You know that bit in that film Daredevil where young Ben Affleck, in a coma due to the injury that caused his blindness, is awoken by a sudden harsh discordance of sound? That bloody racket is his four other senses abruptly stepping up to the plate now that sight has done one. He is not happy about it. And if Ben Affleck’s not happy, I’m not happy. That’s what I always say.
After a little while, he realises that there is a good side to all this: that isn’t just a load of bloody noise, these are my super-heightened senses and once I get the hang of them, I’m a bloody superhero.
Daredevil made me think: Oh my Gentle Jesus, I’ve got poor eyesight, but maybe, just maybe, that means that all my other senses have stepped up to compensate? And I didn’t even realise because they’ve always been this way and maybe spectacular is just the norm for me?!
I grew up in one of those areas where everyone had a guy who would sort out anything for 25 quid. Broken fridge? 25 quid. Need someone to step in at the last minute to preside over a particularly tricky bris? 25 quid. Send a ‘warning’ to a troublesome neighbour? 25 quid. Quantitative Olfactory testing? 25 quid.
Even after a smell test, Ed Milliband still sounded permenantly congested.
We had to go to the hospital for the results. They told my parents first. I could just about make out the silhouette of the doctor through the frosted glass of the waiting room, he was bent over, shaking. How strange for a doctor to not remain composed, I thought. I couldn’t tell if he was laughing or crying. It’s hard to gauge it with doctors, these days. My Mum and Dad emerged and quickly strode over to me. Their eyes were wet with emotion. Again, not sure if they were laughing or crying.
I was diagnosed with Hyperosmia: which means my nasal cavity has a heightened sense of odorants. I was assured that, with treatment, it would clear up over time. I promptly turned it down and I never looked back.
Having a great sense of smell has, as you can imagine, led to tens of amazing opportunities since then. Once, at Dressage Camp in my (late) teens, a strange array of misused bottles and essential oils were discovered in the chalet toilet.
It was obvious what had been going on: a couple of the older lads were secretly concocting their own high-end perfume. The camp counsellors were rightly furious. There were strict rules put in place to make sure things like this didn’t happen. They immediately called me in to help. They gave me the empty bottles, a hamper full of everyone in the camp’s dirty laundry, and told me to match up the scents. Not many people get asked to do that, you know!
As well as that, I was also considered to be the first ever human sniffer dog. Could you imagine that? Me sitting around with all the dogs at break time having a cigarette?
But sometimes, having a dynamite nose doesn’t work in your favour. Two days ago, Laura and I arrived in Budapest. And that’s where this deep dive into the history of why I smell like a pro starts to become relevant.