Alan Wright - A scent of the past

I WAS walking past Camerons Brewery at the bottom of Park Road at just the right time the other day.

There must be a critical moment in the brewing process when that gorgeous aroma of malt and hops is at its strongest – and it’s a lovely whiff!

If you are driving, the magical noseful of the brewery is a brief pleasure while you wait at the traffic lights.

There used to be a roundabout there, of course, and I think the real reason it was changed was to stop drivers doing repeated laps like a magic roundabout to get that lovely niff.

It set me thinking about some nostalgic nosings, some of which are long gone, but some still surviving.

One of my big childhood memories was when the shows (the fair if you are posh) came to the Town Moor, on the Headland, during Carnival Week.

There was a really distinctive smell which was a symphony of ingredients.

There was the diesel from the generators, the unique smell of Wesslers beefburgers and the sickly sweetness of candy floss.

Talking of sweetness, I could never forget Brett’s sweet shop which used to be in the market hall in Lynn Street.

Again, it was the combination which worked – toffee apples, candy fish, and dozens of others.

Schools too had their unique perfume – which is almost certainly the wrong word!

Even though it’s long gone, I can still recall the distinctive nostril attack of the old Henry Smith School.

Modern places of education don’t have the same pong any more, but it used to be an amalgam of sweat, floor polish, and cabbage.

One of the most memory inducing aromas for me was the one produced on the Fish Sands on the Headland.

You’ve probably seen old pictures in the Mail of days when every available flat spot from the town wall to the waterline was taken on sunny days.

There was certainly fish in the air, but I think it mainly came from the seaweed which was exposed when the tide turned.

Sewage control was comparatively primitive in those days, and it’s probably best not to ponder too deeply on what lingered most on the nose when the sun shone.

Hartlepool air is generally cleaner these days, although some days we seem to get an unpleasant landfill smell drifting across town in a manner which does little for our tourist ambitions.

Perhaps the main nasal nostalgia though, and now largely gone, was the smell of coal burning on thousands of fires.

Once the Clean Air Act came into force, the fumes from all those chimneys disappeared.

We probably live in a more sanitised and antiseptic world those days.

It’s largely for the better, but, without a doubt, the past is a foreign country; things smelled differently there.