So there I was buying shower gel in my new local supermarket in Jerusalem, when my eye was caught by an African scented variety. I don’t tend to pay much attention to the flavour of my grooming products but on this occasion – already nostalgic for my old home – I thought this was just the thing for me. As I walked home, I began to wonder exactly what it might smell like. These are the scents that I figured must be in it:
- fume of matatu – visitors from Europe were always amazed that I drove around Nairobi with my windows open in a fug of blue, carcinogenic smoke. Didn’t like to tell them that I feared the windows might fall out if not fully wound down
- sewage scent – provides a nutty, sweet background note, particularly on a hot day
- aroma of roasted goat – sweet, meaty and a bit like roasting lamb but with a more sort of agricultural flavour
- the smell of thunder – the great clouds and downpours of the rainy season were always preceded by that sort of piney smell that means rain is coming and it would be best to get to a makuti-roofed bar from which to watch the thunder and lightning
- essence of woodsmoke – with the exception of air-conditioned offices, I don’t think I was ever more than 10 yards from a fire
So imagine my disappointment on getting home to discover that my Africa shower gel made me smell of rather exotic musky, spicy vanillas. Rubbish.