Donald MacInnes: When something smells fish and chippy, it's a free, nasal delight

In The Red

I thought this week I would – like a wee bee landing on a rose – touch on smells... specifically the monetary value placed on them. Not by me, of course. There is nothing as priceless as a delicious aroma. However, perfume companies do put a price on them. A large one. But I'll get to them later.

Thankfully, some of the nicest smells remain free. Let's be honest, your own fish and chips never smell as lush as someone else's. It's a cost-free, nasal delight. Same with horse manure. I can take it or leave it, but some folk – if stuck behind the clip-clopping mobile stink that is the Household Cavalry – think they're in olifactory heaven.

And talking of heaven, if that place has an aroma (and one must suppose it does), what is it? Fresh coffee? Sandlewood? Wet paint? Of course, as Billy Connolly said, The Queen thinks the world smells of paint, as any room she enters has invariably had a fresh coat from 12 hours to five minutes before she arrives.

So how much would you pay to smell wonderful? I only alight on the subject after another trip to my least favourite, yet most resolutely local shopping centre. Having had my last bottle of Lagerfeld after-shave confiscated by a goon at Belfast airport (see last week's ITR), I decided to buy some more. I entered one of those speciality fragrance places, quite excited about getting some new designer whiff. But, having seen their prices, I left before my whimpering wallet started to draw a crowd and resolved to remain naturally-fragranced til pay day. Or til I scored big on the Euromillions.

Now I, more than most, appreciate the value of a good aftershave. In my youth, I was something of a cologne ranger. I would have several bottles lined up in the bathroom, ready to either reflect, or more likely determine that day's level of swagger. And while in the fiscal foolhardiness of my early twenties, I would happily pay whatever Giorgio Armani demanded, now I baulk at £60 for 100mls of blue liquid. If they had been concocted as in Patrick Süskind's fantastic novel Perfume, I would be happy to throw a few quid at them, but you can be sure they were pumped out in some industrial estate near Boulogne with little thought for aesthetics.

Personally, I maintain the nicest I have ever smelled is the time I followed the advice in some frou-frou men's magazine and took the slice of lime from my gin and tonic, squeezing the juice into my hand and slathering it on my face. It produced an aroma of such loveliness that my knees buckled. Although, this may have had something to do with the aforementioned G&T being number seven in a series of 10.

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