Unlocking Precious Memories

May 11, 2016 Gail Drury


Continuing with our 'guest blog' posts, I was lucky enough to be contacted by Mandi B who has written this beautiful blog about how scents can remind you of past events.

Please read & enjoy!


How a day volunteering made me realise how truly amazing our senses are.

My employer allows its staff one day a year to undertake ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’. In simple terms, you are encouraged to carry out charity work in the community. My initial thought was ‘yay - a day off work’. Little did I know how inspiring this was to be.
I chose to spend a day at a local respite home for people with dementia. A small team of us were tasked to spruce up the garden. The day came, it was mid-summer and quite literally the sun was ‘cracking the flags’. Sensibly, I applied some sun-cream; smelling of coconut I set to work.
A member of staff came to meet us and offered refreshments. She explained how important the garden was for the residents; it was a sensory garden. It was filled with old fashioned dusky roses, lily of the valley, honeysuckle, swaying grasses and much more. With some pruning and the removal of unwanted weeds, it was going to look beautiful. It wasn’t the beauty that mattered.

Turning back time.

Lunchtime arrived and we settled down for lunch on the grass. An elderly lady appeared and sat on a bench – she asked us what we were doing. I told her our plan for the day. “I love to sit here”, she said “I close my eyes, listen to the birds and breathe in. I can smell the roses from my wedding bouquet, the wafts of jasmine take me back to Italy and the sweet-peas remind me of my garden”.

She went on to tell me how she and her husband were keen gardeners and spent so much of their time together working on their little piece of heaven. After a while she walked back inside.

After a lot of hard work the garden was transformed. It was gorgeous. Weeds were nowhere to be seen, the paths had been cleared and safe to walk on once more, fences had taken on a new lease of life and overhanging branches cut back. It was time to go.
As I was saying goodbye I saw the elderly lady once more, she looked so different sat on her own inside. I mentioned that I had been speaking with her. Apparently she couldn’t tell you what she did last month, last week - yesterday. But sat in that garden she can talk for ages, clearly relaying distant memories of her wonderful life.

Captured in our hard-drives.

I knew smells reminded me of past events, but I’d never really made the emotional connection. When you stop to think, we can all recall smells that make us happy. I love the smell of bluebells as it reminds me of being little running through the park, I love the smell of lemons; so reminiscent of Sunday lunches with mum’s lemon meringue pie. The aromas in that sensory garden allowed that wonderful lady to be herself once more - priceless.

It’s personal.
Next time you light a scented candle from Brown and Drury ask those around you to close their eyes and say what they are thinking and feeling. You can bet everyone has a different story.
Oh, and as for that coconut sun-cream – all I could think of was Ibiza 2011. Some things you want to forget!

Mandi B

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