The Andover Estate is situated at the crossing of Hornsey Road and Seven Sisters Road. I lived there when I was seven years old. I attended Montem Primary School on Hornsey Road next to “Hornsey Swimming Pool and Laundry” with the illuminated figure of a diving woman, which I vividly remember.
On this sunny afternoon the estate looked idyllic. It’s red-brick buildings are neat; the estate is laid out in cul-de-sacs and little clusters of flats/maisonettes/terraces called “walks”, with plenty of small playgrounds, trees and little squares. It is light, quiet, clean and well cared for – one bloc, or island, of flats was in the process of being renovated. Some kids were playing on the enclosed football pitch on which I once played, a car was being fixed in one of the cul-de-sacs, there was some dog and toddler walking, a little corner shop….
I went up to the raised walkway on which our flat was located. Walking past my flat I was struck, out of the blue, by an exact and unique odour from over 30 years ago. I always thought it was cat piss. Today I thought it might be old cooking oil. But that’s not relevant here. The thing is, I only smelt that smell as I walked past my flat – not along the rest of the walkway, nor anywhere else on the estate.
The usual insight is that odour arouses the memory of the other senses; but unusually in this case the other senses had aroused odour.