I’ve been living in Melbourne now for 3 months – or I will have, on the 1st of September.
Today I came back to Sydney for the first time since I left. The trip got off to a less than desirable start in that the plane had an engineering fault. Not the sort that makes you worry – it was just a failed exhaust fan in the rear galley.
So, twenty minutes after our plane was due to land in Sydney, we took off, and an hour and twenty minutes after that, I was off the plane and heading into the CBD for my first meeting.
And that’s when it hit me. The smell of Sydney. You see, for most people the smell they equate to Sydney is the beach, or the sea air, or some other similar smell. But that doesn’t exemplify Sydney to me. It doesn’t sum up or properly capture my memory of Sydney. Smell is a powerful memory trigger and encapsulator. A single smell can bring back the most intense and vivid of memories, and in that vein, there’s a particular smell which, every time I encounter it, immediately not only brings back a thousand memories, but also simply, unequivocally tells me I’m in the NSW capital.
There’s something about the electric train network in Sydney that has a unique smell I’ve never had matched on any other train I’ve caught, anywhere. It’s actually not a pleasant small, either. But it’s unique, it’s recognisable, and is powerful:
- It’s one part partially singed rubber.
- It’s one part electrical spark.
- It’s one part sweat.
- It’s one part ‘other’ body odours, regardess of what they are.
- It’s one part grimy metal.
Mix those five parts together and you’ve got a smell which I don’t think you’ll find anywhere else in the world.
But Sydney? You’ll find it in abundance. It may not be pleasant – and it isn’t a reflection on my opinion of Sydney, but it is my memory trigger for Sydney.