Sunday, 27 November 2011

Old tennis shoes

I was flicking through a field guide to trees last night when I came across this description of the smell of the fallen leaves of the Tree-of-heaven:

'old tennis shoes'

This quaint and twee statement had me looking at the front of the book to see when it was written (surely in the 1930s) but was surprised to find out it was in 1982 - more like 1882 I reckon with such a turn of phrase. Why tennis shoes? Does the author distinguish this niff from 'old ballroom pumps' or 'tired businessmen's brogues'? He could have been more elitist and original with the description such as 'wet labrador dog in front of a log fire' or 'matron's apron after a morning washing old bed linen'

If I were to update the guide then I could bring it bang up to date with a more accurate and less polite description. The Tree-of-heaven, at a certain time of year has about it the unmistakable smell of

'vomit'.

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