My madeleines smell of saltpeter

My Madeleines smell of saltpeter. Proust could smell freshly baked madeleines and be transported back to his childhood, the same happens to me whenever I smell gunpowder.

Some kids played sports, some kids were social, I had obsessions instead. I collected my obsessions manically. Making whole fake television shows, getting angry at my brother for not being able to follow a script at 7, programming my Dad’s computer, and firing rockets into space.

We had a form of show and tell at school, something where we would bring in something from home and explain it to the other kids. In a later similarly mad moment, I shouted at my school mates for inappropriately touching my carnivorous plants*.

But this event was different, this was far grander. All of the kids from my class were given permission to come to my house and in the garden to see the rocket be launched. What an odd event? The school agreeing with a student that “yes, a visit to your house is a perfectly reasonable way to pass the morning”.

One of the other children calmly videoed the entire experience on his Dad’s camcorder (which took full size VHS tapes). Yes I grew up in Rushmore.

I slid the rocket, with it’s thin paper guide tube, over the metal launch rod. I connected the crocodile clips to the ignition for the engine, and walked back the safe distance to press the button on the blue launch box. The black Ninja model rocket fired correctly, leaving the appropriate carbon mark on the blanking plate at the base of the launch pad. Another successful mission for the rocket. I can still remember the feeling that I had; I didn’t believe my classmates were impressed enough by what had just happened.

But it takes the slightest smell, even matches when I’m in the right mood, to take me back there.

* Touch is what closes the trap of a Venus Fly Trap, something that you can do to one “leaf”/”mouth” of a flytrap plant without bother. But if you close all of them then the plant can’t eat – as I tried to calmly explain.

One thought on “My madeleines smell of saltpeter

  1. igorandronov says:


    Rocket launching on Riegate Hill, circa mid 60’s… It seems to run in the family.

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