. Actually, advert aside the product name needs recognising as impressive. I hadn’t made a purchase for years and yet as soon as I thought smelly carpet, my memory threw up the required product. It’s naff, it’s cheesy but the purchase was made.   

Thinking about it, familiarity hugely effects how I make decisions. While I like trying new things that doesn’t extend to the brands that touch me on a day to day level. I’ll probably stay with Nikon as my camera brand of choice as I own two lenses but could probably be swayed. My washing up liquid (Green Fairy - I got rather irritable when the fiancé bought green chuffing apple) however is fixed. I like Knickerbox bras and Vimto. I’m convinced the wine I get from Virgin Wine is better than stuff I could pick myself and am convinced I can feel the difference if I can’t get hold of Lil-lets and have to use Tampax (TMI much? Sorry but I feel REALLY passionately about tampons!)   

I went from locating my fantasy second home in Nice to contemplating Barcelona on the basis of a single cup of coffee in a charming square but feel irritated when the fiancé buys own brand bodywash instead of Original Source (you know, in case I fancy nicking some). I’m heading into my second marriage but only use Nice ‘n Easy to dye my hair.   

Perhaps small scale familiarity helps us avoid largely unimportant decisions. Made once we are then freed to think about the bigger issues such as who to marry and where to live (or buy fantasy second homes). It would be agonising if every supermarket trip involved weighing up the multitude of options. It’s fortunate that when we start living with someone we tend to be quite enamoured as really, so many conversations are tedious.   

Me: Why do you drink proper Vimto? 

Him: I like it!  

Me: But it’s full of sugar. It’ll rot your teeth!**   

Him: The diet stuff tastes crap.  

*Ominous silence*   

Me: I guess we’ll buy both kinds.   

You do it gradually of course as you find the compromises. But imagine if every time we placed an online order for food we had to discuss things?   

Well... um, we wouldn’t get around to watching Russell Howard’s Good News. 

But that in itself reflects the kind of shortcuts we take into our lives. When the fiancé asks me what I want to watch on TV (I should say now that we watch very little and everything is from the PVR so we watch our favourites when we feel like it) he knows I won’t say Strictly Come X-Factor on Ice but instead choose between a comedy/drama (Green Wing or Mad Men), News (Mock the Week type stuff) or cartoons. Oh yes, don’t think because we shun reality TV that we are sophisticated. We eat home cooked meals at the table (often with candles) then retire to the sofa to watch the toilet humour of Family Guy.   

That’s what the crux of home is to me. The little rituals and routines that are our own and a shorthand that only those within the home truly understand; when I say the children need more kicking, I mean they’re indulging in the kind tantrum that is best cured by me running after them growling until they’re laughing so hard they can’t remember what they were stropping over. I want to stress: I don’t actually kick the children!   

The noise of home plays a big part just like the stuff but that first hit? That’s smell. So tomorrow I shall be dancing around, shaking and vaccing and then probably baking something for when my three blokes get home. Because this house needs some work to get it smelling right (I shall try and refrain from spraying Chanel No.5 on the living room curtains). 

* This is of course a blatent lie. What I liked most is that it felt like Karen addressed it to me. You know, like personalised TV! This was of course terribly exciting.   

** Aged 27 and already parroting my mother.

Graffiti on cactus at Park Guell

I haven't got around to it yet but I'll be adding some of my Barcelona pictures to my Flickr sets soon and I'm also building albums in the Words and Pictures section of this site as I finally start pulling my travel writing and photography together.
6/12/2011 04:12:44 am

Does your house smell like you, yet? We've lived in our house for nearly two years, and it still smells like it did when we moved in. =( My husband asked me the other day why it didn't smell like us yet. It's always bothered me, but I didn't realize he noticed it, too. We've shampooed the carpets and cleaned a bazillion times, but it still hasn't changed. I'm hoping that when we remove all of the carpets it will finally smell like 'home', but that's probably a year or more away!

6/12/2011 05:03:45 pm

No. It still smells a bit stale. We're due to start redecorating this weekend so it'll be smelling like paint and dust for a while and then later of new carpet.

It's better when we throw open all the windows but when we close them it still smells a bit off. I can't work it out.


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