Going Virol


There are many smells from my youth growing up in the 60s & 70s, which have stuck with me and ones I fear may never smell again.

Last week I talked of applying calamine lotion on anything burning during a childhood ailment and, if you’d suffered, one smell you’d never remove from your olfactory sense.

Virol too, is a smell I’ll never encounter again, as people now know obesity is not the name of an Afrobeat band from the 70s. Virol was a malt extract (made of 200% sugar) which you were given as a kid if you were skinny; I was like a character in an LS Lowry painting and got given it by the vat load!

Excessive use of chlorine is another long-forgotten smell. Due to an altercation with a swimming instructor aged eight (I was eight, the swimming instructor wasn’t, as that would have been dangerous, unless they were half-haddock) I didn’t swim much, but, am aware chlorine in swimming baths has subsequently been watered down – although the faintest of smells bring on my hydrophobia (I don’t foam at the mouth as much these days).

Burnt milk is another (courtesy of Costa, Starbucks etc.) waft you don’t get.  Before any Seattle-based coffee shop entered the UK, my nan would boil up milk for a “frothy coffee” is her saucepan.  Invariably she’d forget, having gone off in pursuit of a Player’s Weight, whilst the milk, originally destined to become a frothy coffee, was fast becoming more like the top of a crème brûlée!

I can only think the need for lepidopterology is rapidly declining as, whenever you used to visit an aging relative, you were hit by the overriding smell of mothballs. Perhaps moths are now on coat-free diets?

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