It is the smell of the wind; fresh and clean. Yet that is intermingled with the pungent whiff of manure and oily thick fragrance of sheep wool. It is found in the warm, damp earth that would run up my legs.
There it was in the feel of the icy stream-water running over bare feet. There again in the rush of air as my bicycle soared through the woods and farm fields. And always in the vertigo of an unstable bike bumping wildly off the dirt track.
It is and always will be the smell of that summer. That long and changing summer that sprung unannounced in May, flourished through June, July and August, and finally withered in the early eaves of September. That myriad summer was linked only by the wheels of my bike whirling round as I whizzed through the same forest three times a week throughout the entire summer.
I remember pumping on that bike in May and June as I attempted to relieve the stress of upcoming exams. Early in the morning when I couldn’t sleep from worry I would leap onto my bike in pyjamas. The morning sun was hot and vengeful whilst I fretted over history and Latin examinations as I cycled past cows.
I recall returning from work experience at a television company in July. That day I had followed round a young and attractive worker; he was funny, kind and intelligent. I still remember how he called me ‘wicked’.
And so that evening, as I did my usual route through the wood I was alive with romantic musings. I never saw him again after that week, yet I still recall his name.
It was that summer that I joined a stand-up comedy group. I took to the woods on my bike yet again as I worried how my comedy would be received. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, I even wrote some stand-up on cycling and the difficulty of bypassing horse riders in the forest. I was invited by this group to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and perform with them for a week. And it was in this group, that the week before we left, I fell hard and fast – as if I had been flung head-over-heels off my bike –for another boy. When I smell this unmistakable scent, it is the smell of first love.
But it is also the smell of the crushing, overpowering despair from discovering that my feelings were most definitely not reciprocated. Late one evening, as the days got longer and summer desperately staved off rain, I sat crying hopelessly on the handlebars of my bike in the middle of a clearing.
Finally, when I smell that same smell I remember 21st September: as I cycled out of the forest, I realised suddenly that today was the last day of summer. The summer; in which I finished my exams, met my first two loves, experienced the terror of stand-up comedy, and the pain of loss; had died.