Monday, 2 April 2012


Recently I watched the film Perfect Sense. In the film the world is ending, with people across the globe catching a bizarre virus; sufferers firstly display an extreme emotion (sadness, rage, joy...) and then are depleted of a crucial sensory perception (sense of smell, taste, hearing and then sight). The leads, Michael (Ewan McGregor) and Susan (Eva Greene), fall in love as the world falls apart. The whole way through the film I couldn't decide if I was actually enjoying it, mainly because I couldn't decide if I liked the two main characters; Susan was very cold and unfeeling and something about Michael made my skin crawl a bit (I have the feeling it was Ewan McGregor that was making my skin crawl and I usually like him - but there was something shifty looking about him in this role). But that's getting off the point a bit...what I definitely did like was the idea and the sentiment behind it all (oh and I did love the closing scene and closing lines). It made me realise how scary the world would be if we found ourselves trapped alone inside our heads without any way of interacting with others and how even losing one sense would take away so much.

Co-incidently enough I had just started to read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which for anyone who is not in the know, is a book dictated by the once editor-in-chief of French Elle , Jean-Dominique Bauby, who after suffering a massive stroke finds himself the victim of 'locked-in syndrome'. His mind is fully alert but he is completely paralysed, save for the ability to blink one eyelid. It is through his blinking and the use of his speech therapist's specially constructed alphabet that he dictates this book (such an amazing achievement as it is beautifully written). Throughout the book Bauby reminds us of the simple things in life, all with an admiral upbeat humour. In one chapter he recalls the best sausage he has ever eaten. He can no longer eat - food is transported into him via a tube. His memories are what now brings him some happiness. I loved the line, 'For pleasure I have to turn to the vivid memory of tastes and smells, an inexhaustable reservoir of sensations....Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories.'

Again, the book made me think about the importance our senses play in enriching our lives. Then I got to thinking how the more our lives are played out online (the irony is not lost on me, I am aware I am typing this on a blog) we are effectively destroying our memories; a smiley icon doesn't replace the sound of laughter; if I can only smell my own perfume as I interact with someone online then I'm not forming a memory of them- I'm forming a memory of myself. It's kind of a scary thought. So on that note I'm singing off...goodnight.


  1. I so agree with you, Vikki. What a fantastic post. Sometimes I think online friendships can follow a smoother path than in-the-flesh relationships do.
    But the senses are so important. My mother always worries that I might misinterpret some of the things she tells me in emails because there are no inflections, no subtle pauses or changes of pitch, no facial expressions or mannerisms. She's right. Even over the phone you can tell if someone's smiling as they speak or hanging on your every word, for example.

    Smell is a vital one. If I catch a whiff of a perfume I wore years ago, a torrent of memories rains down on me. I love that feeling that a single intake of breath can release so much of your own history and conjure up a person who perhaps is no longer a part of your life, but was once very important.
    I read The Diving Bell And The Butterfly and couldn't put it down. It was so moving. I felt humble afterwards and wished I could always appreciate the senses more than I do. I tried to include a character with locked-in syndrome in a novel, but found it so hard to imagine how it must be. I'm sure I would lose my sense of humour along with all the other senses.

  2. Wonderful post, Vikki - it really made me think. I do agree with both you and Joanna about how much the senses evoke a memory. I've still to read that book!

  3. Very interesting ideas. I'm reading The White Darkness, the book that you said you'd never finished about Symone who has Captain Oates in her head. So far, it is a bit strange, but I can see a similar sort of theme in that in the bleakness of the South Pole, and beyond (!) she has to live on her memories of her mother, and Captain Oates, for that matter!

  4. Thanks for your interesting comment Joanna; I agree that smell is such an important sense for conjuring up memories of people...and places. I think it was amazing how Bauby managed to keep in such high spirits as I can't imagine anything worse!

    I'll give you a loan of the book, Mum.

    I found the White Darkness a bit strange too, Jean. I'll have to go back and read it and you're right about her holding onto good memories through the bleakness.