Fact Number One:
There has been a damn funny smell in our kitchen for the last couple of weeks. It started as a breath of unpleasantness which I quite happily ignored: the house is inhabited by a farmer, complete with encrusted overalls carrying their own individual bouquet, two extremely clarted dogs (just so we’re clear, by ‘encrusted’ & ‘clarted’ I actually mean shit-plastered) and a toddler who not only insists on being ambulatory whilst eating, but drops food behind him like rain. We frequently have zephyrs of Unpleasantness passing through, and they are thankfully transitory. The dogs generally find the dropped food before I do, then leave, in company with the offending overalls, and we return to the usual inoffensive status quo.
This particular scent stuck around. It became Ominous. Initial forays in cupboards, under the sofa, behind the dresser and beneath the island all drew a blank. It was a tang I couldn’t positively identify, but it was certainly beginning to fill me with a mild apprehension. The last time I was obliged to investigate an emanation that had outstayed its welcome, I dragged a furry dog bed out from under the worksurface to discover that my extraordinarily dim spaniel (frequently in disgrace) had eaten a small bird before vomiting it neatly UNDER the top cushion of said bed.
I began to think about the parents of an old boyfriend of mine, who had a similarly elusive aroma in their immaculate, minimalist master bedroom in a recently converted old barn. We crawled all over that room, sniffing like the Bisto kids,
trying to pin down the origin and nature of the Whiff. We emptied the wardrobes. We took the bath side panel out. We turned out the divan bed drawers. We discussed anxiously whether there was an animal buried under the floor that was mysteriously sending a putrid stench through the concrete floor raft.
Eventually, someone shone a torch into the 1-inch gap between the divan bed and the floor, and it was suddenly like that scene out of Se7en where Brad Pitt goes all hoarse.
‘You better come take a look at this!’
It transpired that the cat had brought in a mouse that was not quite expired; it had evidently scurried just underneath the bed before finally succumbing to its injuries. I am puzzled to this day to how the decay of this tiny creature could produce such a noxious, near-solid stink, but it was a real rip-snorter of a whiff right enough.
As I say, this episode, coupled with the Congealed-Bird-In-Dog-Bed Horror, was making me nervous. I had searched everywhere, sniffing like the bloody Child Catcher, and drawn a blank. Walking into our kitchen was becoming distinctly – and increasingly – repulsive.
Fact Number Two.
During my recent short-lived pregnancy, I had a collection of pregnancy sticks lined up on the kitchen table, where anxious comparisons of the (phenomenally sensitive. A win for Tesco’s own brand pregnancy tests!) line colour-depth were made on a day to day basis. Following an excruciating incident when I unexpectedly entertained 3 friends, in full view of the elephant in the room row of fading peesticks, I decided that they would be better off living concealed in the tin on which I had been balancing them in order to photograph.
I duly shoved them in there, and dismissed them from immediate consideration. I wasn’t planning on taking them upstairs and storing them, but neither was I quite ready to throw them away; they were the only thing I had to reassure me that I hadn’t imagined the whole incident.
Can you connect facts One and Two? No? Well, here you go:
Fact Number Three.
Our kitchen island often looks like this;
the tin is vaguely visible on the left hand side.
Every few weeks someone generally wants me to create something that requires a hygienic kitchen and a large clear space, so I boot every living thing apart from myself out the door and blitz the rubble of bills, toys, fruit, cameras, paints, coins, binoculars, catalogues, telephones, fridge magnets, biscuits, books, newspapers, junk mail and cheque books into tidy order. Upon performing this task earlier this week, I looked at the peestick tin and resolved that it would actually suit Harry’s crayon collection better than his current pot. I also decided that I was now ready to let go of my ephemeral double lines. I moved toward the bin, briskly removed the lid, and… wowsa.
Ain’t nothing ephemeral about that.
Now. Ladies. I know quite a few of you have kept your ancient, yellowing, positive pregnancy tests. That’s just fine. I still have the first two positives I ever had, in fact, sat harmlessly in an envelope upstairs in the bathroom cupboard. The trick to keeping old tests successfully, it appears, is to keep them someplace where gaseous exchange isn’t an issue.
In other words, don’t keep them in a very-nearly-but-not-quite-airtight tin where they can’t dry out.
They pong, you see. And when you have 8 of them, they have a reek-potential level somewhere between ‘Eye-Watering’ and ‘Deadly Poisonous’. Merely putting the cap back over the damp end does not mean that you have rendered them socially acceptable and futureproofed.
And I live and learn.