My garage smells of creosote. The clean, tarry odour is wafting off the bundle of five metal fencing posts I bought this afternoon at my local Builders’ Warehouse. I need the posts to stake up my collapsing Cup of Gold creeper. It’s grown too heavy for the original wooden trellis that provided support when I originally planted the creeper.
Finding the fencing posts in the cavernous warehouse was a mission, and fitting them into my small car was another challenge. I know, with certainty, that the creosote has rubbed off onto the floor mats in the back, but you know what? creosote is black and so are the floor mats. Isn’t that fortunate? And I’m no petrol-head so I won’t be diligently scrubbing the mats to remove the traces of creosote, always assuming I could actually find the stained bits on the black flooring. I love the smell of creosote, so if I’m now driving a creosote-scented car, I shall sit back and enjoy the odour.
Just in case you’re puzzled by the red and white tape wrapped round the posts, that was the bright idea of the young man who carried the posts from the vast warehouse to my car. Understandably, he wasn’t keen to be covered in sticky creosote. And as a bonus point, the red and white provides a nice visual contrast to the black metal.
I suppose the manufacturers coat the posts with creosote to deter rusting. Fat chance, living three kms away from the coast. The salty air is not kind to metal or paintwork.
The smell of creosote manages to be both clean and slightly antiseptic, as well as tarry and aromatic. In bygone days wooden poles were always creosoted to prevent the termites from chomping through the timber. I remember from my Central African childhood how determined those hungry little ants can be. Seemingly solid door frames would suddenly crumble and disappear, the interior long since devoured by the white ants. So creosote was liberally applied.
Today’s creosote reminds me of another tarry odour : that of Lapsang Souchong tea. I enjoy Lapsang Souchong, with its smoky, tarry flavour. Not everyone’s favourite , for sure, but I like it. I was introduced to Lapsang Souchong years ago by a very exotic lady, who’d grown up in the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. Quite why or how she’d come across it I’m not sure, but perhaps it was a 1920’s fad? Or maybe her mother enjoyed it? I shall never know, but the sticky metal poles in my garage certainly have evoked memories for me.