“This town stinks,” I declared, after only having been in it for twenty-four hours.
(And when I said stinks, I said it in that nasty tone with the curled upper lip, which is in fact The Mothership’s patented way of saying the word. During the turbulent teens, when I was such a badass, she would often tell me, “Your attitude stinks!“. Usually I’d done something criminal, like buying a CD instead of saving for The Future, or complained about the dishes, or refused to herd a flock of sheep. “Your attitude stinks!” she’d say.)
Anyway, there I was in Princes Street with hands on indignant hips, my sister nodding in agreement that Edinburgh stinks!
But you must understand the context. I didn’t mean it stank as in it was a horrible town. Oh no, I had fallen in love already. There was the castle, the pubs, and a sighting of a dozen kilted blokes en route to the rugby. I meant it quite literally was a bit whiffy.
There was some bizarre scent in the air, kind of savoury, kind of moist, kind of unpleasant…
“It’s dog food.” Rhi said suddenly. “It smells like dog food.”
“YES! Tinned dog food.”
“I’d say specifically it was Chum or PAL Puppy Food.”
It made sense. The dogs of Edinburgh were comparatively cheerier than dogs from other lands. There was a certain jaunty angle to their wagging tails, a joyous ohboy ohboy expression as they sauntered down the streets and examined each other’s arses. If you were a dog and the whole world smelled like the lid had been ripped off a giant can of dog food, wouldn’t you be happy?
But there was no evidence that this was the source of the smell.
To add to the mystery, the smell seemed to worsen when we moved into our flat the following week.
“So how do you like Edinburgh?” fellow employees or random strangers would ask us.
“Oh we love it, but it smells funny,” we’d reply.
“Yeah it does. Like dog food. Especially near our house!”
Yet we wondered why we weren’t making new friends.
Weeks passed and we got used to the smell, but it still puzzled me. I even consulted with the quiet black labrador next door. It wandered over quietly one night when I was sitting on the back step. It gently placed its right paw in the crook of my arm and snuffled its wet nose in my ear. It was a very quiet and still dog. Its name was I AM MICROCHIPPED, according to the tag around its neck.
“Hey Dog,” I said, “Don’t you think Edinburgh smells like dog food? You know when you just open the tin and the smell hits you? All the goodness of horse chunks, chicken gizzards, monkey buttocks and gravy? Is that why you guys are so happy?”
“Who says we’re happy?” said the Dog.
Finally we noticed we were living a block away from a large brewery. All those hops and yeast and good times belching from the chimney stacks would definitely account for that heady aroma. Plus, there’s a slim chance it’s actually an elaborate front for a Chum factory.