Smelling your way home

· mumblings ·

Now that the clocks have gone back, my cycle home is in the dark. I have fairly decent hub dynamo lights, but even so, the way is unlit across parks and open spaces and on moon-less nights, I can really only see a patch of path about 3 m in front of my wheel. That makes for quite an interesting trip, particularly as most pedestrians seem to wear dark clothes at night. There seem to be a lot of ninja dog walkers. But I've found that as my visual panorama is restricted, the olfactory landscape unfolds.

In the past week, I've been acutely aware of all the smells that drift into my path on my route home. There are the natural smells, of course: the warm, sweet scent of wet grass, the cool, earthy tang of the river, and the distinctive smell of the canal, which is different from the river in a way I find hard to describe. There are also less natural smells: a particular whiff of sewer on one stretch of path, the dizzy smell of solvents as you pass a place where kids have been huffing, the sharp, metallic buzz of a metal pressing factory, chinese take away food, and the omnipresent fug of traffic fumes. I even pick up the smells of people as I drift past them: strong perfume, laundry detergent, cigarette smoke.

It all adds an interesting new dimension to my commute, as long as I can avoid crashing in to anyone or falling in to the canal.