A word in your ear - April 19, 2012

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IT is true what they say about smells triggering memories.

One minute you’re walking down the street or scampering in the countryside when something catches your nostrils and sends you back to a happy place.

Whether that is the alluring whiff of a tasty pre-VAT pasty, the over-bearing scent of a lost love or the eye-watering stench of cow dung, you can be transported into Retroland quicker than you can say Life on Mars.

I had one of these moments on Tuesday when I took delivery of some new fence panels to replace those battered in last autumn’s storms.

Now me and the Put Upon Wife get on with our neighbours, thankfully given the size of the hole in our boundary, but six months on it really was about time I did something about it.

After slotting the new panels in I was left with a conundrum about what to do with the old fence. So I did what every man would really like to do at this moment. . . yes, I set it on fire.

I didn’t just chuck petrol over them, heaven forbid, no I broke the rotten panels up across my knee and disappeared to the bottom of the garden.

There I found the rusting fire bin I’d bought from B&Q a decade ago and started to load it up. Within minutes it was going like a good ’un.

And then it hit me. Yes the smoke, but more specifically that unforgettable smell of smoky clothes which only comes from a good homemade bonfire.

It took me back to those happy days when me and my childhood mates used the wasteground at the edge of our estate to host an annual Bonfire Night celebration.

Back in the late 1970s the only organised bonfires were arson and so it was left to kids to get the wood, build thing and then, with at least one responsible adult, set it on fire.

Scores of residents turned up to enjoy the spectacle and even bake potatoes in bits of Bacofoil.

Such things are outlawed these days by the Nanny State. Then again given we chopped down two of the local newsagent’s two perfectly healthy conifers in what was to be our final fire in 1982, may be they should have been back then.

Despite the many bonfire-free years which have followed, that sudden whiff of a smoky T-shirt on Tuesday placed me in an imaginary Delorean, lit the Flux Capacitor and drove me back to 1979.

My own son watched in amazement at what was going on from the safety of the dining room.

“What are you doing Daddy,” he asked to which the Put Upon Wife butted in to reply “being a big kid”.

She was right, of course, I could quite easily have broken the fence up, placed it into the back of the Hairdresser’s Sports Coupe and headed to the local tip.

But where would the fun be in that?

Baked potato anyone?