Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Allan Jenkins

Adrift in a fragrant garden

‘The scent only of absence’: sweet peas on the plot.
‘The scent only of absence’: sweet peas on the plot. Photograph: Allan Jenkins

I lost my sense of smell. At least, I think I misplaced it. Probably post Covid, certainly post sinus surgery. I would bury my face in a large bank of jasmine. Henri would be reeling back from the intensity. I would be bewildered. The scent only of absence.

We’ve always grown sweet peas on the plot. Memories of childhood carried by my favourite flower scent. I brought a bunch, fresh-cut, home the other week. Henri smiled, commented on their stunning smell. There was nothing there for me, though I tried repeatedly.

We grow David Austin’s The Poet’s Wife rose for its fragrance. Other Austins, too. Suddenly, sadly, emptiness. I’ve been trying to find where my scent sensors are hiding.

There were, though, two random moments. I hugged Henri one morning as she went out the door, and had a sudden hit of her Chanel. Later, a waft of a smoked mackerel supper. Both, though, quickly disappeared.

On a friend’s advice I checked out abScent’s plan to help restore a sense of smell. I breathe in small scented jars (lemon oil, clove, eucalyptus, rose) in a bid to retrieve the loss.

It appears to be slowly working. Though for now it’s more a ghost of the thing rather than a full-throated roar. But for the first time there are stirrings.

At home, we grow pots of rosemary, roses, lavender and thyme. The plot has sweet peas, wild fennel, dill and coriander. I am used to mooching in the morning, smelling flowers, crushing fennel seed.

My fear of losing taste, too, hasn’t happened. This has given me hope.

Dinners are still delicious. So I greedily breath in the small jars. And yesterday I caught a faint scent of a vase of lilies.

I have hope my four senses are reviving to five. That I’ll again wake up and smell the coffee. Roses, too, and sweet peas.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.