When I go home for a visit, I step off the plane at Oliver Tambo Airport and the scent of Africa brings tears to my eyes. You might think you can't smell much at an airport except fuel but that is not the case in Africa. It has a distinct smell that is wild and strong and just wonderful. I could smell it when I got off planes in Nairobi, Niamey, Luanda, Casablanca and Cairo to mention just a few. North Africa is slightly different to Central and Southern Africa but still it's there. And just a whiff of it takes me home. Africa is the only continent that has a distinctive smell.
Just as the scent of Africa takes me home, the aroma of cooking takes me back to places I've lived or visited. I had a little 27 foot sailboat when I lived in Greece. It was sheer pleasure poddling around the islands like Aegina or Poros at weekends or venturing further afield for longer trips during holidays. There was one tiny island in the Saronic Gulf, too small to be inhabited but large enough to walk on and we called it Thyme Island. I have no idea what it's real name was. As you neared it, then passed it the heavy smell of wild thyme filled the air. Simple, clean and pure.
Plop garlic in to olive oil or butter and it fills all the senses. It also starts a culinary journey in my mind. And that's the power and true enjoyment of food. It often happens, a meal guides the conversation around countries or cities or villages of the world. At the smell or taste of something I return to the small outdoor restaurant on the coast of Italy, the floating markets of Thailand or the magical meat pie shop in the mountains of Australia.
Songs always remind you of something – a celebration, an embarrassment, a moment in time, a past lover or a certain place. We spent two years driving 18-wheelers around the USA which was certainly an adventure. If I ever write a book about those two years I should call it “Driving a Song.” There are such iconic songs and lyrics about so many places in this country, you can't help but yodel a few lines as you barrel along the highway. We often threatened each other with ghastly deeds if we heard a terrible rendition along the lines of, “Take me home country road, West Virginia” one more time. Neither of us can carry a tune for the life of us, simply dreadful singing voices.
Art has the same power of triggering memories. I can look at a piece in my collection and have instant recall of where I was, who the artist is, if I knew them as a friend or the happy time I experienced when I got it. People should look at art like this...its not how much it cost or how traditional it is or what technique the artist used. It should make you catch your breath, touch all your senses and bring a smile to your heart.
I am so grateful I have thousands of interesting memories and lots of great art . It's a privilege.
top: 27 foot Daybreak anchored off a Greek island
30 Foot La Rochelle, my home for nearly 5 years, anchored in the bay at Cabrera, one of our favourite islands of the Spanish Balerics