'My dog has no nose'
'How does he smell?'
It hasn't always been that way; I have some really powerful scent memories. Ambre Solaire in the heat of a Majorcan sun on my first teenage holiday, fresh-cut-grass in Dulwich park on a Sunday morning, burnt-out fireworks in November, the bury-your-face-in-it scent of a just shaved boyfriend. But it's been a long time since I walked past a lilac tree and was knocked out by its fragrance, even longer since I came home to the heart-lifting aroma of a roast dinner.
One of the real down-sides is the impact on my ability to taste. I easily get those flavours that rely only on the tongue - put either sugar or salt in my tea and I will kill you while spitting it out in your face; but ask me to describe the nuances of a fine glass of wine and I'm lost. I live in awe of tea-tasters and all those who earn their living by their taste-buds. I am nonplussed by those who can define the impact of a herb - imagine being able to say you don't like coriander.
I know it's frustrating for my beloved. He's a very fine cook and will happily spend hours blending flavours to create a perfect dish. I know that my "very nice" doesn't do it credit, but I just don't have the vocabulary to describe what isn't there. In compensation for my lack of palate I have however developed a supreme appreciation of texture. Take the well-crafted combination of textures in crispy duck and pancakes, the soft giving-ness of the pancake, the cool crunch of the cucumber and spring onion, the springy bite of the duck, all enfolded in sticky plum sauce. Unbeatable.
There are other advantages; I never suffer from the odour of sweaty shoes left lying around the house, I'm never compelled to move away from a smelly fellow passenger on a train, I can be relied on to put the rubbish out without making a fuss. At times though, it borders on dangerous. I can sit in a room with burning bacon under the grill and notice nothing until the acrid smoke brings tears to my eyes, I can happily pour gone-off milk into my tea and only notice when it rises to the surface in lumps.
I always wear perfume, but never choose my own - I have to rely on the good taste of others to tell me if it suits me. And because I cannot rely on my sense of smell, I live in constant fear of offending the olfactory organs of those around me.
A few years ago, while sitting in bed with my beloved, he started talking in his softest, kindest voice,
"you know that I really love you...."
Well that immediately set alarm bells ringing. Why was he being so nice, what was he building up to?
He must have been about to tell me that I smelled.
"...I want you to know that you can rely on me..."
Now I don't mind making a deliberate fool of myself, but I couldn't bear to think that he was feeling sorry for me or disdainful.
"...and because I really love you, I think..."
This was too much. I was ready to leap out of bed and rush to the shower.
Then he took my hand.
I knew it must be really bad.
"...I'd like you to marry me..."
Well I certainly never sensed that coming.