Sometimes, during the cooking segment of Blue Peter, the presenter would turn to the camera and tell us that they wished we had smell-o-vision so that we could smell how good their cooking was.
I looked into it and smell-o-vision is a thing that has been invented: chemical essences installed in the screen disperse at appropriate moments. But we should be clear that this does not fulfil the TV presenter’s desire. The odour emitted by a smell-o-vision can only ever be a copy of the original. We cannot smell what they are cooking, only a pre-ordained simulacrum; chemicals that smell like mown grass, wood chips, roast chicken.
Smell-o-vision cannot convey the viewer to your location. Which is to say, the invocation of smell-o-vision is a tad insincere. Scent may have the metaphorical power to transport, but smell-o-vision can’t take you anywhere. And if it could, what of the smells we do not wish to encounter? The pig sty, the abattoir, the presenter baking too long under hot studio lights…?
Regardless, I think often of smell-o-vision. Of true smell-o-vision. Whereby the actual smell I’m smelling could be transported to you. Whereby I could say smell this via text or email or over the phone and you would smell it.
And a few times this week – the embers of an afternoon barbecue, a freshly unwrapped notebook, geraniums on a warm spring evening – I have longed for smell-o-vision. To say, smell this. Which is to say, I wish you were here.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 4th November 2017 as part of Internet Care Package.
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